Atlas Crank Carbon Neck Brace

Vital Rating: (Excellent)
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Atlas Crank Carbon Brace.
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Tested: Atlas Crank Carbon Neck Brace

Rating: Vital Review

No one wants to spend the rest of their life in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, we are in a sport that puts us in a higher risk bracket for spinal cord and neck injuries. Neck brace research will show you that in lab testing, the benefits of a neck brace are huge - whether you think that lab testing can directly apply to a real crash is for you to form your own opinion on. This doesn't mean we have to quit what we are doing, but thanks to a handful of innovative companies, we can help give ourselves that extra bit of insurance if something goes really wrong during a ride. The neck brace is becoming increasingly standard equipment over the past few years, and Atlas has just released their newest version - the Crank Carbon. Coming off a diet, this is Atlas' flagship, no holds barred, high end

No one wants to spend the rest of their life in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, we are in a sport that puts us in a higher risk bracket for spinal cord and neck injuries. Neck brace research will show you that in lab testing, the benefits of a neck brace are huge - whether you think that lab testing can directly apply to a real crash is for you to form your own opinion on. This doesn't mean we have to quit what we are doing, but thanks to a handful of innovative companies, we can help give ourselves that extra bit of insurance if something goes really wrong during a ride. The neck brace is becoming increasingly standard equipment over the past few years, and Atlas has just released their newest version - the Crank Carbon. Coming off a diet, this is Atlas' flagship, no holds barred, high end brace specifically aimed at MTB.

Atlas Crank Carbon Brace Highlights

  • Sizes: S (33"- 36", 84cm - 92 cm), M (37"- 41", 94cm - 104 cm), L (42"+, 106+ cm)
  • Weight: 1.4 lbs (635g)
  • Carbon Construction
  • Emergency Release System
  • Flexible “Leaf Spring” Style Suspension
  • Reversible Rear Mounts for Multiple Offsets to Adjust for Chest Size
  • Includes Optional Tall Shoulder Pads, Chest Strap, X-Straps, User Manual, and Hard Shell Carry Case
  • Warranty: Limited Lifetime Against Breakage for the Original Purchaser
  • MSRP: $529.99

Initial Impressions

Coming from years of riding with a Leatt Brace on the moto, I was excited to give the Atlas a try on the bike. I had ridden numerous times with the Leatt on my bicycle (To note: not using the DBX bike model, but with the standard moto version, with the rear of the brace lowered as much as possible). After dealing with limited head mobility and consistent helmet contact I decided to ride braceless because it just was too much of a constraint on my riding style.

As a high end brace, the Atlas certainly looks the part. Beautiful carbon fiber, anodized lightweight hardware and subtle graphics give this brace the factory rider touch. The brace comes in a nice pre-molded zipper carrying case. Kind of gimmicky at first, I found myself using the case more than I thought and I like it. A small pocket inside can hold your straps/mouthguard/etc during transport and helps keep everything together and protected. When you are done with the brace, the two rear support struts fold up under the brace chassis to allow for a lower profile for storage. This is very nice when packing bags for trips where space is limited.

Beyond aesthetics and features, the Atlas brace appears much slimmer and less bulky when compared to my Leatt - a visual queue that head mobility might be better with this product. I opted for the medium brace after measuring in the upper size range. I figured I didn't want to risk going too big and getting a sloppy fit. After test fitting the brace, I had to flip the reversible rear support mount to get a slightly larger fit for my chest. This helped the brace fit better. Using this adjustment, you have only two chest sizing options so you should take care when deciding on your brace size before buying. Additional collarbone pads are supplied with the brace for further brace height customization, although I have not had to use them.

The brace is put on by simply lowering it over your head onto your shoulders and chest. Once on, you can choose two methods to secure the brace - using the full chest strap or the dual elastic band X straps, both systems are included. More on that later. The front chest pads are mounted on pivots, and this will let you dial in the perfect angle for contact with your chest.

In a post crash brace removal scenario, Atlas designed a quick release Emergency Removal System which utilizes a small lever to split the brace at the sternum for safe and easy removal by medical personnel.

On The Trail

For the first ride, I opted to run the full chest strap to secure the brace. After a few runs, it was very noticeable that this brace was not hindering my mobility as much as past braces have. It seems to sit lower on my shoulders giving me more freedom of movement than my Leatt. The brace also proved to be comfortable all day long with evenly distributed pressure across the chest. Contact with the bottom of the helmet is part of the brace game (as this is the main purpose of the design during neck hyper-flexion) but no excessive contact occurred until the terrain got steep and rough. I could then occasionally start to feel the back of the helmet press against the rear of the brace. This doesn't negatively affect the ride, but it is something you need to get used to when riding with a brace. The split design of this particular brace allows it to flex when in action which makes it comfortable and more adaptable to your body movements.

Another option for securing the Atlas brace is by means of dual elastic band X straps that are included with the brace. These are worn under the jersey and attach to the small hooks on top of the collarbone area. I wanted to prefer this method as it offers the cleanest looking fit of the brace, all while under your jersey - I just don't think it offers the security and snug, held down feeling that the full chest strap provides. With the elastic bands, the brace seemed to float off the shoulders more while jumping and blitzing the rough stuff. After each run I was continuously re-adjusting the elastic straps like a fidgety girl in a training bra. Not what I want to be doing in the lift line every run.

Fortunately, I haven't tested the brace in a crash so I can't speak to its ultimate design success. The brace feels like it has a good mix of emergency neck support and neck mobility that will allow you to normally twist, turn and position your head and neck without having to move around like Joey-no-neck at your local gym.

Things That Could Be Improved

Limited adjustment on sizing for each chassis can see the rider stuck with a brace that may not fit perfectly. With only two size adjustments for each brace size (S, M, L), you have limited options when it comes to this aspect. Measure carefully before purchasing.The high cost of this top tier brace might also catch some riders off-guard, and rightfully so. At an MSRP of $529.99, the Crank Carbon is quite an investment. However, for the more budget-minded riders, Atlas also offers the standard, non-carbon Crank brace for $200 less.

A 0.2 lb weight saving on this carbon model over the base model might make the weight savings vs. the money equation seem unbalanced, but when you start to stack up more and more gear on your body, everything adds up, especially around your neck. This is where every rider can make a decision - how serious they are about weight and performance. Again, this is a top of the line brace and it is ultimately left to the user to decide how much they are willing to spend.

Long Term Durability

The Crank Carbon has held up to the standard sweat, mud and general abuse a neck brace would see. We have found no issues to date that would affect the continued normal use of the brace.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you are a believer in the neck brace revolution, Atlas has come out swinging and upped the ante with their newest top-tier offering, the Crank Carbon. Offering a no-compromise material selection giving riders the option to spring for the lightest brace in the catalogue yet, the Crank Carbon is comfortable enough to be worn all day, and battle ready should you unfortunately need it.

For more information, head over to www.atlasbrace.com.


About The Reviewer

Nick Zuzelski began riding motocross at a young age, a sport that would eventually lead him to the world of downhill. As a Colorado native, racing downhill, dual slalom, or a chill dirt jump session were never far away, and he eventually worked his way up the ranks to the Pro level. Now residing in Eastern Pennsylvania, he recently changed it up from Rocky Mountain dust to East Coast loam, world class dirt jumps, and rocks... lots of rocks. If a trail has fast flow and some fun gaps, he is grinning ear to ear and getting after it. Living by the assumption that basically everything feels better with a short stem and wide bars, you can count on him keeping it real with a laid back attitude and flat pedals most of the time. Mechanical Engineer by trade, rider by heart, he enjoys riding it, finding out how it works, and making it better.

Specifications

Product Atlas Crank Carbon Neck Brace
Price $529.99
Miscellaneous Sizes: S (33"- 36", 84cm - 92 cm), M (37"- 41", 94cm - 104 cm), L (42"+, 106+ cm)
Weight: 1.4 lbs (635 g)
Carbon Construction
Emergency Release System
Flexible “Leaf Spring” Style Suspension
Reversible Rear Mounts for Multiple Offsets to Adjust for Chest Size
Includes Optional Tall Shoulder Pads, Chest Strap, X-Straps, User Manual, and Hard Shell Carry Case
Warranty: Limited Lifetime Against Breakage for the Original Purchaser
More Info

Atlas Brace Website

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