Neck braces are coming, but will we all be wearing one in five years?
I've only seen one other rider in the BSB paddock wearing a neck brace and believe me, I get a lot of funny looks when I've got it on.
Neck braces are commonplace in off-road and motocross but they're only just coming to short circuits and road racing, there's only me and James Egan wearing them in the BSB paddock. James, from South Africa, has worn his for a couple of seasons when he was racing in South Africa where neckbraces are more common but over here, he's a trailblazer.
I think there's a stigma attached to neck braces and in the testosterone-packed BSB paddock, I reckon it'll be a while before we see them on the grid in every class - some of the guys still don't wear back protectors.
Two years ago I asked Alpinestars if I could use their off-road Bionic Neck Support on the track but they said they'd rather I didn't as they hadn't tested it there. Not wanting to make any crash worse, I left it. Now Leatt have produced the STX Road specifically for track and road riding.
The way I see it, no matter where you are on the grid, you give it everything you've got and with a couple of laps to go, you usually give it a bit more.
I don't mind taking the risks but in motorsport there's enough going on that's out of your control for me to not leave any stone unturned when it comes to safety. I love motorbikes but I like walking too, it's that simple.
I thought the Leatt STX Road would be clunky and get in the way, that was my only concern. It's easy to setup, you just need a mate to help you line it up using the supplied measurement card. Once on, you secure it in place using straps that run under your arms.
I've worn it for 5 races over 3 rounds (crashed in two, unfortunately) and only find it gets in the way when I'm trying to look behind. Not that I do that during the race, but in Free Practice and Quali you want to see who's on your tail or who's coming up so you can find a bit of space. In these instances, I need to take my left hand off the bar and twist my back to look behind, rather than just using my neck.
On the go, you never notice it. It's similar to when I put some summer gloves on I notice the little bits of plastic armour or stitching and think 'that's going to get on my nerves' but once you're out there, you never think about it. Maybe some would notice the STX Road but I've got more important things on my mind.
It's always going to be hard to judge whether it's any good at what it says it can do. I've had 100mph crashes where I've only got a tiny scuff on my leathers and felt like I could have got away with it in jeans. Crashing is weird and hard to analyse what might have been.
I've crashed twice while wearing the STX Road, both low speed, sub-70mph lowsides. They weren't hard impacts, the sort of crashes where I feel a neck brace would come into its own so like I said, hard to say.. What's important to me is that the brace never got in the way.
When I wrote about the Alpinestars off-road neck brace, I said I genuinely felt these would come to road riding but they might be the motorcycling equivalent of armbands in the pool or stabilisers on your first push-bike: not cool.
It'll take a brave person to pull up to their local bike meet on a Panigale wearing a neck-brace because people are bound to assume you can't ride or you're scared of your bike - just like people point at your tyres and assume you can't ride because you've got a 1cm chickenstrip on the edges.
On the road, like the track, you don't feel it but unlike on the track, you're doing more lifesavers and generally looking around more while road-riding. You do feel it when you do a lifesaver - on an upright bike it's not at all restrictive but on a sportsbike while still not restrictive, you do notce it.
I wanted to be the first to wear one in the 848 Challenge and one of the first to wear one in the British Superbike Championship. I'd like to see some of the top BSB riders wearing them- Tommy Hill grabbed me at Oulton and asked me about it, saying he wanted to try one but - like me - thought it would be restrictive. If top riders wear them, we'll see them trickle down to trackdays and road riders, afterall, someone had to be the first person to pull up to a bike meet wearing leathers with a hump on the back and now no-one bats an eyelid.
Will we all be wearing one in five years? I doubt it. Although the Leatt STX Road isn't a guarantee, the way I see it, at £349.99, it's cheaper than a wheelchair.
Posted: 16/08/2012 at 09:51
Posted: 16/08/2012 at 14:22
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Posted: 18/08/2012 at 15:16
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