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"Transworld Motocross", February 1, 2013

SAFE > SORRY

NECK BRACE BUYER’S GUIDE

MOTOCROSS IS A DANGEROUS SPORT, and each and every one of us knows of, and understands, the risks involved each time we throw a leg over our bikes. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are; crashes are inevitable, and gearing up and protecting yourself is the smartest thing that any of us can do.

At TransWorld Motocross we are huge proponents of high-quality safety apparel and will only endorse products that we trust and believe in. And sadly, we’ve actually put much of it to the test. None of us will ride without a top-notch helmet, premium boots, and knee braces, and neither should you. But what about a neck brace?

Back in 2007, Mike Sleeter became the first rider to compete in an American Supercross while wearing a Leatt-Brace, and it wasn’t long before most of the stars of our sport followed suit. As the sport’s first purpose-built neck brace, the Leatt-Brace gained tons of traction and popularity, and it wasn’t long before it almost seemed odd to see a racer with a “naked” neck at the track. The growing demand for product spawned competitors for Dr. Chris Leatt, and today there are several companies and nearly a dozen choices available.

In the years that have passed since the motocross neck brace was invented, the product’s popularity has stabilized and its trendiness has worn thin. Some riders — including Sleeter — who were huge advocates at the start have since removed their neck braces, citing greater comfort and the ability to ride quicker as their reasoning. Many, however, have remained firm believers in the technology and will not ride without a neck brace — riders like the past two 250cc National Champions, Dean Wilson and Blake Baggett.

Having escaped from several severe crashes without serious injury, the editors of TransWorld Motocross wholeheartedly endorse neck braces as an integral part of any rider’s gear kit. On the following pages, we’ve broken down the choices you have when it comes to selecting a neck brace. Each manufacturer has its own theories about what works best; if you are a loyal reader of TransWorld Motocross, you already know which ones we trust most.

It’s an old, oft-used cliché, but really...dress for the crash, not the ride.

LEATT GPX RACE / LEATT-BRACE.COM

PRICE: $359

OPTIONS: Available in sizes S/M and L/XL, in black, white, orange, blue, or red

FEATURES

• Fiberglass-reinforced polyamide resin frame construction

• Four-way adjustability

• New lower front and side table sections for greater range of motion

• New sculptured, split front support pad allows independent movement and greater comfort

• CoreFlex rear thoracic strut with independently flexing sides and an engineered fracture point for improved safety

The GPX race is the newest version of the original neck brace that started it all. Easily the most popular brace in the world, the new GPX race features two major improvements in comparison to the original. Both the front chest pad and rear thoracic strut feature split designs, for greater comfort and more forgiveness in the event of a severe impact. Infinitely adjustable, the GPX Race is more comfortable than the Club III brace that it replaces.

LEATT GPX PRO LITE / LEATT-BRACE.COM

PRICE: $499

OPTIONS: Available in sizes S/M and L/XL

FEATURES

• Aramid fiber reinforced carbon fiber matrix chassis

• CoreFlex rear thoracic strut with independently flexing sides and an engineered fracture point for improved safety

• Lower-profile rear table padding for greater range of motion

• Four-way adjustability

The GPX Pro Lite is Leatt-Brace’s top-of-the-line model and features a featherlight carbon fiber chassis. Highly adjustable, the GPX Pro Lite boasts the greatest range of motion of any Leatt, thanks to new low-profile padding on the rear table. Two different strap systems are included with the brace, but it can easily be worn with none at all. Worn by Dean Wilson, Blake Baggett, and more, the GPX Pro Lite has also saved multiple TransWorld employees on more than one occasion.

ALPINESTARS BIONIC NECK SUPPORT SB / ALPINESTARS.COM

PRICE: $289.95

OPTIONS: Available in sizes XXS–XL, optional chest strap available for $34.95

FEATURES

• Polyurethane composite frame

• Pivot key system at the rear allows easy entry and quick emergency disassembly

• Rear stabilizer system features bending and fracture points to give way before injuring the rider

• The widest range of sizing options of any brace

The BNS SB (Special Blend) is the more affordable version of the original carbon fiber BNS and utilizes a blend of polyurethanes to make up its low-profile frame. The BNS brace has a wider footprint on the rider’s sternum and back, as their research shows that greater surface area helps to better disperse impact forces. The brace is easy to put on and take off, as a familiar Astars boot buckle-inspired system operates the center-spread design.

ALPINESTARS BIONIC NECK SUPPORT CF / ALPINESTARS.COM

PRICE: $399.95

OPTIONS: Available in sizes S–L

FEATURES

• Carbon composite frame to maximize stiffness and minimize weight

• Magnesium pivot key system at the rear allows easy entry and quick emergency disassembly

• Rear stabilizer system features bending and fracture points to give way before injuring the rider

Alpinestars’ top-of-the-line brace features a carbon fiber frame for maximum rigidity while remaining lightweight. Astars engineers believe that a soft brace that deforms under compression forces will offer inferior protection and that a rigid platform for the rider’s helmet to make contact with will provide the best alternative load path for the energy that compresses the neck. Under an extreme impact, several parts of the brace are designed to fracture in order to relieve the loads transferred to the rider’s back.

ATLAS CARBON / ATLASBRACE.COM

PRICE: $499.99

OPTIONS: Available in sizes S–M in black or white

FEATURES

• Lightweight (635 g) carbon fiber frame

• Throat and chin padding

• Larger, more flexible back supports

• Open sternum with chest suspension

The carbon fiber brace is Atlas’ new flagship item, and it has been in use by team rider Jake Weimer for some time now. The carbon fiber frame — albeit more rigid than the original polycarbonate version — remains flexible thanks to the polycarbonate plate that connects the sides. The new Emergency Release System is much easier to operate, and like the original Atlas, the super low-profile design offers minimal interference with the rider’s helmet. Like the original, some riders may struggle to slip it on and off over their heads.

ATLAS ORIGINAL / ATLASBRACE.COM

PRICE: $299.99

OPTIONS: Available in sizes S–L in white, or black with white, orange, blue, green, yellow, or red graphic kits

FEATURES

• Flexible, polycarbonate frame construction

• Three-axis adjustability

• Open frame design

• Open sternum with chest suspension

Atlas takes a different approach to neck bracing, as its polycarbonate frame is flexible and suspended from the rider’s body in a way that avoids the spine and sternum. The flexible, split frame is designed to maximize rider comfort, and because it boasts the most helmet-to-brace clearance of any brace, this Atlas is most likely to win over riders who claim that the restrictive feel is what keeps them away from a neck brace. The Atlas slips over the rider’s head and does not open and close around the neck.

EVS R4 RACE COLLAR / EVS-SPORTS.COM

PRICE: $119

OPTIONS: Available in adult and youth sizes, optional graphic kits available for $15

FEATURES

• Low profile and light weight (635 g adult/386 g youth)

• Easy front-entry system

• Soft rubberized edges for comfort

Long before hard-frame neck braces were invented, EVS was a leader in the race collar industry. The R4 Race Collar is a far cry from the soft donuts of the early years, as it offers much more support and protection. The theory behind the R4 is unique, as it uses the polished shell of the brace and closed-cell foam construction to redirect the initial shock and absorb impact rather than a shelf design used by every other brace. The rear support pad is shorter and wider than the thoracic struts found on many braces, and EVS claims that this better distributes crash impact without potential spine damage.

LEATT GPX TRAIL / LEATT-BRACE.COM

PRICE: $299

OPTIONS: Available in sizes S/M and L/XL, in white or black

FEATURES

• Three-way adjustability for a custom fit

• CoreFlex rear thoracic strut with independently flexing sides and an engineered fracture point for improved safety

• Fiberglass-reinforced polyamide resin frame construction

• Brace table level set at a neutral position

The most affordable brace in the Leatt line, the GPX Trail boasts all of the same technical features and levels of protection as the more expensive models, but the levels of the front and rear brace tables are set in a neutral, non-adjustable position. The new rear thoracic strut design features a split in the middle, which allows the sides to flex independently of one another in the event of an impact. Available in two sizes, each of them is highly adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of rider shapes and sizes.

ATLAS PRODIGY / ATLASBRACE.COM

PRICE: $249.99

OPTIONS: Available in black or white

FEATURES

• Flexible, polycarbonate frame construction

• Proportionate design for teens and women

• Dual-pivoting back supports

• Open sternum with chest suspension

Slightly larger than the tyke, the prodigy is sized for teens and women. Unlike the tyke, two strapping options are included with the Prodigy: the traditional chest strap, as well as the double elastic strap system used by many braces. Like the Tyke, the Prodigy features an Emergency Release System button on the front of the brace, that can also be used to widen the frame when putting on, or taking off the brace. This is especially helpful for riders with heads larger than the closed-position opening.

ATLAS TYKE / ATLASBRACE.COM

PRICE: $199.99

OPTIONS: Available in white or black

FEATURES

• Flexible, polycarbonate frame construction

• Proportionate design for children

• Dual pivoting back supports

• Open sternum with chest suspension

Designed for young children, the Atlas Tyke is made especially for riders of diminutive stature. The Tyke features an Emergency Release System button on the front of the brace, that can also be used to widen the frame when putting on or taking off the brace. We’ve seen peewee riders wearing other braces that were far too large for them in the past — so much so, that they would provide no protection at all. With the introduction of the Atlas Tyke, parents now have a better option to protect their littlest ones.

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