Long kart races are something that people will likely dread if they don’t own a rib protector. Otherwise you’ll deal with bruising and fatigue like you wouldn’t believe! That’s why we put together a list of the best karting rib protectors on the market.
The 5 best karting rib protectors are:
- Bengio Bumper Carbon Kevlar
- Tillet Ribtec P1 Rib Protector
- Sparco Rib Pro K-7
- OMP KS Body Protection
- Ribtect 4 Karting Vest
Below, we’ll go through each of these kart rib protectors in more detail so that you can choose the right one. But first, we’ll discuss the kinds of things you should consider when purchasing a rib protector.
How To Choose A Karting Rib Protector
Consider What YOU Want
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.
Kart-Specific Is Key
Probably the misconception I hear the most from new kart drivers is that rib guards from other sports will do the job just as well as karting-specific ones. People really want to believe this fact, because a lacrosse rib protector is often much cheaper than a karting-specific one, but they really aren’t comparable.
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 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 just quality assurance, as it also dictates which safety gear is deemed acceptable and safe enough for usage in internationally-recognized kart racing.
For karting in the United States, equipment should always be developed to the SFI certificated standard. In Europe, you should look for CE certification. The purpose is the same, as 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.
The Right Materials
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 materials 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.
Various Different Styles
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 protection levels. Some protectors are stiffer than others, and these provide more protection but some racers find them obtrusive.
What To Look For In A Karting Rib Protector
Key things to look for in a karting rib protector include:
- SFI/CE certification
- Lightweight materials
- Impact absorption
The first key aspect to look for in a rib protector relates to all-important safety regulations. I’ve gone over this in more detail above, but it really can’t be overstated! If your rib guard doesn’t have the proper certification, you can’t guarantee that it’s safe to race with and you might be denied the ability to wear it on the track.
Having lightweight gear in karting is an absolute must. Because it’s a motorsport that is so stripped back in a lot of ways, with lightweight chassis and components, the driver being lighter than the competition can be a real edge during races.
More than that, in terms of comfort, the last thing you want is a rib protector that feels heavy on your upper body. After all, it’s supposed to reduce your fatigue, not make it worse! It’s important to find one that fits well, doesn’t obstruct your driving, and isn’t a burden to carry around.
To avoid getting overheated while driving, it’s important to choose gear carefully, and a rib protector is no exception. Make sure that parts of it allow for breathability so that you don’t find yourself getting too hot and bothered in the middle of races. This feeds into the protector being lightweight too, because a lighter rib protector will make you sweat less than a heavy piece of gear.
Finding the right fit and style of rib protector all come backs to making sure you’re comfortable while wearing it. Padding on the inside of it will make wearing it all the more relieving when you get shunted around in your seat. When browsing for a rib guard, it’s important to find out what the inner lining is made of and how it will help with enhancing your overall comfort in the driver’s seat.
Does the rib protector have a hardened plate of sorts around the ribs? Is the inner lining a material that absorbs impacts? These sorts of things are crucial to learn about, considering that you’re spending the money to stay safe and protected.
If the outer guard is made of a hardened compound, it’s important that it doesn’t feel too heavy or uncomfortable while you’re driving. And you should definitely look for a rib protector that has a nice, padded interior as an extra safeguard.
KEY POINTS• Always buy a karting-specific rib protector
• Choose one with the proper certification or you may not be able to race with it
• Opt for a rib protector that’s comfortable and that offers high impact protection
The 5 Best Karting Rib Protectors
1. Bengio Bumper Carbon Kevlar
It should be of no surprise that one of the most renowned rib protection brands have secured a top spot on this list! In terms of absolute comfort and safety, there isn’t much better than Bengio’s products, especially not their latest development – the Bumper Carbon Kevlar.
The Very Best
Bengio have been designing rib protectors for automotive racers at the top of their game for many years. Formula One drivers wear their products, as one example, to lessen the impact of their demanding motorsport. So, it goes without saying that their latest product innovation is definitely the best that money can buy.
As you can likely guess from the name alone, this Bumper comes equipped with a special composite in the side panels made of carbon-Kevlar. The blending of these hardened yet lightweight materials come together for very high protection.
Lightweight But Protective
It is bonded to a fiberglass base in multiple thin layers, keeping the whole rib guard feeling manageable in terms of weight without compromising on the strength of these protection areas.
This way of making the ‘shell’ areas on the outside also completely eliminates the risk of splinters forming, which is a typical worry when incorporating fiberglass or carbon fiber into a design process.
On the interior of the famously named Bumper, you’ll find a very comfortable, plush lining that has been made with shock absorbing foam. Having it composed as such checks the comfort and impact absorption boxes in a big way, that’s for sure.
Closed Cell Foam
It is made of closed cell foam that’s 8 mm thick. This translates to very springy, light foam that performs at the highest level. The foam’s high density will protect the driver from all vibrations, no matter the frequency.
Overall, this rib protector is ergonomically designed to comfortably fit underneath a race suit without feeling bulky or obtrusive to the driver. You’ll be getting the ultimate protective materials and armored feeling without being weighed down or otherwise being uncomfortable while you race.
Comfortable Back Shield
One of my personal favorite features of this Bumper is the back shield that comes as standard. It’s a soft, padded interior that cushions a driver’s back while retaining a firm shape to help with posture. Not only that, but it is constructed with the same dense foam used in the lining and is covered by a perforated fabric to add breathability to the whole guard.
Bumpers not only last a lifetime, but they’re rigorously tested to meet SFI and CE certifications while providing the pinnacle of safety for the wearer.
- Carbon-Kevlar composite is strong and provides plenty of protection
- Padded foam interior adds extra impact absorption
- Quite an expensive choice
2. Tillet Ribtec P1 Rib Protector
Tillet specialize in making seats for go-karts, so it makes sense that a new direction for them was to delve into developing rib protectors. Tillet is a well-respected brand and their Ribtec P1 is a great safety product!
Protection Without Compromise
Starting with the overall goal they had when making this rib protector, Tillet wanted to make something that would protect drivers from fatigue and rib bruising without diminishing the feel of the chassis.
Go-karting is a sport in which drivers value ‘feel’ from their vehicle, since the person behind the wheel is oftentimes just as important as the engine powering it. With such stripped-back parts of the kart, there’s a lot of times where the driver needs to feel how their vehicle is performing through their feet or body.
Functional But Lightweight
Tillet have used a rigid composite to construct the outer ‘shell’ area, a very common choice in rib protection garments, choosing a plastic outer skin covered with suede. The plastic is layered in order to provide the desired effect of dispersing impact without adding weight.
The interior of the rib protector is also covered with suede, but it has thin layers of foam padding to provide comfort while wearing the guard.
You’ll also find a large selection of sizes in the Ribtec P1, from child up to XL in adult sizes. On Tillet’s website they have provided a set of measurements for each size to make it clear what will fit, so you can accurately make a decision from the comfort of your own home.
Secure But Comfortable
Not only that, but the rear angle of the rib protector is entirely adjustable in order to better fit different body shapes. The harnesses are also adjustable and secure the whole garment in place, along with the stretchy front strap, which has Velcro in place to fasten it.
If you’re a fan of the half-vest rib protector style and don’t want something with notably hard outer shells, the P1 might be the product for you!
- Lightweight, slim-lined rib protector
- Adjustable rear angle makes it fit well no matter your body shape
- Padding on the inside is lacking compared to the Bengio
- Plastic composition doesn’t entirely stop vibrations reaching the driver
3. Sparco Rib Pro K-7
One of my personal favorite brands in the karting world, Sparco has been around for years designing and making kart-specific and motorsport products that are repeatedly at the top of the pile in terms of performance. The K7 rib protector is one such product.
The K-7 rib protector has seen many iterations over the years, and the latest model has seen a host of improvements and refinements over its earlier versions. Its overall goal is to provide maximum protection for the driver against injury/discomfort at an affordable price, without compromising on material quality.
Externally, the rib guard has been made from hand-layered fiberglass to make up the shell part of the garment. This layering process keeps the overall build lightweight, and it also provides a high level of impact absorption.
On the interior of the garment, Sparco have laid two different layers of padded material to provide comfort and even more impact absorption capability. The first layer is comprised of 4 mm thick EDPM, a special compound of soft, foamy rubber, and the second layer consists of 6 mm thick PU rubber, which does most of the hard work absorbing impacts and vibrations.
The K-7 has been ergonomically designed to fit many different builds and body shapes. There is a high level of adjustability in the harness straps to change how the rib protector sits upon the torso, and an entirely elasticated front strap allows you to secure it as tight or as loose as you wish.
All of the outer shell edges have been capped off with soft, pliable rubber. This is important as hardened rib protectors often come with the hazard of scratching and tearing on the inside of your race suit. The rubber smooths all of these otherwise hardened edges.
You’ll also find ventilation on all sides of the protector to keep you cool, even during the hottest of races. There are small slits present on the back and each side, which perforates through and allow proper airflow, even under your race suit.
Ergonomic Back Portion
The back portion of the K-7 is just the right mix of structured and soft, cradling this area and simultaneously encouraging good posture throughout a race.
For a reasonable price, you’ll be buying one of the best rib protectors on the market today. It offers the perfect blend of protection and comfort, making it a great contender to check every buyer’s boxes.
- Affordable excellence
- Comfortable with high impact absorption to reduce fatigue and bruising
- Materials can feel a little cheap
- Outer shell can be obstructive depending on the wearer’s height
4. OMP KS Body Protection
Another karting gear manufacturer that you’ll likely see everywhere, OMP have been making all kinds of race attire and accessories for a very long time. They’re known for their wide range of excellent products at all kinds of price points, making them a favorite of experts and beginners alike!
Just a single look at the design of this rib protector will tell you that it means business! It’s certainly one of the more heavy-duty products in this list of the best rib protectors, making it ideal for those who really want high levels of protection from rib bruising/injury.
The shell/armored portion of the KS Body Protection half-vest is made of a composite, polycarbonate material. It has noticeable ridges that protrude from the sides slightly, adding another layer of protection as there is more surface area for impact to be absorbed and dispersed.
There is a rubber coating on the edges of the shell, eliminating the risk of tearing the insides of your race suit. It also makes the whole garment sit better on the driver’s frame without discomfort.
Compared to other rib protectors of this nature, you’ll notice that the back portion is a lot longer than the rest of it. This adds extra protection to the whole spine area. The outer part of this back protector is the same rubber-like material too, so you won’t have to deal with armor rattling on the back of your seat.
Comfortable But Effective
The interior of this half-vest is made from a soft rubber-like material, which provides comfort and adds yet more impact-absorption features.
Harnesses fit over the shoulders to provide an element of support and they are fully adjustable to ensure that the rib protector fits as you want it to. This is completed by an adjustable strap on the front, featuring a hook-and-loop fastening mechanism, making it easy to secure and release.
Everything about this high-quality product has been made to protect against even the harshest conditions out on track, as you can see from the sturdy polycarbonate covering the outer shell.
A Tough Rib Protector
The toughened ridges that protrude from the garment on the outside are rather unforgiving and can obstruct the driver. It certainly feels more like wearing a toughened garment of armor as opposed to something ergonomic. But in terms of raw impact protection of the heavy-duty nature, there is no better product!
- Highly armored, ridged shell offers excellent impact protection
- Long back insert protects the whole spine from injury
- Ridges on the sides are hard and uncomfortable
- Shell feels plasticky/cheap compared to other brands
5. Ribtect 4 Karting Vest
And last, but certainly not least, we have the latest rendition of Ribtect’s purpose-made rib protection vests. As you can likely tell from the manufacturer’s name, Ribtect have dedicated themselves to making high-quality protection garments for drivers.
An Evolved Product
The outer protection panels are found over each side, accurately covering and protecting all of the ribs without compromise. They have been improved since the release of the previous Ribtect vest, and they are currently the best panel that the company has ever developed.
This is due to the composite material and layering of many individual sheets of hardened, thin material to create the panels. How do Ribtect test the hardness of their protection panels, I hear you ask? They spend a whole lot of time hammering on it with different weighted hammers!
They used every previous hammer test they’ve ever done and took it to the Ribtect 4, which showed no sign of even cracking under the pressure of repeated whacking.
It Feels Weightless
The vest itself is made of a thin material, which truly feels as if it’s weightless on your upper body when you’ve put it on. On the inside, there is soft padding that provides the comfort you should be looking for. Overall, the whole vest was designed to absorb additional impacts from sitting in the driver’s seat before dispersing it without discomfort.
This is thanks to the high-density yet lightweight foam on the interior layers of the vest. It absorbs all impact and shock encountered with ease! It is made from polypropylene, a compound famous for its ability to mold to a given shape. The vest will therefore feel tailor-made after you put it on, as the polypropylene molds to fit your upper body.
One of the biggest issues with this product is the lack of ventilation, which makes it quite hot and stuffy to wear. There isn’t a back-protection panel either, and the buckles are located in this area, which can actually be more painful than beneficial as the seat will rattle the fastenings against your spine. But overall, this rib protector offers full torso protection without feeling too obstructive.
- Lightweight, fully-protective vest for the whole torso
- Molds to the driver’s body shape
- No ventilation
- No panel on the back for protection
Choosing the right rib protector can be tough, but as long as you opt for one from a renowned manufacturer and one that is comfortable but durable, you should be golden! The absolute best karting rib protector is the Bengio Bumper, but OMP’s KS vest is a truly heavy-duty choice for those that want maximum impact protection.
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