Product: R4K Race Collar
Manufacturer: EVS Sports
Sizes: Adult and Youth
Color(s): Black/Red and White/Green
There are riders that subscribe to ATGATT (all the gear, all the time) and those that don’t. How much protective riding gear one wears and how often it gets worn ends up being a matter of risk management. Barring helmet laws, protective riding gear is not compulsory so the range of protection observed on street motorcycle riders tends to vary widely.
I am an ATGATT rider and lately I would say I’ve become an ATGATT+ rider. I consider “All the Gear” for the street to include riding boots, pants, jacket, helmet, and gloves that all contain armor as applicable.
Recently I added an additional piece of kit to my normal riding gear, a neck brace/collar.The following details my experience so far using the R4K Race Collar as an daily use piece of protective street riding gear.
I want to point out that EVS does not specifically market or recommend this product for street riding use. In the past I have taken other off-road safety equipment such as knee/shin protectors and used them to augment my street riding safety gear.
A Little History
I have been riding street motorcycles since the mid 1990’s and since I started riding I have been increasing the amount (and quality) of my protective riding gear. Early on there weren’t a lot of affordable choices in motorcycle specific jackets, pants, and boots.
I spent $700.00 on my first motorcycle and by the time I added taxes and helmet I really had no more money left for protective gear. What I did have was a leather jacket that lacked any armor, denim jeans, and hiking boots. Oh, and I should mention the finger-less gloves which has to be one of the MOST useless purchases I had made to “protect” my hands.
I did later get a denim jacket for the hot Tennessee Summers so I had “seasonal” gear at that point. Looking at the list now makes me wonder how lucky I was to have survived learning to ride back in those days.
A lot has changed since then.
My everyday riding gear currently consists of motorcycle specific pants, jackets, gloves, boots and of course a helmet (full face). I’ve also upgraded the pants and jacket armor to CE level 2 pieces from D30 where possible. Suffice to say I feel well protected for street riding.
But then I stumbled upon a discussion thread at ADVRider.com on the subject of wearing neck braces for both off-road and street (or both). I had thought about the possibilities of neck injury in the past but never gave it serious thought until joining this discussion.
The discussion brought to light the reality of how easily a neck injury can occur in a motorcycle accident, on or off-road. Our necks are relatively fragile and with an extra three or more pounds of helmet on our heads, impact and inertia can be serious threats to the well being of your spine.
It didn’t take long before I started researching options for my own use on the street. After a lot of reading and trying out certain options I found what I believe to be the right option for me.
The EVS R4K
The R4K race collar from EVS Sports is a simple and unassuming looking device. Compared to a lot of off-road racing collars and other neck protection devices, the R4K seems rather low-tech in appearance, and frankly, sort of small. These may sound like negatives but I see them as strong positive aspects.
At first glance this collar appears to be a solid ring, albeit a square-ish one, that fits around the neck. The opening is really too small for adult heads to fit through so it opens in the front to put it on and removing it.
Opening the collar is a two step process. First, one separates the hook and loop strap under the front of the collar. This is easy to grab while wearing gloves thanks to a rubber tab that sticks out from under the front.
Second, once the hook and loop is undone, the button on the front is pressed to unlock the two front halves and they can be easily spread apart. While the arms are flexible I wouldn’t recommend trying to get it up over a helmet. Instead I would put it on before a helmet.
The unit reviewed here is black with red inserts but a white with green inserts version is also available. Both versions have an EVS logo on the front left arm as well as on the rear platform behind the neck.
The R4K uses a variety of materials starting with a polyurethane foam that forms the base of the collar. The upper portion is formed from reinforced nylon providing a semi-rigid “shell” for the top.
Sandwiched between the nylon and foam portions is a material called Koroyd® which is an energy absorbing matrix that is very lightweight (it’s 95% air). The material is visible through clear panels in the collar where one can see the system of polymer tubes that make up the Koroyd® core.
Use of this material allows the R4K to weigh in at only 508 grams (1lb 2oz) which is 127 grams less than the standard R4 race collar (in adult sizes). You can see more details of how the Koroyd® core is implemented in the R4K by clicking here.
Along that nylon upper shell are two hooks that can be used in conjunction with an included strap to help keep the R4K in position when riding. I can see how this would be useful when off-road riding but I did not test it out myself.
Under the base polyurethane layer is a .25” (.63mm) layer of nylon and foam padding that rests against the body (or whatever jacket one is wearing). This layer provides some extra cushioning and the material holds the collar in place well against my textile and leather jackets.
Overall, the construction of the R4K seems solid and it should hold together for the intended purpose, but the “fit and finish” could be better.
Taking a look at where the lower polyurethane foam meets the upper shell reveals some rough edges in the foam. It doesn’t appear that it would affect performance of the collar but it diminishes the appearance and perceived quality of the construction.
I have two R4K units ordered weeks apart and both show this same issue. In fact looking at the images of the R4K on the EVS website these same imperfections are visible.
The R4K is available in two sizes, youth and adult with the youth size recommended for those under 5’3” (160cm) and less than 105 lbs (48kg). In addition to the two sizes, there is a single adjustment below the rear deck of the R4K.
A red strut is visible behind the neck and this can be used to adjust the stand-off angle of the hinged rear back support. The upper portion of the strut is fastened with a single bolt that passes through the width of the strut.
This bolt can be removed and placed in a secondary position in the strut allowing for a wider or narrower spacing. This is not a lot of adjustability but the shape of the collar seems to work well enough to accommodate varying size in wearers.
For instance, I have both collars adjusted to their widest setting and they both fit correctly on me and on Carmen even though she is shorter and weighs considerably less than me.
Of course this is also taking into account street riding jackets being worn under the R4K which is likely not EVS’s original intent. This might also mean that riders larger than me might not be able to use the R4K over their own street gear and have it sit correctly.
All the cool technical aspects don’t mean anything if it’s difficult and/or uncomfortable to use. Well the R4K is neither of these. Often if a piece of protective equipment is difficult or time-consuming to put on it will become a candidate for being left behind.
Putting on the R4K takes less time than putting on a helmet, or even gloves. In fact it might take the least amount of time of any of my gear get into position. Opening the collar and slipping it around the neck is very quick and easy. Likewise, taking it off after a ride is just as quick.
The R4K is a very light piece of kit and while I was “aware” of it sitting on my shoulders, back, and chest when I first starting wearing it, I hardly give it a second thought now. If I wasn’t writing a review of it I would have probably been even less aware of it sitting under my helmet after the first few rides with it.
While on the move, the R4K sits right in the “Goldilocks” zone, at least for my bike, my build and helmet. I am able to move my head and turn enough to look around and perform head checks before changing lanes all without the collar preventing the movement.
If I try to go too far in any direction I will hit the collar and the stoppage occurs before I reach the limit of my range of neck motion. Again, it works just right for me and my needs but as they say, “Your mileage may vary”.
My Ninja 1000 has me sitting upright with a modest degree of forward lean. Racier machines like ZX-10’s, GSXR’,s etc. might require more rearward space to allow for a racer-like tuck.
The EVS R4K checked all the right boxes for me. It fits (me) well, it is very easy to use, and it also is available for less than $200.00 (USD). That seems like a small price to pay for an item that could prevent/reduce injuries to the neck.
Certainly prevention of injury is not guaranteed but odds of a better outcome in the “yes to neck brace vs no to neck brace” scenario seem to me to be on the “yes to neck brace” side.
Like all of my protective gear, I hope I never get to find out how well it does (or doesn’t) function. I will say that I feel just a bit more at peace when out riding knowing it is there.
The R4K isn’t the only neck brace I tried. After getting the first EVS R4K unit I also purchased an STX unit from Leatt. The STX and STX RR units from Leatt are the only neckbraces I have found that are intended specifically for street riding available for sale in the USA market*. So it only made sense that I should try out the option that is designed for my intended use.
Unfortunately the STX did not work for me, or more specifically, my helmet. When wearing the STX, after going through the sizing and adjusting process, it would not prevent my head from hyperextending to the rear. It worked fine to the sides and in the front it was at the end of my range of movement but I couldn’t tilt my head back far enough to contact the rear platform. After several attempts to adjust the sizing to make this work I gave in and decided it wasn’t going to work for me.
Some discussion in the aforementioned ADVRider.com thread turned up that I wasn’t the only one running into this issue. Another rider said certain helmets he owned caused the same issue when he tried the STX himself.
I’m not calling out Leatt here as there is a lot of variation in body types and helmets and to have one product cover it all would be difficult at best. Especially with the “niche product” status I feel that street riding neck protection currently occupies. If you want to try the STX for yourself I suggest, as I would with any gear purchases online, getting it from somewhere with a good return policy. For more info on the STX you can see the full review of the over at webBikeWorld.com.
*I mentioned above that the STX and it’s RR sibling are the only street specific neck braces available in the US market. One exception might be the Rev’It Adventure neck brace. Rev’It doesn’t call out street riding specifically but referring to at as “adventure” suggests it might be intended for both on and off-road use.
Judging by the photos of the Rev’It Adventure Neck Brace I would say it is a Moveo designed neck brace as it looks strikingly similar to their Moveobrace Concept unit. This might be the only way to get a Moveo (or moveo designed product) from a US dealer as they do not have any US dealers listed on their website.
Moveo seems quite happy to recommend using this braces for a wide range of use stating in their online FAQ’s that “Moveo Brace can be used in every sport in which a helmet is needed”. Not to mention that they test their units, among other ways, in motorcycle-against-car impact situations.
A mention should also be made of Atlas and their line of neck braces. I have read several reports of riders using Atlas brace products for street riding and they do seem adjustable enough to fit over street riding gear. However, when I reached out to Atlas customer support about how best to measure when including street riding gear, they were very specific about the fact that they do not recommend their products for use in street riding.