(This review was printed in the June 2012 issue of Rider Magazine.)
One of the most important tenets of Rider’s editorial philosophy is ATGATT: All The Gear, All The Time. During road tests, photo shoots and pleasure rides, we choose gear that is functional and comfortable, but above all is designed to protect us if we crash.
At a minimum, we wear full-face or flip-up helmets, full-length armored apparel, and high-quality riding gloves and boots that can be secured with straps, laces or buckles. As the situation warrants, we’ll go a step further, adding a reticulated back protector, wearing one-piece leathers on the track or more durable armor during off-road rides.
Now there’s a new piece of gear to help protect us from neck and spine injuries, the Leatt STX Road Neck Brace, which is designed to work with all full-face helmets (including flip-up and dual-sport models) as well as street or track apparel. Dr. Chris Leatt, a South African physician who also raced motorcycles, developed the first prototype in 2001 after witnessing the death of his son’s friend on a dirt bike. Designed for off-road use, the Leatt-Brace went to market in 2006, and a mountain bike version was released in 2010. In 2011, the company introduced the STX Road Neck Brace, designed for street riders and road racers.
Research compiled by Leatt shows that 11 percent of severe on-road motorcycle injuries are spinal in nature, and 60 percent of vertebral injuries resulting in death are neck injuries. The Leatt STX Road is engineered using Leatt’s Alternative Load Path Technology (ALPT), which helps protect riders from five types of head/neck impacts: hyperextension, hyperflexion, lateral hyperflexion, posterior hypertranslation and coupled axial loading. Imagine all the possible ways your head could get knocked around, and these pretty much cover them. Just as the shell of a helmet disperses impact energy around the head, the Leatt-Brace transfers impact forces away from the vulnerable neck structures to the top of the torso. If the impact is significant enough, the brace is designed to fail in crumple zones (similar to those seen in cars), thereby absorbing some of the impact energy.
The STX Road, constructed of fiberglass reinforced polyamide, comes in several sizes (S/M, L/XL and XXL), and each brace comes with four adjustment pins (0mm, 10mm, 20mm and 30mm) to further adjust fit. The idea is for the brace to fit comfortably without impeding normal movement, not too loose, not too tight. The brace has front and back assemblies, plus two folding scapula wings. By opening one of the red hinges on either side of the brace, the front assembly pivots away, the brace slides around the neck, and the hinge is locked closed. Once in place, it cannot be removed by simply pulling it over your head. It fit easily over my Aerostich Roadcrafter and my Olympia X-Moto dual-sport gear, and it’s designed to accommodate the aerodynamic hump on the back of some road race suits. Adjustable under-arm straps are also included, but I found that the Leatt Brace stayed in place without them.
Once I put on the Leatt STX Road Neck Brace, I forgot about it. At first I noticed some contact between it and my helmet during lane-change head checks, but it was merely noticeable, not intrusive. And like a high-end back protector or heavily armored boots, I appreciated the added level of protection it would provide should I need it. MSRP is $399.
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