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By: Jason Giacchino


The Leatt Neck Brace
The helmet for your neck.

Moto GPX Sport Brace front view.
Moto GPX Sport Brace front view.

Let’s be honest for a moment. Considering how much emphasis modern motocross/ ATV race gear places on safety, it’s kind of surprising that one area in particular has until recently been largely neglected:  the neck.  Crashing is a fact of life in the rough and tumble world of off-roading; and in the not-so-distant past, there was little to prevent serious neck injury as a result of impact other than the give provided by the foam lining inside a helmet. That has all changed thanks to the dedicated efforts of Leatt who have made it their mission to bring realistic neck protection to the masses. We are entering the era of choice when it comes to neck protection and more and more professional racers are opting to sport a Leatt Brace as a standard piece of their weekly armor.  In an effort to shed some light on the benefits of wearing neck protection, we’ll also take a look at how the system works and how it is designed to fit properly.

The idea behind the Leatt Brace is a surprisingly simple one:  to bring the head to a controlled stop after impact by providing an escape for the forces that would otherwise be transmitted through the rider’s neck.  The structure of the brace is made up of both cushioning padding and a rigid frame with the goal of energy absorption and redirection in mind. What does all of this mean in English? Very simply if you think of an impact (be it with the ATV, another rider, or the ground itself) imagine what happens as the rider’s helmet goes from moving very quickly to stopping suddenly. The inertia would normally be transmitted through the helmet itself and right on through the structure supporting the helmet--the rider’s neck. The Leatt gives these forces an “escape route” by transmitting the jolt directly from the rider’s helmet into the brace where it is then distributed onto other body structures such as the shoulders.

The system is fairly simple and better yet works just as claimed. So why then isn’t everyone sporting one? The answer is two fold:  1) Price. The Leatt goes from anywhere between $400 and $600. Sure that’s a lot of coin to throw down, but in the grand scheme of things the money is being very well spent. 2) Fears and Doubts. A lot of riders fear that they won’t be able to get proper use out of the brace or doubt that they’ll bother wearing it on race day. Additionally some riders express concern for the brace limiting their mobility or inhibiting their side-to-side head motion. The good news is that many of these concerns are red herring. We won’t lie and say that the brace is completely undetectable (especially at first), but it takes no more getting used to than the first time you wore a chest protector to keep the roost from bouncing off your sternum.

Let’s start by addressing concern of proper sizing. Leatt’s website has a section devoted to making sure you get the proper fit out of your brace. Through their how-to video tutorial, anyone can manage to get their brace dialed in perfectly. Also, when properly fitted, it is much easier to forget you are even wearing the brace. The customization of fitting is accomplished through different-sized adjustment pins that are included with the brace. Additionally there are two means of wearing the brace:  With a securing strap that connects around the rider’s torso and without (which means simply allowing the brace to rest freely on your shoulders). The main difference is that riders who love to catch massive air may seek the additional support of the body strap to keep their brace from floating up. So as long as the Leatt rests freely on the shoulders and body, it can do its job properly.

Moto GPX Sport Brace back view.
Moto GPX Sport Brace back view.

The next biggest concern seems to stem from uncertainty as to whether the brace works with chest protectors. The short answer is yes, it certainly does. It’s a given that it will work better with some than others, the fact is that it can be made to work for most any chest protector the market currently has to offer. According to our industry sources the worse case scenario is being required to remove a little material from the chest protector to allow the brace to sit on your shoulders.

Out back the brace has unique support as well. Each Leatt comes standard with a 10-degree thoracic support installed. Smaller riders have the option of running the included 17-degree strut to allow the support to fully follow their back. As we said above, the brace is very customizable and designed to work with any body type.

The company has been devoting its R&D budget to producing Leatt neck braces for specific applications. At the time of this article’s writing they offer three distinct options: The Moto- GPX (this is designed specifically for motorcycles/ATVs), the Moto-Kart (karting), and the Moto-R (race cars). The reason for the variances has most to do with the interaction between the brace and the corresponding riding gear. Could other versions be made to work for ATV purposes? Perhaps but we strongly recommend going with the model designed specifically for our unique application.

Interestingly enough the Moto-GPX model is also recommended for downhill mountain biking, which is a popular way for MX racers to train. Additionally the brace is designed to work with female riders (the company recommends the small size for the ladies).

The bottom line is that as riders, we all hope the day never comes where we would need to rely upon the protection of a device such as the Leatt brace. The good news is that riders no longer have an excuse for going out unprotected. As the old adage goes, it is better to wear extra protection and not need it than to need it and not have it!

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