“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.
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’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 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.
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.