New Protective Gear From Leatt – More Than Just Neck Braces

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“The business of selling safety,” that’s the company line, straight from the horse’s mouth. Leatt has made a name with protective neck braces for bicyclists and motorcyclists, and for 2013/14 the company has a few new items to guard the zaniest racers and riders. On a hot day last week, the South African company invited thirty or so media associates to its US distribution facility in Santa Clarita, California to take a long, refreshing swig of the Leatt kool-aid from General Manager, Phil Davy.

Developed by Dr. Chris Leatt, a 45-year-old South African who saw a friend’s son become severely paralyzed in a bicycle wreck, Leatt neck braces work using Alternate Load Path Technology (ALPT), which is a fancy way to describe how the collar-like braces, resting on the muscles on either side of the neck and on the chest and back, reduce the chances neck and spine injury by transferring forces to other parts of the body. In a crash where the head is severely impacted, the bottom edge of a full-face helmet will interact with the brace, keeping the head from being jarred, jammed or twisted in any direction. The result, theoretically, is fewer spinal cord injuries – and therefore fewer fatal or paralyzing crashes.

Sounds great, but does it work? There are naysayers, but Leatt (naturally) presented research that shows it does. For his part, Dr. Leatt says his personal yardstick for any of his company’s products is to ask himself the question: “Would I let my own son wear it?” That may not convince the young and indestructible-minded – but it’s enough to assure a lot of parents whose kids want to ride fast and fly high.

Still, while the Leatt brace made quite a splash in the racing world when it debuted several years ago, the company admits usage among racers and stunt riders has fallen off lately – perhaps that’s because it’s the type of safety item you hope you never need, and therefore people grow tired of strapping it on before every race. Or perhaps it’s because of comfort issues, a typical complaint the company plans to address (very) soon. Regardless, a Leatt neck brace performs as promised, keeping the head and neck reasonably upright in even the most severe crashes.

Does it prevent injury? Leatt brought up three of its most famous ambassadors to testify. X Games freelance MX gold medalist Lance Coury admitted he doesn’t know if the Leatt brace he religiously wears prevents injury, because he’s fortunate enough to have never needed it – but in the same breath made it clear he rarely even practices without it. BMX star Mike Day also swore by the Leatt’s safety and security, and MX veteran Ryan Morais recounted how he was wearing a Leatt brace when he famously landed on a crashed Trey Canard at the L.A. Coliseum Supercross race in January of 2012. Morais had to have his jaw wired after the crash, but counted himself fortunate as Canard suffered a broken back and was out of motocross for more than a year.

But there’s more to Leatt than just neck braces. For 2013/14 the company is offering an expanded line of safety products, and Davy and Dr. Leatt were happy to demonstrate them for the assembled audience. There isn’t a ton of product of huge interest to average riders, but those who race, ride off-road – or have kids that do – should be very interested in what Leatt’s got on tap for 2013.

Leatt Fusion Vest 2.0 Junior

The Fusion not only protects the torso and rib cage, its shoulder pads guard against the most common broken bone, the clavicle (that’s the collarbone, Einstein).

The Fusion combines Leatt’s signature neck brace with hard-shell chest, back and shoulder protectors for complete CE-approved protection from upper body impact injury. It’s 3D-engineered for fit, and augmented by hook-and-loop flap closures around the sides. Lined with black 3D AirFit impact foam, it will be available in adult and two junior sizes in green, red, orange or white, and will retail for $249.

Leatt Knee Braces C-Frame

$599/pair may seem pricey, but if the C-Frame works as well and lasts as long as Leatt claims, it’s a far better option than buying a new knee brace every few years – or wearing one that’s worn-out and ineffective. And/or stinky.

Leatt’s stretching its safety envelope in 2013/14 with the introduction of its C-Frame knee brace. Single-sided with a c-arm mono-hinge developed by Dr. Leatt, it’s designed to be more comfortable than the standard double-sided knee brace, allowing for longer wear. According to the company, nearly 75 percent of all motorcyclists’ knee injuries are ACL, MCL or meniscus-related, and the adjustable C-Frame prevents these by keeping the joint from twisting and hyperflexing and hyperextending, as well as by stabilizing the hinge on downward impact, such as in landing a jump. Leatt claims its single-sided IntelliLink hinge is as strong if not stronger than any brace with a double-sided hinge, and as proof Davy placed one on the ground and stood directly on it, lightly bouncing, in an effort to bend it. It didn’t give. When it comes on the market around December, the C-Frame will be sold in pairs for $599.

Leatt 3DF Airfit

Leatt’s 3DF AirFit shirt is reinforced with improved AirFit impact foam, which Leatt claims is 20-30 percent lighter than other protective cushions.

Leatt also introduced the 3DF AirFit body protector, for those who can’t (or won’t) wear braces. Made of moisture-wicking material and cinched with a form-fitting elastic waistbelt, it protects the torso via AirFit impact foam. It also features front impact protection and great ventilation. Available in a sleeved design (with shoulder protection) for $249 or sleeveless for $199, the 3DF AirFit shirt will be available in black or grey in sizes S-XXL. For supplemental protection, Leatt is also offering elbow and knee sleeves with 3DF AirFit impact foam.

Leatt Hard Shell 5.5 Protector

Made with a combination of high density poly ethylene hard shell and 3DF AirFit impact foam, the Hard Shell 5.5 fits either over or under a jersey – ideal for starting-line intimidation.

Finally, Leatt provides the ultimate in protection in 2013/14 with the Hard Shell 5.5, a multi-layer, articulated torso protector with 53 ventilation slots and a Leatt neck brace attachment. Available in sizes up to XXL, the Pro HD (“heavy duty”) 5.5 will be available for $219. It will also be available in a vest configuration with front and rear plates called the 5.5 Pro Lite, which will run $169. For those who don’t need maximum impact protection but still want to be protected, there’s the 5.5 Pro ($189) and the 5.5 Pro Lite without shoulder pads ($169).

In addition to these new products, most of which will be available in October, Leatt has a full line of hard shell and foam protection for nearly every body part, as well as its signature neck braces. Check them out online at www.Leatt-Brace.com or call 800-691-3314.

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  • Rich

    Do you race? Do you have a friend or, a family member who races or rides trails? Buy this for them….In early May of 2010, I watched my son in a horrific wreck, slam head first into the track…he slid, crumpled like a rag-doll, on his head for 30 feet, then tumbled, reconnected with his bike and broke his leg. When he regained consciousness, his concussion was so severe he was BLIND! for 30 minutes. I am convinced Dr Leatt (and then the track safety crew) saved his life. He was back on his bike late July, and raced again in August. If you can’t afford the equipment, save your track fees until you can….God Bless!

  • Adam

    I’m looking at the Fusion 2.0 and Hard Shell 5.5 and not seeing arm/elbow protection. Right now I cant decide if I should buy the Leatt Adventure Body Protector, which is well reviewed but does not have an integrated neck brace, or wait and see if the new products will function well as a set of armor for commuters…Also I’m not sure if the neck brace will allow +/- 90 neck rotation to check over your shoulder.

  • Gary Roebuck

    if u don’t wear a leatt neck brace u’re a complete chop!

    i had a bad fall down a cliff, eventually landing on my head with the bike still between my legs..! the helmet got tossed n i woke up the next morning with bruised shoulders! i’ll take that over a compression fracture or broken neck any day!

    i’d rather be wearing a brace n not need it than be wishing i had. n wishing i could still move without a wheelchair..
    yeah..go on.. say it’s a bad idea.. Chop!