Understanding Harness (Suspension) Systems
Harness Terminology: How the Harness and frame interact to provide a hook-in point.
High or Low? | Harness Myths |
Understanding Paramotor Torque |
Paramotor harness systems can be categorized by their in-flight hang
point: low, mid, high, or hybrid. Only judge a machine while its hanging,
not sitting on the ground. Note: hang point is the
same as pivot point since the paraglider riser and carabiner move as one
unit, pivoting around the base of the carabiner.
Low hang point is where risers attach at or below your
What is commonly called a mid-connection system is, in flight,
a high. When sitting on the ground it looks like it's midway between a
low hook-in and a high. The connection point is on harness webbing that
rises above the shoulders as lift begins (see "Underarm Bar" at right).
A high hang point (or attachment point) is where the risers
above the pilot's shoulder.
A Hybrid suspension moves after launch.
For a comparison of each system's vice and virtue, check out
Points: High or Low?. Pivot point is where the risers,
carabiner and any strap the carabiner attaches to, pivots on the frame or
Attachment Point: Hard or Soft
carabiners attach to the harness webbing it is a harness (or soft)
attachment as pictured far left. When the carabiners attach to a frame
part or short webbing that attaches to a frame part, it is considered
frame (or hard) attachments such as the 2nd picture at left, a
Walkerjet. All low hook-in machines such as the Pap, Miniplane Weight
Shift, Fly with weight shift kit, Airfer, HE, and others have
hard attachment points where the carabiners either attach to a frame or to
a short piece of webbing that attaches to the frame. The significance is
that the pivot point (described below) is usually the frame and not harness
original style Fresh breeze, pictured far left, is a mix of soft and
frame attachment systems because the carabiner attaches to a floating
metal piece that serves as a spreader bar. Since that bar is not attached
to the motor frame, the effect is that it behaves like a harness
attachment system. A new (introduced 2006) Fresh Breeze harness is more standard,
having soft attachments and better torque handling.
The SD, pictured 2nd above, is a high hook-in, frame (or hard)
attachment system where the J-bars are able to pivot up and down. Nearly
all original paramotors had fixed J-bars that the carabiners attached to
and these, too, are frame attachments.
Almost all paramotors employ some method of pushing (spreading) the
front harness webbing away from the pilots chest while under power.
That prevents motor thrust from pushing you uncomfortably against
the front of the harness. Distance bars, comfort bars, underarm bars, J-bars, etc. are
all way to accomplish the
Only the most basic and low powered machines do not use spreader
systems such as
the now-rare Fly 70 and Adventure F1.
Bars that pivot up and down are usually intended to
improve weight shift (better termed riser shift). Bars that pivot
outward (they must never pivot inward) are intended to improve
egress/ingress. When mentioned here, pivoting bar refers only to those
that go up and down.
Sliding strap refers to systems where the
front webbing can slide up and down through a slit at the end of each bar.
This is done primarily so the seat bottom can go flat against the frame
while running but it also allows weight shift in flight.
Fly Products and the Comfort-Bar Fresh Breeze use this method.
J-Bars. Early machines all came with overhead J-bars to better
distribute the heavy motors of the time. So the term J-bar now means
over-the-shoulder J-bar whether pivoting or fixed.
wheeled machines use high hang points. They frequently use the
paramotor's harness (like the Paratoys quad unit shown at
left) but sometimes hang from a frame. The frame mount method allows the
pilot to sit lower while keeping the pivot point above the thrust line for
All tandem trikes that I'm aware of use a frame mount since the frame
is used as a spreader system. They must balance the weight of the
passenger and allow moving the hook-in point to accommodate varying
Riser Shift (Weight Shift)
The purpose of weight shift is to move the risers differentially to
help turn. For a left turn, the
left goes down and the right goes up.
All machines have some weight shift ability but not necessarily by design. Any machine that
allows less than 3 inches of riser shift with normal effort is considered
to non weight shift.
Low hang point (hook-in)
Low hang points are used to achieve a feel more akin to free flight.
It's involves trade-offs because motor weight requires the hook-in point
to be moved back towards the motor. These machines, when coupled with
pivoting bars, usually allow significant weight shift.
Low hang point models are a bit more challenging for new pilots to
master launching and move around more in response to turbulence,
especially fore-aft tilt. Some pilots find them to be more comfortable
in flight due to the lower hand position.
Fixed underarm bar. Non weight shift. Examples: Bailey
4-stroke, Original Walkerjet, Flattop. These almost always have a slightly
higher hook-in point than the pivoting bar type described below. These
could also be called Mid-Low hang point styles.
Pivoting underarm bar: The pivoting bar is made to improve
weight shift. Additionally the hook-in points are usually lower than the fixed
underarm bar models, making their weight shift even more effective.
PAP was the first to popularize this. Examples: PAP, Airfer, HE, Free
The Miniplane with Weight Shift improves modifies the pivoting
underarm bar by pivoting it up high on the frame but then curving it
down under the pilots arm and up where the carabiner attaches. That
puts the carabiner pivot point high enough to completely eliminate
thrust-induced tilt and also dramatically reduces the fore-aft
tilting felt on other low-attachments systems.
High Hang point (hook-in)
High hang points reduce the amount of movement felt by the
pilot from turbulence. Many of the sport's most prolific instructors have found they are easier for
new pilots to launch.
They are frequently more erect in flight although that can
be adjusted on most machines at some expense in launch ease.
No bar: The harness geometry has webbing going from the top of the
frame, over the pilots shoulder and down to the seat then back to the
frame. Examples: Fly 70, Adventure F1, Few other direct drives.
Fixed underarm bar: A fixed, usually curved bar, goes from the
frame forward. Examples: Miniplane, Sky Cruiser, I-Flyer, Blackhawk,
Pivoting underarm bar:
A bar, hinged on the frame, goes forward to the front harness webbing.
Examples: Weight shift versions of the Sky
Cruiser, Older Blackhawk, Paracruiser, Phantom.
Sliding web underarm bar: Fly Products, Phoenix PPG,
Fresh Breeze (Comfort Bar system only).
Fixed J-bar: To my knowledge there is no current production machine
using this method. Past examples: Paramotor, Lamouette
Floating J-bar: Fresh Breeze
Pivoting J-bar: SD
Hybrid Hang point
There is only one machine that I know of where the hang point changes
in flight—the Mantis. I've had a few flights on it with the dealer
present and it took a couple tries to get used to the action. There will
eventually be a review on it.
The intent is for the hang point to be high and centered during launch
then move forward in flight while keeping the thrust line pointed in the
right direction. One problem with many low hang point machines is that
the motor leans way back in flight. That's comfortable but reduces climb
and exacerbates torque.