Without knowing what you’re looking for, it’s pretty easy to spend a small fortune on go-kart gear. I want to help you, readers, with the otherwise momentous task of choosing a rib protector for kart racing! I’ll go over what you should look for and review the four best, affordable ones out there.
So, what is the best cheap rib protector? My top pick is the K1 RaceGear Pro Lite Rib Protector due to its reasonable price, comfortable fit and high-quality protective materials used throughout.
But it wouldn’t be an ultimate list without… you know, a collection of different rib protectors, right? Through my wealth of karting experience and first-hand knowledge, I’ll be reviewing kart rib protectors and also offering advice as to what you should look for in each one, so keep reading!
What To Look For In A Good Rib Protector
The biggest thing to remember when picking out gear for karting is that the process will have a certain amount of personal relevance. There are a few things that I’d consider to be cardinal buying rules, but otherwise, it all depends on your personal budget and preferences.
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Probably the misconception I hear the most from new kart drivers is that rib guards from other sports will ‘do the job’. People really want to believe this fact, because a lacrosse rib protector is way cheaper than a karting-specific one, as an example, but they really aren’t comparable.
For karting in the United States, equipment should always be developed to the SFI certificated standard. In Europe, however, you should look for CE certification. The purpose is the same; these certifications are designed to show that the quality of safety equipment has been tested and reaches a required quality assurance.
There are some products that reach SFI guidelines within dirt biking and other such sports, but they usually operate with different guidelines and quality assurances.
Beyond the required safety certification, it’s also important to remember that karting safety vests are worn underneath a race suit. Because of that, plastic armor simply isn’t practical.
Rib and chest protectors that are made of softer, lighter material with high impact protection are used due to the comfort of wearing them beneath a suit, while also keeping the driver lightweight for optimal race performance.
If you’re just getting started in karting and don’t have the cash to blow on a full kart-ready rib protector, using an old lacrosse guard or roost guard is fine as a stop-gap, but you definitely won’t be able to enter karting races with these bits of equipment!
SFI certification is more than a quality assurance; it also dictates which safety gear is deemed acceptable and safe enough for usage in Internationally-recognized kart racing.
Aside from making sure that the rib protector you buy meets these standards for safety, you should also remember the different styles of protector that are out there on the market!
I’d recommend spending some time in a local kart gear store trying on different rib protectors in varying styles. You can choose from a full vest variety or a rib/kidney protector with differing armor levels. Some protectors are stiffer than others, and these provide more protection but some racers find them obtrusive.
After doing your research to figure out which kind of rib protector would work best for you, you’ll be in a much better position to buy with confidence. As long as you choose something that’s SFI or CE certificated, you’ll be laughing all the way to the finish line!
The 4 Best Cheap Karting Rib Protectors
After scouring the market, I’ve come up with the 4 best karting rib protectors that won’t break the bank. Of course, rib protectors for karting are more expensive than most pieces of equipment due to the reasons I outlined above relating to SFI certification, so remember to keep that in mind overall.
So, here are the 4 best cheap karting rib protectors:
- K1 RaceGear Pro Lite Rib Protector
- Alpinestars Bionic Rib Support
- Ribtect 4 Protection Vest
- Forcefield Rib Protector V2
1. K1 RaceGear Pro Lite Rib Protector
The true name of the game here is to find and review the best, most affordable karting rib protectors on the market. My personal favorite of the bunch is not only the best value for money, but it has an impressive host of amazing protective features!
K1 RaceGear is a reputable brand that designs and makes affordable kart racing products, so it’s unsurprising that they’d appear on this list.
On a more personal level, I prefer the style of this rib protector compared to full vests. During my karting career, I always had protectors like this which protected the ribs and kidneys due to the freedom and comfort they allowed me to have behind the wheel.
The inner lining of this protector is made of a lightweight foam mesh, providing the comfortable, cozy fit that you’re really looking for in protective gear. And as for the outer barriers that actually do the impact absorption, K1 have used an integrated hydro-foam.
Each padded ‘barrier’ area on the outside of the rib protector is made up of Jumbolon sheets; a material licensed to K1 that meshes high-density padding with a thin, lightweight sheet-like construction. Although the outer protection pads protrude from the garment, they aren’t obstructing the driver due to how they’re placed and how smooth they are.
The back panel of this protector is also padded using the same multi-layered approach, and extends higher than the rest to truly cradle and comfort the spine. A lot of rib protectors designed like this neglect a protective back panel, which is instead viewed as a means to attach everything together.
The straps of this protector are fully adjustable so that you can properly align all of the protective areas to where they’re supposed to protect. There’s nothing worse than a rib protector that sits too low to do much protecting!
Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of this rib protector is the fact that K1 designers made it as a prototype for themselves, as they’re all avid kart racers! They were sick of being fatigued and bruised in long races or otherwise during rough outdoor sprints, and used the facilities at K1 to make something that they wanted to wear.
Any company that truly understands what kart drivers want will get my vote. And this rib protector is immensely attractive from a price perspective as well as for its comfort and lightweight composition. If a rib protector can be both soft and do its job, I’m pretty darn happy!
- Jumbolon sheets pack together for high-density padded protection
- Half-vest style gives ease of movement while driving
- Not entirely suitable for long endurance racing due to ‘thin’ padding
- Half-vest style isn’t for everyone
2. Alpinestars Bionic Rib Support
If you’re looking for high performance and affordability, Alpinestars products should definitely be something that you check out! They’ve been making motorcycling and racing gear for years with a good understanding of what petrol-heads want, and their aptly-named Bionic Rib Support is no exception to that rule.
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First of all, how cool is the name of this rib protector? Pretty amazing, if I do say so myself. And more than just the name sounding as if it fits the part, it offers some amazing features and innovation to provide high-level protection.
This bit of gear fits the half-vest style of rib protection, which is usually preferable due to how much more freedom of movement is afforded when compared to a full vest.
Overall, Alpinestars wanted to provide kart drivers with a comfortable, supporting and customized fit; something you don’t typically get from a rib protector, especially not one with hardened armor portions. I’m normally against these sorts of designs, because it can often cause more discomfort than the protection is worth.
However, through years of designing and knowing what drivers are looking for, this half-vest rib protector has struck the perfect balance between rigidity for protection and absolute comfort.
The outer protection portions of this rib protector feature ‘dual-density’; due to the fiberglass core and a PE hard-shell outer portion. All of the inner areas for the half-vest are made from high-density poly-foam, which doubles as an extra protective layer but also smooths over the hardened, business-end parts of the protector.
The lining of this rib protector is a poly-lycra composition; designed for the whole garment to be worn under or over a race suit with ease due to the stretchy fit. Pretty much every part of the half-vest is adjustable, even the back portion so that you can find the absolute best fit for you.
Speaking of the back section, Alpinestars have integrated perforation within the material in order to allow for breathability in the garment; not something seen in most rib protectors. A lot of drivers don’t wear them specifically for how hot they become, so this problem is eliminated with the Bionic Rib Support.
All adjustment straps are partially elasticated to allow for greater range of movement and less chance of the ‘scratchiness’ that every driver dreads. Having this level of freedom when wearing a sometimes-restrictive article of protective clothing is a breath of fresh air!
I was very close to having this become my top pick, due to the wealth of features that eliminate normal driver woes altogether, but the price did hold it back a bit. It’s price isn’t bad considering everything you’ll receive with this half-vest, but this list is specifically for the cheapest kart rib protectors.
- Hard shell exterior on rib protection portions; excellent armor to fight bruising
- Breathable fabric on the back eliminates tendency for rib protector to become uncomfortable
- On the higher end of the budget range
- Outer armor can be restrictive depending on the fit for some people
3. Ribtect 4 Protection Vest
Let’s move onto the first [full] vest rib protection product that I’ll be reviewing; the Ribtect 4 Protection Vest! Within the world of racing, Ribtect is a brand that specifically designs and produces protective garments for the ribs and kidneys, and this specialization results in high-quality all round.
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As you can likely tell from the number 4 in the product title, this is the 4th iteration of the Protection Vest that Ribtect has made. A lot of improvements have been explored, and feedback from buyers has been taken into account for the latest rendition of the fully protective, comfortable vest.
There’s two notable parts of the vest’s composition that you can see from looking at it: the vest garment itself, and the protective panels on each side.
The overall vest is made from high-tech material that is uniquely designed to flex around the driver for a perfect fit. Oftentimes, a vest can be uncomfortably stiff because the whole thing is made to protect the driver, which leads to harder materials being used.
It’s refreshing, therefore, for this vest to be made of a flexible yet very protective substance.
On the sides, you’ll find very sturdy panels that have been proven to be stronger and longer-lasting than all previous ribtect vests through their “hammer tests”. This vest is extremely effective for guarding against bruising and fatigue.
These panels rise quite high in order to ensure that all of the sensitive side-areas of a driver are fully protected, and due to how thin the panels are comparatively to other products, they won’t feel bulky under your arms while steering and making inputs.
You’ll be buying the vest in one of three sizes; small, medium and large. But, over time, the general size will become better tailored to fit your chest area specifically due to how the polycarbonate vest is injected. One of my biggest gripes with vest-style rib protectors is how inhibitive and ill-fitting they can be. Ribtect have solved these issues with style!
The Ribtect 4 provides affordable rib protection; especially when you consider the carbon fiber used to construct its protective panels. The vest style isn’t for everyone, but as far as vests go overall, I’d wear this one for races any day!
- Polypropylene vest adds protection and comfort
- Great shock-absorbing foam
- Adjustable shoulder straps are hard to reach/use while wearing the garment
- Armor panels protrude from the rest of the vest and can become slightly inhibitive
4. Forcefield Rib Protector V2
If you’re somebody who likes to buy for multi-purpose usage, you’ll love the last item on my list of the best karting rib protectors! The Forcefield Body Armor V2 not only meets SFI certification requirements, but it can be used for a multitude of other sports and uses, making it a worthwhile spend if you’re a football or lacrosse enthusiast off the track!
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To get us started looking at this impressively-named protection vest, it’s worth mentioning the material that composes it.
The Forcefield V2 is made entirely of DRI-M materials, something which has won many awards over the years and is loved by a lot of sports professionals. It stands for dynamic, reactive, intelligent material and is made up of technically-designed base layers and performance textiles.
It looks pretty unique to say the least, and the visual design serves as much of a purpose as the material used to make it. The varied triangular designs all over the exterior are meshed together to provide extra stability and impact absorption.
Slipping it on, the insides of the vest are well-padded without feeling over-the-top. Remember that you need to wear a race suit overtop of this protective garment, so the last thing you want to feel is like you’re wearing a puffy winter coat!
It’s recommended that you wear this rib protector off the track at least a few times, and this is due to the heat-activated molding properties that it possesses. The product designers have included this in order for the vest to contour to the wearer perfectly, and it takes time to do so. But it’ll be time well-spent and worth it when you hit the track!
While a lot of vests feel cumbersome and ill-fitting even when you get the proper size, the Forcefield V2 has eliminated that issue. It’s on the more expensive side when you consider the others on this list, which is part of why it’s lower down the pecking order.
That, and although it’s SFI-certificated, it isn’t a specific kart racing rib protection vest. This lack of specialization is more of a detriment than a benefit. But, if you’re really affected by rib bruising and discomfort, this vest of armor will do its job and then some.
- Can be used for a lot of different sports
- Heat-activated molding contours it to fit your chest
- Jumping straight into a race without wearing it beforehand is very uncomfortable
- Heavy compared to every other vest/ half-vest on this list
There we have it, readers! A collection of the four most affordable rib protectors out there without compromising quality. After all, you want the product to do what it’s supposed to achieve in terms of comfort and protecting you during kart racing. You absolutely can’t compromise on that front.
I hope that one of these rib protectors is the one for you, or you’re able to use my guidance overall to pick one that’s the perfect fit!