The new Leatt street/sportbike-specific...
The new Leatt street/sportbike-specific neck brace features a different design than its off-road counterparts.
Anyone who rides or races off-road has now heard of the Leatt neck brace. Designed by South African physician Dr. Chris Leatt, the brace was developed after Leatt witnessed a tragic motocross accident that resulted in the death of a fellow rider. On the market since 2006, the Leatt brace (and other braces on the market using the same basic design) has become increasingly popular among off-road riders and racers, especially with the ever-improving performance of off-road machinery allowing them to negotiate more difficult obstacles. The paralyzing injuries suffered by several high-profile professional motocross riders in recent years brought even more attention to the brace, which is designed to prevent excessive spinal compression from a headfirst impact by spreading the force across the rider’s shoulders.
A few pavement riders have adapted the Leatt to their particular usage, but there were several issues that cropped up, mostly due to the differing body positions (a sport/roadracing rider is mostly in a forward-leaning position with his head leaned backward in order to see ahead, while an off-road rider is in a more upright position) and riding gear (the speed hump and back protector worn by sport/roadracing riders caused some fitment issues with the rear thoracic support). Seeing an interest and need for neck protection in the street/sport/roadracing arena, the Leatt Corporation is introducing its new STX model brace.
Claimed to be the world’s only sportbike-specific neck brace, the Leatt STX incorporates a radically different design from its off-road brethren. The front and rear table assemblies (the portions of the brace that prevent your helmet from moving downward past a certain point and compressing the spine) are both lower to allow a greater range of motion “while in a full tuck or looking through a turn”, according to Leatt. The rear section is also different, with the rear thoracic support apparently split into two sub-assemblies that give ample room in the middle for a speed hump and back protector. Instead of using the para-spinal muscles between the shoulder blades for support to prevent the brace rotating backward in a crash (as with the other Leatt braces), the two sub-assemblies appear to use the outer portion of the shoulder blades for support.
What isn’t shown in the CAD drawing is how the support will be fastened to the rider, although we’d imagine it would be very similar to the standard brace’s strap system that goes underneath your arms and around your chest for usage without an off-road chest protector. There’s also the question of aerodynamics at faster speeds (whether the shape of the brace will cause lift at speed, etc.). But there’s definitely no questioning its improved safety aspect in the event of a headfirst impact.
Interestingly, Alpinestars experimented with a neck brace for roadracing purposes a few years ago with several riders in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, but dropped it after one season. The reason given was that unlike off-road racing, headfirst impacts in roadracing are extremely rare (even with some of the spectacular skyshot highsides like Jorge Lorenzo’s crash during practice for the Shanghai GP in ’08), and any hard, immovable objects that riders could possibly hit are removed. That scenario is obviously still present in street riding, however.
The Leatt STX Brace will be unveiled and on display at the Indianapolis Dealer Expo and is slated to be available to the retail customer in April 2011. The STX will be offered in three sizes, two color options, and will retail for $395-$410. More information about the regular GPX braces is available online at www.leatt.com, although the STX is not listed on the site yet.