Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support Tech Carbon Track Tested
Testing the new Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support Tech Carbon reminds me of my start in the sport of off-road motorcycling. I will never forget my first time riding a motorcycle at the tender age of six. My brother and I were outfitted from head to toe with the proper gear — full face helmets, boots, gloves, and chest protectors. But before getting on the bike, my dad (Steve Storz of Storz Performance) made my brother Neil and I repeat after him, “Motorcycles are dangerous”.
Although that seems like a very obvious statement, it is necessary to occasionally remind ourselves of the inherent danger of our sport, regardless of our ages. Nobody plans on crashing, but it can happen to anyone at any time on a dirt bike, so it is important to always wear the proper safety equipment when riding a motorcycle.
I think the neck brace is an essential piece of equipment, however, some riders choose not to wear them. After suffering a serious neck injury several years ago in a bicycle crash, I have been a strong proponent of neck protection since its introduction to the motocross market in 2006.
The first thing I noticed about the Alpinestars BNS Tech Carbon is its light weight and low profile design. The brace does not look like normal carbon fiber weave because Alpinestars has utilized a new carbon polymer technology to reduce weight and increase strength. The carbon polymer is injection molded which allows for a more intricate design and lowers the cost of production, ultimately bringing a high quality neck brace to the customer at a lower price. The compressed EVA foam provides for a comfortable and secure fit.
While riding with the Alpinestars BNS brace, I hardly noticed it was on. It is a night and day difference compared to my old brace. The only times I noticed the brace was when casing or over- shooting a jump, which leads me to believe that the brace would offer adequate support in the event of a crash.
Obviously, the downside to increased freedom of head movement while riding is, well, freedom of head movement in a crash. Like so much safety equipment, from helmets to boots, their ability to protect is difficult to quantify, and it’s often an issue of balancing risks, rather than simply eliminating them.
By narrowing the BNS down to two sizes — XS-M and L-XL — Alpinestars has done a great job of making the sizing process much simpler with its Size Adapter System (SAS). The SAS allows you to change the fit of your brace by installing different of adapters. This is a great feature because you can buy the brace for a growing teenager and not worry about them quickly out-growing the brace.
The quick release locking system is another convenient new feature of the Alpinestars BNS brace. Unlike other neck braces, the BNS brace opens and closes from the front, thanks to an easy-to-use latch system.
To lock the brace closed, you simply push the brace together and the magnetic latching mechanism locks into place. To unlatch the brace, there is a small drawstring on the front of the brace to release the latching mechanism.
Occasionally, with my old neck brace, I would go onto the track with the brace not completely locked on and I would have to pull off and fix it. With the cleverly simple design of the latch for the Alpinestars BNS brace, this is not an issue.
The new rear stabilizer, which rests on the back of the rider, has been widened in order to dissipate energy away from the spine. The idea is that, in the event of a crash where the back of the helmet contacts the brace, the force is spread across the rider’s back rather than directly onto the spine. Fortunately, I did not have the opportunity test this feature. The rear stabilizer is easily removable, which makes storing the brace in a gear bag much more convenient.
When putting the brace on or taking it off, the rear stabilizer occasionally falls off, which is an annoyance, but once the brace is on, the stabilizer is guaranteed to stay in place.
The BNS brace works great with the Alpinestars chest protector, but most other chest protectors do not have a wide enough slot for the rear stabilizer. Chest protector manufacturers will need to resolve this problem in the near future because most new neck braces have a similar stabilizer design.
At a price of $350, the Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support Tech Carbon is an essential piece of safety equipment. A quality helmet can cost twice that, and your neck and spine are clearly as important to protect as your skull.
Photography by Emily Coe