Nothing scares a motocross or off-road racer more than a neck injury, which is the reason the Leatt GPX 5.5 exists. While we all love the sport, it is inherently dangerous and accidents are prone to happen sooner or later.
Leatt’s development of the neck brace began after Dr. Chris Leatt witnessed a fellow rider’s death back in 2001. He became inspired to develop a product that made motocross safer and began prototyping neck braces soon after. Thirteen years later, neck braces have become a common site at local tracks and in the professional ranks, with several companies developing their own versions of the neck brace as well.
Having begun my motocross career well after the introduction of the neck brace, it was the first safety item I set out to buy after purchasing my first motocross bike. After doing some research, I decided to buy a Leatt GPX Pro, which is their previous generation brace made of carbon fiber.
I was extremely pleased with the protection and lightweight qualities it offered. However, the limited motion when looking upwards, downwards, and side to side was certainly noticeable. This came as nothing of a surprise to me, as limited motion is to be expected with better protection.
When Leatt introduced their newest GPX 5.5 brace, I was eager to get my hands on one and see what improvements they had made with the new model. The first thing that I noticed when taking the GPX 5.5 out of the box was the new, lower-profile design. This seems to be the direction that most neck brace companies are headed and Leatt was well aware of this.
Leatt used it as a key development focus when designing the new brace as it sits much lower than the previous generation model and offers much better range of motion when twisting, turning, and looking up or down. Although the new design allowed for better range of motion, I still felt the same protective qualities that I have come to expect from a Leatt brace.
Another new feature on the Leatt GPX 5.5 brace is the five-way adjustability. Two removable molded foam pads up front allow the brace to be adjusted either up or down when sitting on your chest. The same design applies for the shoulder height as each side can be adjusted up or down depending on the size of the rider.
In the rear, the thoracic strut angle can be adjusted in accordance with the angle and shape of the riders back. Leatt’s new design makes it a snap. The rubber fitting can be swapped out with four different fittings including 0-, 5-, 10- and 15-degrees. After testing each one, I felt the most comfortable with the 0-degree fitting, as it provided the most vertically angled thoracic adjustment and did not climb up my back during a moto.
The last adjustable pieces on the new Leatt GPX 5.5 brace lie in the front and rear of the brace. Each can be adjusted forward or backward by simply lifting up on the red adjustment latch. The latch is able to snap into four different positions in order to lengthen or shorten the distance between the front and rear of the brace.
This allows further fitment options to suit a variety of different body types to be able to fit comfortably and safely into the brace. One size may not fit all in the world of neck braces, but Leatt is certainly coming closer with the wide range of adjustability on the new GPX 5.5 model.
Along with the lower profile design and numerous methods of adjustability, Leatt kept ease of use, simplicity, and cleaning in mind when redesigning the GPX. Each of the adjustments available on the brace can be done by hand — no tools required.
Another small, but noticeable, drawback of the previous generation GPX brace was that it took up a decent amount of space in the gear bag. Such is not the case with the GPX 5.5. When not in use, it can be folded and made much easier to pack for travel.
The GPX 5.5 is also much easier to clean than the previous generation model, as there is no longer a fabric cover on the padding. The new, injected foam padding can be cleaned with soap and water and will look brand new in a matter of minutes.
A neck brace can be likened to health insurance in that it’s something that you have and hope you never have to use. I inadvertently got a firsthand opportunity to put the GPX 5.5 brace to a real-life test during a race at Milestone MX in Riverside, California.
While coming over a blind double jump, I saw a downed rider in front of me crawling off the track. As most motocrossers are aware, you do not have many options once you are in the air and are along for the ride until contacting back down to Earth. Although my first instinct was to ride right over his bike, I realized that I had too much momentum and my only choice was to try and slow down to avoid hitting him.
Upon landing, I did my best to hit the brakes and safely slide into him laying my bike over in the process. No sooner than I began to fall over, another rider slammed into me from behind and we both hit the deck.
I fell backwards slamming my head on the ground. Luckily, the Leatt GPX 5.5 did not allow my head to travel too far back, preventing whiplash or any other serious neck injury. My brother was on hand to record the whole event and after watching the video, I am incredibly thankful that I had the brace on. Without it, I would have certainly suffered from whiplash or some other neck-related injury. My Shoei VFX-W helmet did its part, protecting me from a concussion.
As far as quality is concerned, the Leatt GPX 5.5 is second to none. This brace will last you several years, so long as you are not crash testing it each time you use it. Leatt designs their braces to break upon certain impacts in order to protect the rider in the event of certain types of crashes, much as a helmet sacrifices itself in the event of contact with the ground. Each time you crash, Leatt recommends inspecting the brace for cracks, breaks, or any other abnormalities.
While our sport is continually getting safer with increased safety precautions and equipment, accidents can still happen at anytime. The development of such state-of-the-art safety equipment is something that we should all take advantage of. The Leatt GPX 5.5 has a retail price of $369, a deal considering that preventing a neck injury is worth any price.
Andrew Oldar is sponsored by Moose Racing.Google+