Since the arrival of the original Leatt Brace in motocross a couple of years ago, the trend for the ‘toilet seat around your neck’ has spread to downhill racing.
Fashion aside, these braces are designed to keep you out of a wheelchair as bikes and tracks get faster and faster
Alpinestars’ new Bionic neck brace is visibly different from its rivals. The slimmer, more compact shape is the result of extensive testing.
After researching what are defined as ‘catastrophic neck injuries’, where the rider's neck is subjected to compressive forces strong enough to cause paralysis – they’ve come up with a design they claim greatly improves safety.
They discovered that the worst injuries were caused by compression from riders landing on top of their head, rather than backward (hyperextension) or forward (hyperflexion) movements. These impacts usually result in muscular injuries, so the brace’s raised front and rear areas help dissipate these forces.
The Bionic brace aims to stop compression injuries with a raised impact area that makes contact with the rim of your helmet and halts the compression of your neck. It’s all about minimising the gap between brace and helmet, but maintaining movement and comfort for the rider.
This is something that the Bionic manages brilliantly. Halfway through our first run wearing it, we’d forgotten it was there. With a weight of just 1.2kg and a low-profile shape, it sits in place snugly, leaving you to just get on with riding.
We were dubious about the two slim elastic straps that hold the brace in place, however. They do their job well for the most part – there was a bit of movement through really chattery root sections, but it was pretty minimal.
But for the sake of longevity, we’d pay a bit extra and invest in the A-Strap system that secures the brace around your chest and offers a bit more adjustment.
The Bionic also features Alpinestars’ patented Pivot Key removal system, which allows the brace’s body to be broken down into three pieces. This helps paramedics remove it quickly and you can fit it in your kit bag a bit more easily too.
If you're utterly wedged up, there’s a full-carbon version of the Bionic, but it will sting you for a shade under £500. In terms of comfort it’s hard to fault the standard Bionic and the piece of mind it offers is definitely worth the investment.