I have been wearing a neck brace since the big push and David Bailey video came out a few years back, but recently I just wasn’t as happy with the brace and helmet combo I had been using. Since I hadn’t tried the Alpinestars neck brace in a few years, I jumped at the chance to try out their new Bionic Neck Support (BNS) Tech Carbon.
So what do you receive for $349.95? The BNS Tech Carbon comes with a pair of X-straps, a package of frame adapters, and a package of different size pads for the rear, center, and front of the brace.
A major difference between the preview version and the new BNS is that there are now only two sizes for sale, XS/M and L/XL. To compensate for the reduced size-specific options, Alpinestars has added the parts needed to change the sizes (adapters on each side of the brace can lengthen or shorten the diameter of the brace and different sized pads for the rear, front, and center help with fine adjusments). This means that a customer can get XS, Small, and Medium sized braces or a Large and XL braces for the price of one. The different adapters are attached by two bolts on the back portion of the brace and two more bolts under the front portion. Once the bolts are out you can slide the adapters out and slip in a different size. For further adjustment, the hook-and-loop backed pads come in a variety of different thicknesses and can be used for fine-tuning. This was a big hit for me considering my qualm with the previous brace was the lack of adjustability, and after trying a few pad sizes and playing with the adapters I found my fit.
Another nice improvement is the new closure system, which now uses a pull cord to open the front of the of the BNS and automatically locks shut just when closing the brace…no more forgetting to latch it shut! There is also a magnet by the latch that helps keep everything in place when closing the brace. Overall I think the new closure system is a much better and simpler system than the old boot buckle-style latch on the previous BNS. The new brace still utilizes the same low profile as the older model, but a redesigned frame, including more adjustability with the frame adapters and pads. The new back plate is also a bit wider that before, helping to spread the load of an impact even more.
After playing around with some of the features, I threw on the X-straps (two elastic straps you can wear under or over your jersey that hook onto two taps at the top of the BNS to keep it secure while riding come) and went out to spin some laps. Right off the bat I noticed the low profile of the brace and the lightweight (the BNS Tech Carbon weighs in at 726 grams or 1.6 pounds). Instead of a traditional carbon fiber weave, this new brace is made from long-fiber carbon polymer. Developed by Alpinestars, this new type of carbon fiber is actually injection molded rather than hand-laid. While the new process is not quite as rigid as traditional carbon fiber, it is just as lightweight and is far easier to mass produce (and can also be formed into a wider variety of shapes), all of which is passed down to the customer in the form of significant price reduction. The new BNS Tech Carbon is currently $50 less than the older Carbon BNS (you may recall that the original was pricier still).
With the low profile of the Alpinestars brace, even the ridges and low chin bars of newer style helmets have ample amount of room to move around. No matter the neck brace, you should be able to have the bottom of the helmet contact the top of the brace when tilting your head in any direction, but ideally not to an extent that would limit your movement during normal riding. The only time I noticed my helmets make contact with the brace while riding was when leaning over the bars and it this honestly just gave me a confident feeling that it would stop the motion of my neck in a crash. I also was able to get a snug fit that still allowed enough room to move while riding (shoulder muscles push out in some motions so there needs to be a bit of room in the brace) and without any unwanted or uncomfortable pressure points.
After a long day of riding, you can simply spin the rear strut to remove it, making the brace much more compact to find a home in your gear bag. However, the new back piece tends to spin and come off a bit easier than I would prefer. On more than one occasion, I found myself looking for the rear strut after it fell off when I picked the brace up. Nevertheless, once you have the BNS on and it’s pushed up against your back, it cannot spin and pop off.
The only major dig I have against the Alpinestars brace is the fitment with certain chest protectors. The long front section and the two ridges on the back piece make for a hard fit with most chest protectors, even with some of the neck brace friendly ones (partially because many of these were designed specifically for the Leatt Brace). Alpinestars does have their own chest protector that will work with it, the A8 vest, but I also found a few others that would work well, such as the Troy Lee Designs Bodyguard 5900. Still, the options are limited.
Overall, this is an upgrade from Alpinestars’ previous brace, offering much more adjustability and a more refined fit than the last carbon model. I am a big fan of the fit, the new latch system, lightweight, and low profile, not to mention the lower price in conjunction with the fact that you’re getting 2-3 braces (in sizing) for the price of one. The only downside for me was the back piece spinning a bit too easily, the chest protector fit and that the carbon model only comes in red. If you want one in white Alpinestars offers their less expensive BNS Pro in white, but is also a bit heavier due to the fiberglass and polymer construction.
Considering I rarely use a chest protector, I’m giving the Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support Tech Carbon a rating of 4 ½ stars. If I was a regular chest protector user the rating would be a bit lower, because of the fact you would most likely be buying a new chest protector to work with the brace.
For more information on Alpinestars and the BNS Tech Carbon, visit www.alpinestars.com.
- Michael Lindsay