Tested: Atlas Brace
In this modern motocross era, it is hard to believe that proper neck braces have only been around for a few years. Before 2006, the only real neck protection available were simple foam donuts that really didn’t offer much in the way of safety, were awkward and bulky to wear, and looked nothing short of hideous to boot.
Today, there are numerous neck brace options out there that range in price, sizing, and design. While the debate will likely never end regarding which design is the most effective and safest, the important thing to remember is that the options exist in the first place.
One of the newest offerings on the market has been making some waves recently and already has a fair number of riders endorsing the product. Atlas Braces are a new take on the basic principles of neck safety: limiting the range of motion of the neck in the event of a crash. Conceptualized by former Canadian Nationals Pro, Brady Sheren, the Atlas features:
- Easy on/off
- Simplistic flexible design
- 3-Axis adjustability
- Open frame design
- ERS (Emergency Release System)
- Pivoting chest and back supports
- Open sternum
- Chest suspension
- 6061-T6 aluminum hardware
- Included three-piece chest strap and elastic cross straps
- Available in S,M, and L sizes
- 7 different color options
- MSRP $299.99
So, what does all of this mean. Unlike most other offerings, the Atlas is designed to be put on without any moving parts as the opening is big enough to fit your head through. Thanks to the flexibility and split construction of the brace , the opening can be spread wide enough to accommodate a variety of head sizes (in other words, big noggins).
Once on, the Atlas can be used on its own or with the included chest straps or elastics cross straps. We chose to run the cross straps, as they help keep the brace in place without getting in the way. Extruding tabs are built into the brace on the sides, which the straps attach to, helping to anchor the brace down comfortably.
Okay, all of the fitment and tech stuff aside. Onto the burning question: how does the Atlas feel on the track? It feels…well, like not very much at all. While running decent length motos on a moderately rough track, I expected some movement hear and there, but the straps and general design of the brace help keep everything in place. The Atlas is a medium profile brace, resting slightly higher than the Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support, but a hair lower than the Leatt GPX models. This means that with all of the jostling on the track and different positions you find yourself in throughout the length of a moto, the Atlas was barely noticeable.
When worn with a small chest protector, I have only experienced helmet-to-brace contact a couple of times (while it was audible, since the Atlas has no padding on the upper plates, it also had zero effect on my riding). Without a chest pro on, one can occasionally feel the rear struts moving around when jumping, since they can swivel on their pivots.
Adjustability comes in the form of four different pivot angles for the rear struts, removable padding on the shoulder/collarbone area, and an optional shim that can be placed in between the two halves to widen the brace itself.
The foldable design is an industry first, meaning you can throw the Atlas into your gear bag without worrying about damage. The dual rear struts, which straddle the spine instead of resting on it, are a different take on safety (although there is no conclusive research shows one method is more effective than another). While there are no moving parts for putting on the brace, the ERS (Emergency Removal System) allows the Atlas to be split in two by unscrewing the red wing nut at the front of the brace. On this, we would prefer to see a more foolproof, quick release-style system, since EMTs are not yet versed in how the Atlas works.
Granted, the motocross neck brace market is less than a decade old, so there are still only a handful of options out there, but the Atlas Brace is an excellent first offering from the small startup company. We are proponents of any items that increase rider safety and neck braces are right up there with helmets. The Atlas is a welcome addition to my gear bag.