Leatt DBX 4.5 Neck Brace
- Adjustable to fit a wide range of chest and shoulder sizes
- Secured via a strap and lever system
- Snap-off thoracic plate
- 89/686/EEC safety certification
Size Tested: S/M
Blister’s Measured Weight: 744 grams
Reviewer: 5’9”, 140 lbs., 84cm chest circumference
Intended uses: Budget DH racing, DH/park riding
Test Duration: 6 days
Test Locations: Pacifica & Northstar Bike Park, CA
As more bike parks continue to pop up, more riders are trying out lift-accessed riding for the first time, and seeking out safety gear suited to this type of riding.
Yet it’s sometimes surprising how few neck braces one sees in the park. Often the extra weight, warmth, and hindrance of movement that comes with a neck brace keeps many gravity riders from wearing one—plus they aren’t cheap.
So I was curious to see whether Leatt’s lowest-priced brace, the DBX 4.5, could be a good option for riders looking for a less expensive, entry-level neck brace that doesn’t sacrifice safety.
Leatt’s DBX Options
Leatt currently offers three different models within their DBX neck brace series. Their midrange model is the DBX 5.5, which retails for $369. $499 gets you the DBX 6.5, the lightweight carbon version of the 5.5, while at $299, the DBX 4.5 is Leatt’s least expensive neck brace.
Despite being billed as Leatt’s entry-level brace, the DBX 4.5 is still not a cheap piece of protective equipment (entry-level braces from Atlas and Alpinestars are available in the $220-$260 range).
But the Leatt DBX 4.5 has the same safety technology of Leatt’s more expensive braces that have been developed through extensive medical research. In fact Leatt is named after Dr. Chris Leatt, a neurosurgeon who designed his first neck brace after witnessing the death of a fellow moto rider. Since then Leatt has built a reputation for safety with impressive transparency and extensive testing, and has won several awards for safety achievements.
Like all neck braces, the DBX 4.5 rests on top of the rider’s shoulders, while the front and thoracic plates contact the rider’s sternum and upper back, keeping the brace in place. The collar encases the rider’s neck, reducing the force of twisting neck injuries caused by impacts to the head.
But Leatt claims to have designed their entire DBX line with a collar that allows for maximum range of head movement without sacrificing protection.
The brace’s adjustability enables it to work with riders of many shapes and sizes. It comes with three different lengths of spacers, which serve to change the distance between the front and rear of the collar.
Additionally, the brace comes with four different wedges, which are used to set the thoracic plate (the plate that touches your upper back) at four different angles, ranging from zero to fifteen degrees.
Using both of these adjustments, the brace should be able to adjust to fit riders of many ribcage and shoulder dimensions. Adjustments are made with a 3mm Allen wrench and by popping the wedges on and off the top of the thoracic plate.
The DBX 4.5’s attachment design is quite simple. The brace is made up of a front and rear piece that snap together with a lever on each side, while optional straps that run under the rider’s armpits clip together via buckles.
Fit and Setup
The DBX 4.5 comes in two sizes (S/M and L/XL), which are differentiated by chest circumference. And again, the DBX 4.5’s fit is highly adjustable within each size through the use of swappable parts.
My 84cm chest is squarely in the middle of the range for a S/M, but it still took a few minutes of fiddling with the included parts to get the brace to fit well. I ended up using the 20mm spacers and the zero–degree wedge to achieve a perfect fit.
Leatt’s straightforward but detailed user manual was actually quite helpful in achieving this fit—it shows exactly how the brace should interface with your shoulders, chest, and upper back. User manuals should always be genuinely useful, but especially when the product is supposed to keep you from becoming paralyzed.
After setting the DBX 4.5 up properly, securing it and removing it is easy. It’s just a matter of snapping together two levers on the shoulders and two buckles that run above and below each shoulder. I mostly left it on during lift rides, but I could have easily removed it for the ride up.
In the event of a bad crash, this system also makes it extremely easy for emergency personnel to quickly get you out of the neck brace and on to a backboard. The brace’s release levers are also bright red, which is a good touch in an emergency scenario.
The biggest downside of this system is that it only splits the brace into two pretty large and bulky segments, so when you take it off, it’s not very packable. So if you plan on doing any extended pedaling or hiking without the brace on, the DBX 4.5 probably isn’t your best option, since it’s quite awkward to store in most riding packs. Alpinestars’ neck brace attachment system is much better for this, since it breaks the brace down into more pieces.
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