While the original Leatt brace can sometimes work with leathers and on the road, it wasn’t designed to do so, limiting the head’s articulation in a forward-leaning riding position and interfering with the use of back protectors. Now, Leatt’s designed a brace to get around those problems. Ditching the center back support and sitting lower on the shoulders, the Leatt STX is specifically designed to reduce the risk of spinal compression for road riders while accommodating a racing tuck, back protectors and aerodynamic humps and facilitating the full range of head movements for good vision. This could represent the greatest leap forward in road safety gear since Dainese invented the back protector in 1978.
The concept behind the Leatt brace is relatively simple. In order to prevent your head being pushed down between your shoulders and compressing your spine, a platform sits across your shoulders, contacting the base of the helmet in severe, head-on impacts and spreading the load path across the shoulders, which are better able to cope with the forces. Like the styrofoam in a helmet or the crumple zone on a car, the Leatt and similar braces now offered by companies like Alpinestars are designed to deform and break, reducing the forces transmitted to your body.
HFL contributor Sean Smith, who sent us this tip, summed up nicely why we haven’t seen such a device for road use before. Road protection, like that back protector (co-developed by Barry Sheene), evolves from road racing. In the controlled environment of a race track, head-on impacts to the helmet are extremely rare, unheard of even. Instead, riders almost always suffer glancing impacts to the head, which are effectively dealt with by the shape and materials of modern helmets. Unfortunately, while road riders can benefit from general abrasion and impact protection developed on the track, the roads we ride on are a more complicated environment, requiring a more sophisticated approach to safety. The Leatt STX represents one of the first dramatic improvements to safety that wasn’t developed for GP riders.
You can see why Leatt’s dirt brace wouldn’t work terribly well on a sporstbike. Tucked in, your torso is leaning forward and your head is leaning back. The dirt brace would interfere with this movement, limiting head articulation and therefore vision and the ability to comfortably move around the bike while riding fast.
You can see the difference between the dirt and street braces in the split rear support adopted by the STX. Leatt claims this will clear just about every back protector and speed hump, meaning this is a one-size fits all, near-universal application.
According to Sport Rider, Alpinestars actually had a similar brace in development, but it’s track testing program didn’t highlight the need for such a device. Anyone who’s headbutted a car or a tree or any other immovable object can likely see the benefit though.
Leatt says the STX is made from “a reinforced polyamide resin,” folds for easy adjustment, adjusts for fit without any tools and even incorporates a security loop to lock it to a bike while parked.
The STX will be available in April for an MSRP of $450, but our friends at RevZilla are already accepting pre-orders for just $395.
Dainese D-Air and Alpinestars TechAir will offer similar protection against spine compression (as well as added impact protection this device doesn’t offer) when they arrive on the market later this year, but compare their multi-thousand dollar prices and complication to the relative affordability and simplicity of this brace. Leatt is bringing protection to an area of street riders’ bodies which previously went unprotected and doing so at a relatively affordable price. That’s big news.