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Vital MX – Atlas Carbon Brace Review

By | October 14, 2013 at 12:21 am | No comments | Featured, Products | Tags: , , , ,

Tested: Atlas Carbon Brace

Modern neck braces have now been around MX for the better part of a decade, and they’re evolving. No, they’re not growing brains (yet), but they are becoming more refined, safer, and lighter. The Atlas Carbon brace is the latest to hit the market.

After using the original Atlas for a few months, I was able to upgrade to the Atlas Carbon, and who wouldn’t? If you’re a rider, then you love carbon fiber. It doesn’t matter if it’s on your bike or part of your gear, carbon is cool. The newest brace in the Atlas lineup does not simply use the same design as the original brace. The design takes advantage of the super strong and light-weight material by having a thinner, lighter, and more refined functionality than its predecessor.

Putting on the Atlas Carbon is accomplished simply by sliding your head through the opening. While there is a detachment system, the brace is intended to remain in one piece except for emergencies (more on the Emergency Release System below). I have been using the Medium size and typically wear a Large size helmet and have no issues in fitting the brace over my head.

Once on, there is the option of either a T-style strap or the elastic X-style strap. I have been using the X-style, and this is one area where the Atlas Carbon received another upgrade over the original.

Where on the original Atlas Brace, the X strap attaches to small plastic tabs that are fixed to the outside of either side of the brace, the Atlas Carbon has plastic molded hooks that rotate up and down and are also removable/replaceable. At first I found it difficult to find the opening of the hooks once the brace was on, but I soon realized that the elastic X strap needs to be dropped in vertically. Once I you have that figured out, it becomes second nature and the strap will never come off unless you want it to.

This new hook system allows the X-strap to be attached without any worry of strap popping off.

Padding and adjustment remain basically the same as the original Atlas, with an energy absorbing foam and the removable shim above the shoulder on both sides to create a lower profile. However the rear back support adjustment is slightly different.

In order to change the back support angle, all you need to do is reverse the small aluminum mounts rather than swap them out as on the original. The back supports themselves also received a slight change with the “flex-tip” that shortens the polycarbonate portion while the energy absorbing foam extends another inch or so further down.

The ERS system was one of the upgrades I was most excited about when I first saw the Atlas Carbon. While the original uses a cotter pin and wing nut for separating the two halves of the brace, the Atlas Carbon ERS is much more fool proof.

The new system uses a simple red-anodized aluminum hook that holds the two halves of the brace firmly together. In an emergency, merely pull on the hook to separate the brace; no moving parts. With so many different braces on the market today, the most straight forward and EMT friendly design could make a huge difference when it most matters. The new ERS on the Atlas Carbon is about as simple as it gets.

The very simple, yet effective, Emergency Release System is a big improvement on the Atlas Carbon and is practically fool proof. Photo - Atlas Brace

On the track, the brace has a very low profile and is almost unnoticeable. The only times I have noticed the brace in the few months I have wearing it have been either when I forgot to use the X-strap and the brace was bouncing around freely, or when sitting down through some big bumps (which I probably should not have been doing anyways). Since there is no padding on the top of any of the Atlas frames, you can definitely hear when it makes contact with the bottom of your helmet.

All in all, I am very impressed with the new Atlas Carbon. Considering that the company itself has been in existence for barely more than a year, the progress they have made with the product is admirable. Just like with the original design, the dual pivoting back supports set Atlas apart from the other braces on the market and while no neck brace design has been proven to be superior over the others, many (myself included) seem to find comfort in the idea that the back supports straddle the vertebrae rather than resting on them.

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-Bayo Olukotun

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