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TLD Leatt Sport Tested

Discussion in 'Downhill & Freeride' started by Ridemonkey.com, Jan 14, 2011.

  1. Ridemonkey.com News & Reviews

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    Fraser Britton has spent countless hours on his DH bike, risking life and limb to test the Leatt Sport. This popular piece of protection proved to interesting to ignore, so we had to hear his thoughts. Read on for the full review.
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    Review by Fraser Britton

    Neck and spinal injuries have always been a part of 2 wheeled sports. With new technology over the last few years, riders have been riding faster, and jumping higher and further than ever. Along with the increased speeds and heights have come increased chances of crippling injuries, especially in the neck region as racers get out of control and go over the bars.

    Cue a small South African company and Dr. Chris Leatt, a neurosurgeon. Following the death of a rider, witnessed while out riding with his son in 2001, Leatt starts to design and test the first Leatt neck brace. In 2004, the first brace sells in South Africa. Following a couple more years of testing and certification, the revolutionary brace hits the world market in 2006 and the following year it is featured on the cover of Racer X magazine while being awarded product of the year. Motocross action gives it a 5/5 and demand for the product skyrockets worldwide. Over the next 2 years, award after award is won and demand doesn’t wane as more and more racers and weekend riders see the benefit of wearing this new piece of safety equipment.


    So what exactly does a Leatt brace accomplish? Simply put, this piece of thermoplastic and carbon fiber can, in a crash, prevent the cervical vertebrae from compressing and fracturing following a crash to the head or neck. In essence, this can turn what would have been a possibly tragic fall into a painful, but not life threatening, accident.

    According to Leatt themselves, the brace protects against the following specific injuries:

    The Leatt-Brace® helps protect against the following extreme movements that could result in serious injury:

    • Hyperflexion – over-bending of the head in a forward direction

    • Hyperextension – over-bending of the head in a rearward direction

    • Lateral Hyperflexion – over-bending of the head to one side

    • Posterior Hypertranslation – extreme movement of head and helmet, rearward on the neck

    Vertical Forces – induced axial loading forces transmitted vertically down the neck causing spinal column compression or tension.



    While there are detractors of the product claiming it actually can cause clavicle (collarbone) injuries, the product is specifically designed to stay away from that area as much as possible. When setup correctly, it sits high above your collarbones and would take a significant impact to flex it far enough to have any sort of contact, let alone one hard enough to break bone. That being said, I’d take another broken collarbone over a possibly paralyzing neck injury any day of the week.

    Enough about the history of the Leatt and on to the review. Following serious neck injuries among some friends that I ride with, thankfully none leading to paralysis, I decided it was time to pick up one up.

    Due to a business relationship with TLD, I was able to pick up their top of the line Troy Lee Designs Signature edition Leatt Sport. MSRP is $620, so while it isn’t cheap, there are cheaper options. The TLD Sport is essentially a regular Leatt Sport with a nice candy apple red finish and some TLD logos, the review is relevant to all Leatt Sport level braces.

    Sizing is incredibly important. Most riders will use a medium sized brace, however, if you have a small torso, you may want to consider trying on a small first, with the longest set of hinge links. My brace is a size medium with the middle set of links installed, and seems to fit very well. The Sport Brace sits at the top of the range of Leatts and features a full set of adjustments and high end materials. It is comparable to the 2011 Leatt GPX Pro.


    The GPX Pro and TLD Sport both feature high end carbon fiber construction with titanium hardware. Weight is around 750g and once setup correctly for your helmet, you won’t even know it is there. It features an adjustable, carbon fiber and Kevlar wound thoracic strut that will break away in a crash, multiple hinge pins that allow you to set torso size, as well as adjustable front and back table settings (the part that your helmet will contact in a crash). The lower you can get these while still being adjusted correctly, the less you will notice you are wearing it.

    The lower models feature lower end materials (no titanium and carbon fiber) and the lowest end model lacks some of the crucial adjustments some may need to get a perfect fit. If you are in the market for a GPX Adventure (the lowest end model), make sure you go to a shop and try one on with your helmet, on a bike, before you purchase it. You may not be able to get it to fit correctly if you don’t. Continue reading for more information on why.

    Initial setup took about 20 minutes of trial and error, trying different thoracic member placement, different hinge pieces and different table settings for a Troy Lee D3 helmet. Once on the trail, I made a couple more small adjustments with a hex key to the table settings and the brace simply went away. I forgot I was wearing it entirely until I took off my helmet. This is exactly what you want in a piece of safety gear. I could look far down the trail, even on steeper sections of trail and it never bothered me again. This is the crucial setting in my mind, rear helmet clearance. To get this required the right combination of settings for my body type. The Adventure level brace may limit this due to having a 1 piece table designs that is fixed in a mid position. Once the brace sits where it needs to be, you won’t notice it. Be aware that some helmets will work better than others with any neck brace, so be sure to try them first.

    First ride out I managed to crash right on my head, yeah for product testing! While it wasn’t a huge crash, the Leatt did take a small impact load right on my chest. The brace itself survived without a scratch, as did my collarbones.


    It is my opinion that every rider racing downhill should be wearing a Leatt. It’s cheap insurance. I like walking and riding my bike. In the few crashes I have taken where it came into play, I never once felt that my collarbones were in jeopardy, but again, if I had taken a crash big enough to smash the brace into them, I would be happy that it was them taken the brunt of the impact, and not my cervical spine.

    Since riding the TLD Leatt Sport, Leatt has released an entire new line of braces, shipping January 2011, that feature better collarbone cutouts, better venting and lighter weight. There is even a light weight, bicycle specific model called the DBX (550g!) that will be worth checking out. These refined models will address many of the concerns brought up by riders.

    While there is competition, Leatt remains the only brand of neck brace that has published 3rd party, independent testing results and explains all of their design choices to the consumer. They are very upfront about why they believe their product is the best, and are not afraid to let the rider themselves dig into all of their test results. This speaks volumes.

    I would recommend the Leatt Club or Sport to any rider looking for some cheap insurance. While the Adventure is much less expensive, it lacks the adjustability that a downhill rider will probably want, do to body position on the bike.

    For more information see Leatt Brace.

    TLD Leatt Sport. MSRP $620 USD

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    #1 Jan 14, 2011   
  2. sethimus Active Member

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    expensive neckbrace is even more expensive
    #2 Jan 14, 2011   
  3. bdamschen Active Member

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    My buddy used his to his fullest (snapped the backplate that stops hyperextension) last weekend and walked away. If you don't get a leatt, get SOMETHING.
    #3 Jan 14, 2011   
  4. Transcend My Nuts Are Flat

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    You can get the middle of the line one for $385. It has all of the adjustments that the high end one has, but no carbon fiber.

    I have one sitting here new, in box as a gift for sopmeone. The Leatt Club II, black and white. Has a few minor changes, and looks super rad.
    #4 Jan 14, 2011   
  5. buildyourown New Member

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    Can you wear it with a moto helmet yet? (On a DH bike)
    That has been the show stopper for me. I'm not giving up my SE.
    #5 Jan 14, 2011   
  6. Morgan New Member

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    you sure can, i have 2 friends that use se/leatt
    #6 Jan 14, 2011   
  7. bdamschen Active Member

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    Yep, I wear mine with a tld air
    #7 Jan 14, 2011   
  8. Transcend My Nuts Are Flat

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    The newer models have even more clearance then the one in the review thanks to a bit more adjustment and a less curved rear table. You should be good to go with a moto helmet. Of course, your mileage will vary with each different helmet model.
    #8 Jan 14, 2011   
  9. p-spec New Member

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    I will be purchasing one shortly since I have a history of upper back and neck pain do to snowboarding.
    #9 Jan 15, 2011   
  10. brungeman I give a shirt

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    nice write up Fraser.

    I would love to pick one up, this is going to be a very costly year as just about my whole riding kit needs a good reworking. Not sure if the Leatt will make the cut, after all it would suck to not have a bike fit for riding yet have all the good safety gear.
    #10 Jan 16, 2011   
  11. Total Heckler Beer and Bike Enthusiast

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    Nice write up. I managed to fall on my head my first ride out with mine too. It has saved me I don't even know how many times now.

    My last big crash (broke my wrist) I walked away from lawn darting 4ft-6ft onto rocks with my head/shoulder/wrist. I don't ride without it.
    #11 Jan 17, 2011   
  12. bryantaber New Member

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    If you cannot afford buying a brand new one (like me) you can easily go used. PB and RM do have some used and slightly used GPX's and Adventures occasionally but they are still priced high. They still arent that popular in the bike world. However the MX world has been using them longer . If you check out Craigslist you will find a good assortmnet of GPX's at a much reasonable price. I found a virtually new GPX club II complete with a box and all the clips for 200.00. Usually sells for 400.00 new. I found that MX guys are constantly upgrading their stuff and are willing to negotiate on price easily. You may have to look outside your own state. Good Luck.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2011
    #12 Jan 24, 2011   

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