A Mountain Bike or BMX neck brace is one of the most important pieces of protection equipment you can wear. After your full-face helmet, we recommend adding a neck brace to your outfit if you are downhill mountain biking, BMX biking or even freeriding. According to a study on Mountain Biking and serious injury published in 2013, neck and cervical injuries aren't the most common injuries a person can endure via riding, but they are often the most severe. When wearing a Leatt neck brace, you must wear a full-face helmet as well, as neck braces are specifically designed to work together with a helmet.
With the level of risk that is associated with mountain and BMX biking, the old adage may apply; "better safe than sorry."
The leader in bicycle neck brace technology is Leatt. They have been developing and executing innovations in the neck brace for motocross, mountain biking, and BMX since 2001 when Dr. Chris Leatt witnessed the death of a fellow rider and began putting in work on neck brace prototypes. Since mass production came to market in 2006, Leatt has made many technological advancements to their line of mountain bike neck braces, helping to deliver the braces you may be looking to buy today.
Two things are certain. First, Leatt is the brand most riders trust, including the crew here at SportsProtective. Second, you need to choose a brace that fits your needs, price point and wear it regularly to maximize your level of protection.
Over the years, Leatt has developed different models of mountain bike neck braces that can vary in size (fit), material and ease of adjustability. It should be noted, however, that no matter the bike neck brace you decide to purchase, all Leatt neck braces have the same level of core technology and all fundamentally do the same thing.
Every Leatt mountain bike or BMX neck brace features Leatt's patented Alternative Load Path Technology. This innovation is what helps to keep your neck and spine from absorbing impact during an accident. Instead, the neck brace intercepts the impact from the helmet and disperses the force away from your neck and to major muscular areas of your chest and back, helping to protect you from a more serious neck injury.
Working in conjunction with your full-face helmet, a bicycle neck brace guards against extreme backward-bending of the head (hyper-extension), extreme forward bending of the head (hyperflexion), and over-bending of the head to either side (lateral hyperflexion). This fundamental and breakthrough design is what can help to keep a neck brace wearer safe, and it is also what sets Leatt apart.
The Leatt Neck Braces that are designed for bicycle use come in three different models, the 4.5, 5.5 and 6.5. The Leatt DBX 5.5 also has a junior model, which is scaled down in size to be used for the youth rider including teens and preteens. Each model is priced accordingly. The Leatt DBX 4.5 model is priced just below $300 and has some noticeable differences from the higher priced DBX 5.5 and DBX 6.5 (around $500) models. The two higher priced Leatt neck braces - 5.5 and 6.5 models - only vary in deck construction material.
The model of Leatt DBX Neck Brace that sells best is the mid-priced 5.5 model. The CE certified 5.5 neck brace balances the need for protection with the desire for comfort and efficiency. Major benefits of the DBX 5.5 vs the lower priced 4.5 model include additional emphasis on comfort and ease of adjustability, helping to ensure the best fit as fast as possible. The Leatt 5.5 offers a toolless adjustability system featuring a front and back Surefit sliding adjusters. Surefit adjusters quickly snap and slide, both front and back, to ensure a correct fit.
In previous models and the lower priced 4.5 model, adjustability requires the use of an included Allen wrench. This is more time-consuming and doesn’t allow any “on the fly” adjustments mid-ride. Not to mention if you are out on a ride or the mountain and didn't bring the tool, you are out of luck if adjustment is needed. We love how quick and easily you can adjust the 5.5 on the fly without much effort. It makes for seamless and fast fit adjustments. Along with how quickly you can adjust the 5.5, having the Surefit slides can also offer a more precise fit than the Leatt 4.5 neck brace. With the dual sliding adjusters in the front and back, it allows for more fit options to help match any body type.
The 5.5 also has a quick release button for opening and closing of the neck brace, while the 4.5 relies on a dual hinge locking mechanism. Ease of use favors the 5.5, but both opening and closing options accomplish the job.
The more expensive mountain bike and BMX Leatt neck brace is the 6.5 model. The most striking difference is what the 6.5 is made of in comparison to the 4.5 and 5.5 models. Both the 4.5 and 5.5 models’ chassis are made of fiberglass reinforced polyamide. With the Leatt DBX 6.5 neck brace, however, you get a MaxiWeave Carbon matrix deck for increased rigidity and lower weight.
In comparison, the 6.5 model weights 600g (1.3lbs) compared to the 5.5 (790g, 1.7lbs) and the 4.5 (700g, 1.5lbs). In other words, the 6.5 is the lightest model but also features the most rigidity of the three. Rigidity, in this case, is a good thing as it helps to keep the structure intact during impact, reducing the likelihood of injury. With this in mind, the 6.5 is the best option for more advanced and skilled riders who may be doing more challenging and difficult riding – and put a premium on reducing weight off their setup.
Outside of the material, the 6.5 and 5.5 are identical. They offer the same features, comfort, and adjustability.
The entry-level Leatt bicycle neck brace is the 4.5 model. Leatt calls it the "entry level commitment to safety, " and that is exactly what the brace is. You will get a neck brace for MTB and BMX that will offer Alternative Load Path Technology, but it will lack some of the features that you’ll get in higher priced models, most having to do with ease of adjustability.
While you can adjust the higher end Leatt DBX 5.5 and 6.5 models without needing tools, you will need an Allen wrench to adjust the 4.5 model. It can be a tad cumbersome and time-consuming, especially if you like to frequently adjust your neck brace because of different clothes, body armor, etc. The 4.5 brace comes with four different spacing pins that need to be put in or taken out depending on fit. While this may seem like an easy adjustment, Leatt neck braces MUST fit precisely to allow the technology to work as it is intended. If there is any miss in fit, where the brace sits, is too loose or is too tight, the brace will not offer the protection it should. That is why it’s important to ALWAYS precisely adjust fit to match changing conditions, which with the 4.5 takes more time and a tool.
Another significant difference of the 4.5 is the deck height. Compared to both the 5.5 and 6.5, the 4.5 sits about an inch higher. This may be an advantage or disadvantage depending on each rider's body type. If you are taller and thinner, the Leatt DBX 4.5 might be good for you because it works well with longer necks. If you’re shorter or “more average” height, the 5.5 or 6.5 will likely fit you better.
Each Leatt Neck Brace has advantages and disadvantages, each of which you need to consider in your decision. The Leatt DBX 6.5 is the most lightweight and rigid, but might be out of your budget. The 4.5 might be a good value, but it lacks some of the ease of use and functionality features. The DBX 5.5 has all the functionality and a great price but might feel heavy to more advanced riders trying to shave ounces. Ultimately each rider needs to decide what fits their needs and what works best for their riding level - and wallet. No matter the Leatt neck brace model you select, you can take comfort in knowing your level of safety and protection is vastly improved by adding a Leatt neck brace to your downhill mountain biking or BMX outfit.
Note: This guide is suitable for downhill mountain bike, freeride, and BMX racing ONLY (must wear a full face helmet). If you are riding in a motorized sport (M, carting, etc.), check out Leatt’s GPX Neck Brace offerings. The GPX line is specifically designed for the different forces involved in motorized activities.