MXA TEAM TESTED: ATLAS NECK BRACE
WHAT IS IT? Atlas is the latest company to design, develop and sell a neck brace in what is a hotly contested and relatively new market.
WHAT’S IT COST? $299.00.
CONTACT? www.atlasbrace.com or (661) 505-4407.
WHAT STANDS OUT? Here’s a list of things that stand out with the Atlas neck brace.
(1) Concept. The Atlas neck brace is the brainchild of former professional racer Brady Sheren. Brady believes in neck-brace protection, but he thought that he could create a better design than what was being sold. Enter Atlas. Brady’s neck brace doesn’t differ from other rigid-body-construction braces in terms of limiting neck mobility and mitigating serious neck injuries by dispersing energy upon impact. It is, however, much closer in design philosophy to the Omega than to the Leatt. At first glance, it’s easy to note the unusual frame shape. The back section is comprised of two “feet” that are separated. These support structures rest on either side of the spine. Why? Brady doesn’t think it’s wise to have any material resting on the spinal column. This design allows each side of the brace to act independently from the other, providing a more comfortable and secure fit. A tether prevents the brace from separating in a crash. Brady also focused on reducing potential load energy to the sternum, which is why the brace’s front section has two wide feet that rest on either side of the sternum.
(2) Construction. The Atlas frame is polycarbonate and shatter-resistant. Brady uses soft-density TPR (Thermoplastic Rubber) on the front and rear contact points and dense foam along the shoulders. These materials are waterproof and easy to clean with soapy water. Atlas includes additional shoulder risers that can be installed for a customized fit. (Test riders with longer necks used the risers.) The brace is rather heavy (2 pounds) compared to the ultra-sleek carbon fiber Leatt GPX Pro (1.4 pounds), but expect to see a carbon fiber frame in the Atlas line before too long. During pre-pro testing they discovered that they had a chemical reaction weakening the pieces?so they changed suppliers and formulas before any braces were sold?although Jake Weimer was forced to quit wearing his Atlas brace for one race before they got it all straightened out.
(3) Fitting. Unlike the Alpinestars and Leatt braces (which use a latch to open the brace) or the Omega (which slides on, thanks to a wide opening at the front of the brace), the Atlas brace slides down over your head. The Atlas doesn’t feel altogether different from the Leatt brace while riding, except that the back section of the Atlas sweeps lower, and the thoracic supports sit away from the spine. This design is offroad- and Supercross-friendly (since riders must tilt their heads back to look far down the trail or through whoops). Pro-level testers not only loved the lower back section, but also thought that the frame sat lower and was less obtrusive. It should be noted that the Atlas brace is sold in small, medium and large sizes. Each brace can be customized for every size and shape of rider. (A medium frame can be combined with a small front section.) The brace comes with a strap system and a carrying bag. We particularly like that the Atlas brace can be removed after a crash by simply pulling a quick release clip on the front and sliding the bolt out horizontally. We were able to remove the brace from a test rider in 20 seconds.
(4) Protection. We believe neck braces can limit catastrophic neck injuries. The Atlas brace provides a support structure for your neck and is aimed at dispersing energy in the event of a crash. We like the split rear design, as the brace doesn’t rest on the spinal column. The Atlas brace addresses several complaints that we have had with neck braces. The emergency removal system is also an excellent concept. It is important to note that a neck brace is a catastrophic injury device. Its sole purpose is to prevent the risk of a broken neck. It doesn’t do anything else.
WHAT’S THE SQUAWK? We have two quibbles: (1) At 2 pounds, the Atlas brace is heavy. (2) Due to the two wings on the rear, it will be difficult to fit the Atlas under some chest protectors.
The Atlas addresses many of the complaints that non-brace wearers have when they try out a neck brace. These features were enough to convert several nonbelievers.