Click the following link to see video of the Leatt brace in action.

The Leatt Brace: Is This The Future of Cervical Spine Protection?

The Leatt brace is unlike pretty much anything we've seen to date on the neck protection front...outside of a race car, that is...and they make braces for those guys, too.

(Click any photos in this article for a larger version.) 

Something's gotta give. If seeing spinal injuries like those suffered by James Marshall and Ernesto Fonseca this year, and watching Jeremy McGrath dodge a serious spinal injury at his own Invitational race hasn't motivated you to rethink your safety, and your safety gear, what will?

Over the history of the sport safety gear has undergone continual evolution. For example, there was a time when leather half-shell helmets and lace-up boots were considered perfectly adequate. In the '70s, open-face helmets were deemed to be "enough." And before Jim Castillo invented the CTi knee braces, knee injuries were just considered part of the game.

Fortunately over the years, we've gotten smarter about our riding gear, and companies have stepped up with better full-face helmets (remember the funk you'd get from yours before removable liners?), knee braces (which most serious riders won't climb aboard their bikes without now), and boots that offer a ton more protection, and are pretty much wearable right out of the box.

The Leatt Brace: Is This The Future of Cervical Spine Protection?

Here's an overall view of the brace and its packaging. The brace sits on top of your shoulders, along with your chest and back.

But with bikes that are faster and better suspended than ever, and higher speeds, the need for neck protection has obviously changed. Over the last couple months we'd been hearing from some of our industry friends about the Leatt Moto-GPX brace. Curious, we got in touch with Leatt, and met with their Brand Manager in the U.S., Geoff Patterson.

By all accounts, the company is made up of individuals who are passionate about safety. Whether it's tales of personal injury (like the broken back suffered by Jason McCune, who's the lead U.S. sales rep), or the watching friends or riders they knew suffer serious injures (like happened with Dr. Chris Leatt, a South African who's the President & C.E.O of Leatt), there's no shortage of enthusiasm for safety.

Here's a good overall side view. Tucked inside a jersey, there's not much noticeable on the brace, except for the upper wing in the rear.

The brace Geoff showed us was rather unique compared to anything we'd seen in the past. Off the rider, it looks sort of like a horse collar, and once it's slipped over the rider's head and the hinged halves close together, a clip mechanism is used to hold it together. When properly fitted, the brace rest comfortably on top of your shoulders, and the front and rear lower portions spread the load onto your chest and back. The height of both the front upper member and rear upper member are adjustable to accommodate different length necks, different helmets, and different rider preferences. There are two different-sized braces, and different size pins (included with the kit) can be used to accommodate the brace to different body types/sizes.

Here you can see the carbon fiber upper sections, and composite lowers (this is the Sport model). You can also see the height adjustment slots, which you can use to tune the height of the areas that contact your helmet.

So what is the brace designed to do? It's designed to prevent extreme forward head movement (hyperflexion), extreme rearward movement (hyperextention), extreme lateral hyperflexion (side-to-side movement), axial loading (compression of the spinal column), and posterior hypertranslation (rearward movement of the head/helmet on the neck).

The goal of the brace is to control head movement during a crash, through use of energy-absorbing foam, and controlled flex of the brace's frame. In more extreme crashes, you might see the collapse of the brace on the friction sliders, and in the most extreme cases, the brace is designed to fracture, much like a helmet would in a big crash.

One of the few grumps that we've heard from riders who have tried on the brace is that they've pinched their necks while closing the halves together. That's just a warning for you. You can also see the closure system here.

The biggest question most riders immediately have is, what's it like to wear it? Nearly everyone we've talked to who tried it says there's a little adjustment period. But proper fitting of the brace (by following the setup procedure in the manual) is key so that it sits on your shoulders, along with adjusting the height of the front and rear upper members. When properly fitted, the brace sits well away from your helmet, and you'll only have helmet-to-brace contact in extreme situations.

All the pads on the brace are removable for washing.

What does the future hold for Leatt? We'll see. Geoff ran through a very impressive list of pro riders who have shown an interest in the brace, there are a couple of well-known names already wearing them, and we'd guess that you'll see a growing number of riders using the brace. They already have adult sizes covered, and are working on the tooling for a youth-sized brace now. That one's expected to be available by December 15th.

The brace includes a different Thoracic member for slimmer riders (center), as well different pins to custom-fit the brace to your body. There's also a strap (not shown) to keep the brace in place for riders who don't wear shoulder pads. 

The brace itself is a bit pricey, but there are three levels of materials. Functionally they're all the same, and you can pick one based on your level of budget and how much cash you have to spend. The Moto-GPX brace is available in The Club model ($375), which uses an all-composite construction. The Sport ($595), features a composite lower section, and carbon fiber uppers. And finally, there's the Pro ($995) which is constructed of carbon fiber for both the upper and lower sections.

This gives you a pretty good idea of the helmet/brace clearance.

While we were visiting with Geoff and Jason at Glen Helen, he loaned a brace to a friend of his, Tom Holmes, a spry 57-year-old who still enjoys getting out for some mid-week motos. Oddly enough, Tom went out and promptly landed on his head. When he stopped back into the pits, his only question was, "How much?"

Jason McCune has a little experience with a broken back of his own, and his online research let to the U.S. connection with Leatt. Occasionally you need to do a bit of customization with shoulder pads for brace clearance, but we've seen several riders using the Leatt brace with a variety of chest protectors and body armor.

Functionally, no one we've talked to who has ridden with the Leatt questions what it can do. We'd guess that the biggest hurdle might be the fashion aspect of it. Motocrossers are a notoriously fickle bunch when it comes to appearance, though we think it might just be a matter of time before we look at riders who are riding without neck protection as odd.

So, that brings up the a variation of the old $10 head question…do you have a $10 neck?

That's Geoff Patterson from Leatt's U.S. headquarters fitting the brace on Tom Holmes, who's a 57-year-old rider out here in CA. During his demo ride, Tom landed on his head, and was suitably impressed with the performance of the Leatt brace.

For More Information:
Leatt Brace
Geoff Patterson
Brand Manager USA
24852 Ave. Rockefeller
Valencia, CA 91355
(661) 295-6688
(800) 691-3314

www.leatt-brace.com

Create New Tag
0 comments
Show More Comment(s) / Leave a Comment