Neck braces for offroad motorcyclists have been available for 10+ years now, so isn’t it time to make them compulsory for all dirt bike and ADV riders?
This is an interesting discussion point that the team here at Frontaer decided to have. We wanted to look at the pros and cons of wearing neck braces for both MX riders and adventure tourers. At the same time, we’ll show you the best neck braces on the market.
A History of Motorcycle Neck Braces
When we look back at history, we’ve certainly come a long way. Back then, dirt bike riders would throw on a cheap helmet and at best, some casual boots and a jacket. Today, as motorcycle protective gear has massively advanced, so have the concerns of riders.
No one wants to be injured in a crash. It’s terrifying enough and the consequences could be there for life. As a result, we see much fewer people on the tracks and local riding trails without being kitted up with protective gear. From helmets and goggles to jackets, trousers, boots, gloves and padding on just about every vertebrae – it’s evident that the mindset of the average rider has certainly changed.
But what about neck braces? Why haven’t dirt bike riders adopted these just yet? While the arguments that ADV riders and weekend trail warriors aren’t racing at terrifying speeds, a crash of any magnitude has the potential to threaten the rest of your life.
Motocross riders have mostly figured this out, yet the recreational riders haven’t quite made it to the party just yet. To speed this along, could we not just mandate the requirements of neck brace usage just like helmet usage?
Chris Leatt – The Industry Pioneer
Go back 20 years ago and neck braces were things that you’d find in hospitals once people had a serious spiral injury. Then about 15 years ago they started appearing on the market lead by one guy – Chris Leatt. At that time, Chris as an avid motorcyclist was supporting his son who was racing. Sadly, Chris Leatt witnessed the death of a fellow rider.
As a South African doctor, he was extremely motivated from that time to all riders from the dangers of dirt bikes, whether racing or simply for recreation. From there, the famous “Leatt Neck Brace” as it later became known in the industry was born.
That very first neck brace was basic in contrast to what’s on offer today. Many riders scoffed at the idea of having to wear such a restricting device, but it then started to grow in popularity and acceptance. As that happened, other companies followed suit to expand on Leatt’s original idea with a motorcycle jacket and neck brace combination.
Today, neck braces continue to evolve but still offer the protection that Chris Leatt envisioned in 2004. They are now lighter, stronger and have more adjustments.
How they work
A dirt bike neck brace has one main objective: Protect the rider’s neck in the event of a crash. They also reduce the impact of crashes on minor parts of the shoulders and chest area, but protecting the neck is the main goal.
Essentially, dirt bike neck braces reduce frontal, rearwards and sideways movement (hyperextension) of the neck.
However, there is no gear on the market that can 100% prevent injury or death to a dirt bike rider. The safest way is to avoid riding altogether – but where’s the fun?
Manufacturers are always racing against each other to reduce the likelihood of severe neck injuries to motorcycle riders who wear neck braces. And in many instances, this is achieved.
However, neck braces work differently in every accident. This is because no two accidents are the same. And it’s a very hard request to get riders intentionally crashing for market research.
Common objections to neck braces
Let’s look at the common objections that riders give when choosing whether or not to wear a neck brace
“It’s hard to turn my neck”
True. Neck braces simply make it harder for riders to turn their neck quickly. While they have evolved since Leatt’s first design, they still have a sense of restriction for the rider.
“They are expensive”
False. Life in a wheelchair is expensive. For less than $500 you can get a brand new neck brace. Compared to your motorcycle, this is very marginal and roughly the same as a top-quality helmet.
“I won’t look cool”
It doesn’t matter. You’ll look perfectly fine on an MX track. As for trail riding and global adventuring, most people won’t even notice. And when you’re riding solo and 100 miles from the nearest help, you’ll be feeling a lot more confident.
“I heard that they break easily.”
False. Motorcycle neck braces are made from super strong materials with carbon fire being a fan favorite. It would take an awfully massive crash to break a neck brace, and even if it did, it’s likely to have prevented further injuries for the rider.
“Are neck braces heavy?”
No. Neck braces are now under 1 pound with dirt bike riders rarely feeling the weight. After all – helmets and boots already weight quite a bit.
Genuine protection or marketing fad?
So are neck braces actually providing you genuine protection? After all, companies like Alpinestars have jumped on the bandwagon with a lot of marketing power.
And when you consider the prices of these devices, it causes riders to become a little sceptical. Especially when you see riders on the MX track still not wearing braces for years.
Now in our honest opinion, they are worth their weight and restrictions. Genuine protection is given to the rider, even if they never have a significant crash in their life.
Similarly, there are millions of people who have never been in a car crash, despite being in their retirement years. Yet every time, without hesitation, they still put on a seat belt.
As for marketing fad, there is some element of truth. Yet the same could be said for motorcycle helmets and personal injury insurance. These companies capitalize on protecting people from serious injury.
But if we can put those thoughts aside, these companies also invest millions in design and development, while progressively reducing their retail price points.
Best Adventure Riding Neck Brace
While this article is featured around dirt bike neck braces, our predominant audience is adventure riders. Those who head off for adventures around the state…or even around the world.
ADV riders are a unique bunch – we ride the roads and the trails. As we’ll rarely hit the MX track and the inherent hazards of landing a jump short, we need something different. A type of neck brace with the flexibility to turn our heads properly, while also providing great value.
From our research, the best currently available neck brace for adventure riders who do weekend trips or even round-the-world adventures is the Leatt STX Road Neck Brace. This device allows you to look over-the-shoulder much easier when changing lanes, while also being adjustable when riding adventure jackets.
This model, while new to the market, has had extensive testing. It’s even certified as Personal Protective Equipment. Through using Alternative Load Path Technology (ALPT®), this neck brace transmits energy from your helmet to your body and thereby reduces your risk of a significant neck injury.
For more information, check out Leatt: https://www.leatt.com/
Best Dirt Bike Neck Braces
Since Chris Leatt launched his first prototype early in this century, many companies have tried to copy the original design. Luckily Chris was able to evolve over time and has become a household name in the MX world.
In 2020, we’ll look at the top 5 neck braces that money can buy:
1. Leatt GPX 6.5 Motocross Neck Protector
If you’re looking for the best-in-class gear that’s going to protect your neck, then you can’t look past the GPX 6.5 Neck Protector. Many professional riders have worn this with extensive gearing and development.
It might look big but it weighs at less than 700gs. This is a carbon-fibre neck brace which is super stiff and not so flexible like other cheaper braces on the market. At the same time, there is some very good flexibility with only two sizes available: Small/Medium and the Large/Extra-Large. If you’re unsure on which size to choose, then they provide a very helpful sizing diagram.
One of the coolest features is the emergency release function. Let’s say you indeed have a big accident and removing your neck brace would potentially cause you a life-long injury. Well – medics can actually release the neck brace with a simple button.
2. Atlas Carbon Motocross Neck Brace
Needing something marginally lighter than the Leatt? Atlas has the solution. While being very minimalistic in its looks, it’s made up for in the features. And unlike the Leatt models, there is some reasonable flexibility in this neck brace allowing riders to really twist properly.
What we really love about this neck brace is adjustability. This particular model has a lot of it. So much so that many riders report that riding with this neck brace is like it’s not even there. If you’re the type of person who’s been holding off as you don’t like the restrictions of typical dirt bike neck braces, then this model is for you.
There are straps included that we recommend that you wear otherwise it tends to bounce around on MX tracks. Those doing weekend trails probably won’t notice it as much, nor will the ADV rider who wants this model for that little bit of extra insurance.
3. Alpinestars Tech Bionic Neck Protector
Motocross neck braces are typically boring until you find your hands on the Bionic by Alpinestars. When we refer to manufacturers with big marketing budgets, Alpinestars is one prime example. They took Leatt’s original design and built on it with both function AND style.
Unfortunately, this model is slightly heavier at 735 grams, which is damn heavy for a carbon brace. They use some extra material with two front pads which sit on either side of your sternum. Now, this also means that additional heat is produced which summer riders may not like so much.
However, many riders report a positive experience in this model. From the fit and the adjustability, paired with the very cool design – it all helps riders progress to owning a model.
4. EVS Sports Race Collar
Looking for something that doesn’t break the bank? EVS has you covered. These minimalistic neck braces do provide some reduced support and it’s certainly better than none at all.
You can often purchase these for under $70. And with the lower sizing and reduced features also comes with lower weight. At just 2.3 pounds, you’ll almost not even notice this, nor will your wallet.
The best part: You can buy these for children as well. We’ve shared previously on the best dirt bike protection for kids and the neck brace is something we now recommend.
5. Oneal NX-2 Adult neck brace
Available exclusively in Australia, the oNeal neck braces are very affordable and available for under $50 AUD. For the dirt bike rider who just wants some basic protection, then it’s hard to look past these.
Neck protection collars like these lack the more advanced protection that the advanced and science-backed protectors that Leatt, Atlas and Alpinestars have put forward to the market. But if neck braces are compulsory on your MX race track, then this could be just what you need right now.
These connect to most chest protectors and come with a washable liner. Also available for kids who need neck protection when riding.
The final choice on neck braces
With almost every country, the only bit of protective gear needed as regulated through country laws is a helmet. Anything worn beyond this is entirely the choice of the rider. For now.
As more countries adopt rules to protect both motorcycle riders and pedestrians, you’re likely to see more gear required to ride with. We imagine a neck brace is the first essential bit of gear.
For now, at least, the final choice lays with you. For the most part, it also depends on the style of offroad riding that you’re partaking in.
Are you using a neck brace currently? If not – why not? Let us know in the comments below.