Should You Wear a Neck Brace?
I decided to invest in a Leatt STX-RR neck brace after a recent medical scare prompted me to do all I can to protect my neck from trauma. But, is the Leatt STX-RR neck brace a worthwhile investment for you?
A neck brace is not a piece of equipment that many motorcycle riders consider. However, it’s common to see motocross and off-road racers wearing neck braces. Do they know something we street riders and roadracers don’t?
While many people claim that there is not enough evidence saying they are effective, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from off-road racers that neck braces work. That said, there are stories around of broken collarbones that may have been the result of contact with the brace. Even if these stories have some truth, I’ll take a broken collarbone over a broken neck anytime.
Another reason few road riders wear a neck brace is that they are expensive (See below).
How the Leatt STX-RR Works
The RR brace rests on the shoulders and features two scapular wings in the back that straddle the aero hump on my racing leather suits. There is also a hinged sternum support wing at the front that allows me to tuck behind the windscreen.
During a crash, the brace prevents the head from snapping forward, back and sideways to a point where neck injury can occur. It is essentially a table surface that the bottom rim of the helmet contacts during a crash. When the helmet contacts the brace, the energy from the head and helmet is redirected to the shoulders, upper back and chest to protect the cervical spine.
More About the Leatt STX-RR
The STX-RR is the racing version of he STX Road model. The road model can be used on the racetrack, but the RR has a few features that make it a better choice for track riding.
The STX-RR is made from superlight carbon fiber and weighs only about one and a half pounds, compared to the less expensive and heavier fiberglass STX Road model . The RR version also differs from the STX Road model by utilizing a solid fixed ring setup with two emergency releases, which requires the rider to slip the brace over the head. The street STX Road features a locking hinge design that allows the rider to fit it by clamping it around the neck.
The RR uses a lighter, simpler spacer fitting system compared to the street version, which comes with several different sized inserts to customize fit. Both models come with optional straps for securing the brace in place. I used the straps for several track days, but it takes more time to attach them. Besides, I feel confident that the brace will stay in place without the straps.
However, the most significant difference between the RR and the Road versions is that the RR model has a lower profile, which means that it is farther away from the base of the helmet. This reduces effectiveness somewhat compared to the Road version, but the lower profile, in conjunction with the hinged front wing, allows the rider to move more freely when going from hanging off in corners to tucking fully behind a windscreen on the straights.
Fitting the brace properly requires adjustment of the swiveling scapular wings, which are marked for precise degree adjustment, as well as removal or placement of front, rear and side spacer pads. Measuring the distance from the bottom of the helmet to the top of the brace is important for the brace to be most protective and comfortable.
After a session on the racetrack, I determined that the brace was sitting too close to my helmet, preventing me from turning my head fully in certain corners. Removing the shoulder spacer pads solved the problem. The combination of light weight and proper fitment means I can ride without noticing that I even have the brace on.
Amazon labels the RR as being size Large/XL. But, it appears that here is only that single size. Leatt says the one size fits riders from approx. 140 to 225 pounds. That is the size I wear and I am 155 pounds and 5′ 10″.
Living with the Leatt
I’ve used the Leatt for most of the track day and racing season. People often ask me whether the brace restricts my head movement. I ride a Triumph Street Triple R as my track day bike. The upright position of the Striple means I have little issue with restricted movement. Only in very tight corners do I feel the brace make contact with my helmet. However, when I ride a supersport motorcycle, I find the brace to be more restrictive. But, I suspect that with further fiddling with the adjustments, it can work on nearly any bike.
The one thing you need to consider when investing in any protective gear is that it won’t work unless you actually use it. Putting the brace on is very simple, but there were several times when I forgot to slip the brace over my head before strapping on my helmet. Once I realized that I forgot the brace I had to take my helmet off, put the brace on and replace the helmet again. Grrrr.
The Leatt STX RR retails for $549.00, which is $150.00 more than the STX Road, but the lightweight carbon construction and articulating sternum section make the RR a better choice for track day riders and roadracers.
So, you have to determine for yourself whether a neck brace is worth the cost and inconvenience. Knowing that the neck is vulnerable to all sorts of loads that can lead to lifelong injury or death, I think it’s worth considering.
So, I was riding my KTM dirtbike on a friend’s mini motocross track. I had been using the Leatt while riding trails and it worked out well with the scapular wings straddling the hydration pack. But, I didn’t have it this time.
I landed a jump and banked into a tight right turn, but failed to get the bike turned. The front wheel climbed the berm, causing me to fall with my head snapping as I landed about 40 degrees upside down. My neck hurt immediately. I turns out that the whiplash I suffered lasted a few months and the tinnitus in my left ear hasn’t gone away after a year.
I’m convinced that having the Leatt would have saved me from this injury. I have since bought a dedicated off-road neck brace and wear it all the time.
Have you crashed while wearing a neck brace? If so, how did it work?
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