Review: 2012 Leatt DBX Comp III
January 31st, 2012
By Olly Forster
Leatt is a brand synonymous with the product that made them famous and one that in only a short space of time has changed the way we perceive body armour and protection. The neck brace is no longer a product that needs scrutinising as an expensive placebo or something cooked up to make paranoid parents splash their cash. This thing can really change the outcome of something you can’t control. We reviewed the DBX Comp II last year, Leatt’s first bicycle specific brace and when the opportunity arose to get our hands on the new Comp III, we were more than keen to see what Leatt had done to improve on an already solid product.
Leatt DBX Comp III – Defining the Bicycle Specific Neck Brace.
Words: Olly Forster
Photos: Jim Nemby
We’ve all seen Leatt’s all singing, all dancing Pro model, with its fly weight carbon construction and F1 styling, but the Pro is about far more than good looks and fancy materials and makes use of a few rather nifty technical advances that truly separate it from previous offerings. Thankfully, Leatt have trickled these down into the more affordable and new for 2012, Comp III, including a revised strap system, improved padding kit and all new hinge design.
From the off, the Comp III is visually cleaner and the black colour-way only enhances it’s aesthetic quality, not to mention its practicality in a British winter. If white is your thing or you live in Southern California, fear not as it’s still available in white option. The strap position is also different on this brace when compared to previous models, and indeed the DBX’s MX brother, the GPX, furthering the braces bicycle specific pedigree.
Rather than write a typical product review, were going to focus on the Comp III’s improvement over previous models and our initial thoughts on these. The brace will be used throughout the year where we’ll have ongoing updates with how things are faring throughout the year.
Fit & Features.
The first thing you’ll notice is the braces low profile, especially if your used to an MX specific brace. This design is especially advantageous to helmets with a more spherical design like the Fox or Urge. The Troy Lee D3 used on this shoot, is as far as I’m aware, the only brace specific helmet available and in all honesty, was designed around the original GPX design. The Comp III does however offer adjustable tables, front and rear to accommodate both your helmet, body shape and riding style to maximise movement without sacrificing safety.
The Comp III’s hinge design is also taken from Pro model and reproduced in plastic to alleviate pressure on your wallet. I have noticed that the new hinge has a completely different feel to previous models, with more flex through the lever and a more refined action when released from the pin. The hinges still suffer in the cold, becoming stiff and requiring more force than normal to release. I’m no expert in the materiality of plastics in cold weather, but winter offers far more challenges than stiff neck brace hinges so I wouldn’t be too concerned.
The Comp’s real gem is it’s adjustability, not just in the fit to the individual, but also to the individuals riding style and helmet. These two bolts adjust the front table, which consists of two plastic members, the lower of which is static and the top member that moves backwards or forward to increrase or decrease for or aft movement depending on your personal preference and set up.
These bolts control movement of the rear memebers and work in a similar fashion to the front ones. With the D3 helmet, I’ve raised the upper rear member to compensate for the helmets cut away ‘neck brace’ section, originally designed to work with the original MX brace and the slightly thicker rear padding. The D3 was released before Leatt introduced its’ bicycle specific design, and still offers the best helmet to brace compatibility although I know one manufacturer whose hot on their heels…
All Leatt braces are adjustable to fit the rider with a variety of differing components supplied to tailor the braces fit as perfectly as possible. I’ve got a 41″ chest with a medium build, and wearing the brace with no body armour, running the 10mm pins with the two thorasic spacers on the outside to get a fit that’s both snug and unobtrusive.
The brace is intended to inhibit movement, so don’t be alarmed when you pee on yourself with your helmet on – take it off! But when your on your bike, you should have both the front and rear tables in a position that allows full movement on a variety of trails and posotions on the bike while negotiating them.
To my left…
And to the right… Nice T-Shirt!
New Pad Design.
There’s far more to the pads on the Comp III than just the injected rubber logos and snazzy design. Borrowing another feature from the Pro, the Comp III features a combination of both Velcro and Rubber clips reducing the chances of clogged and peeling Velcro.
Velcro is still used in certain areas, including here…
but not here. This is the new Rubber clip design. Neat and suprisingly sturdy.
With previous Leatt’s, fighting with multiple Velcro points and getting the Pads to sit squarely on the brace could be troublesome, but with the new design, matching the clips to where they need to go, means the rest of the pad slips on and into the optimum position.
The strap on the new Comp III is not only different to previous DBX models, it’s also completely different to Leatt’s latest MX specific models making it even more specific for the ‘push bike’ set. Although not an essential part of the brace and indeed something the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed absent from Mr Hill’s set up, the strap does offer a more fitted feel and certainly helps keep it from bouncing around over rough terrain. If your brace is really moving around, it’s also a good sign it might not be set up correctly – take your time with this, once it’s done, it’s done.
The new strap design has one option from the front and two from the rear – both keep the strap high around the rib cage and securely under the arm pits. I managed to achieve this last year on the Comp II with a slight bodge as it’s way more comfortable and definitely a great improvement over previous designs.
The rear pad contains two sets of loops on the thoracic member (the bit that follows your spine and is designed to brake in a severe impact) so you can choose which suits you more. I opted for the lowest setting which keeps a nice route from front to rear, but having options furthers the braces adjust-ability to the individual.
The new strap just slips over the loops via these unique hooked ends, alternating in direction from front to rear to reduce unwanted slippage. The straps and the material they are made from also add to the overall high quality feel and general refinement to the brace as a whole.
Black with a little white or white with a little black are your colour options for 2012. The predominantly black number was a no brainer after the battle I had keeping the white one from last year turning brown in the rain or dust, but practicality aside, it looks pretty good and definitely looks as though it means business!
Out on the Bike.
The fit and feel is a lot like last years and apart from the new and I must say improved strap design, the overall fit and feel is as I remembered. Spot on! Riders new to the concept of wearing a neck brace are often concerned that its presence will far too aparent and they won’t get on with it, but ask anyone whose actually spent more than ten minutes in one will tell you that you’ll soon forget it’s on.
With all the adjustments present on the Comp III, you really need to study the manual and spend some time setting your brace up correctly to maximise it’s performance both day to day and when that day comes when its presence is really needed. Just remember, it is designed to inhibit movement, just the movement that could lead and an injury or worse.
Regardless of the terrain or the style of riding you gravitate towards, the Comp III is designed to meet your needs as a rider and protect you against things we can’t and don’t plan for. I’m not going to tell you why you should or shoudn’t buy a neck brace of indeed the Comp III, but putting a price on your health and safety is pretty stupid and if your going to put yourself in harms way, every little helps.
It also goes without saying, that entering my fourth year with a Leatt brace in my kit bag, I do feel safer and in doing so enjoy my riding a hell of a lot more. Does that make it a placebo? To an extent, but one that is backed up by a product I trust and enjoy wearing. We’ll be talking more about neck braces and the Comp III in the near future and we’ll let you know how it’s coping after a winter of cold, crap weather and the start of the spring/ summer season.
The Comp III retails in the UK for £360 and will be available from finer dealers across the land later this month. If you’ve got the money and can’t settle for anthing less than top of the range, the DBX Pro comes in at a penny shy of £600 and the DBX Ride, offering similar features to the Comp, but with static tables and less adjustability, comes in at an affordable £250. Please hit the links below and check the range out!
In the meantime, hit the logo below or check out Hotlines-UK for more info. Happy trails!