My rib protector became important as I dived deeper into karting because I was spending more time overall in the kart, which led to more strain on my body if I didn’t have the right safety gear. Let’s lay out a guide to buying a good protector in this article.
So, what is the best go-kart rib protector? As with any piece of equipment on the market, there are different types of rib protectors which suit different kinds of people and what they are looking for. My recommendation would be the Sparco Rib Pro K-7, as it is an ideal lightweight protector.
With this in mind, I’ll be going over a few misconceptions and essential things to remember when scouring the market for the best choice, so read on for the complete buyer’s guide!
Misconceptions: Can I Use This Instead?
Because go-karting is a motorsport, there is a lot of discussion about whether different pieces of equipment can be used across a collection of different sports. For example, I’m often asked whether you can ‘get away with’ using an old motorcycle helmet when karting, and whether a pair of dirt bike boots will work as racing boots.
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The answer is almost always no for a multitude of reasons, and the primary one simply boils down to safety specific to karting.
Motorcycle helmets are heavier than kart-specified ones, for one, which is dangerous without a neck protector due to the high and consistent g-forces on a go-kart track. And as for the boot fiasco, go-kart boots are specially designed to be flame retardant and lightweight with more foot-to-pedal feel due to a thinner sole than average.
In most cases, replacing go-kart equipment with things that are close simply won’t cut it. When buying or using a rib protector, the same rule applies.
You might think that a roost guard for biking would do the job; after all, they’re heavily armored and sturdy. Perfect, right? Unfortunately, these roost guards don’t follow the same safety requirements as karting does.
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.
Although lacrosse rib/ kidney protectors are made of the softer material we see in the go-kart variants, they don’t have to meet SFI or CE certification. This might make them a decent starting point when testing out a rib protector in casual karting, but they won’t have the same effect as a specialized one to prevent bruising and injury.
That, and if you’re into go-kart racing in a competitive fashion, the racing authorities are very strict in making sure that your gear meets minimum safety requirements with the SFI and other go-kart regulations.
Where To Look: Is Second-Hand Okay?
I might be a bit more of an unusual kart racer, because I’ll always advocate looking for good deals and knowing the market for what you’re browsing to help with that. It may be easier to buy everything brand new from a store or an online variant, especially with the large variety available.
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However, with most safety equipment, you can snag some great deals on top-quality gear by buying it second-hand. The only thing I would recommend is that you buy a new safety helmet, but otherwise, you can find some gently used gear for a fraction of the brand-new price; rib protectors included.
I personally used to spend a lot of time scouring websites like eBay and lately, I’ve been a fan of Facebook Marketplace due to the local deals you can find; especially if you live near a go-kart track.
A lot of people barely use their gear to its fullest because they either find a new brand that they personally prefer or, in a lot more cases, the gear was for their teenage kart racer who outgrows everything at a rapid pace.
If you’re searching for brand-new gear, you can use websites like OG Racing and Pit Stop USA, or any specific brand websites. There are certain brands that I’ve tried and tested over the years, so I would recommend using them as your primary search material if you’re looking at buying a rib protector second-hand.
Brands like Sparco (as I mentioned before), Ribtect-2 and even Alpinestars have all proven to last a long time, and above all else, they’re comfortable in the kart!
Before buying online, second-hand or brand-new, try to find a kart store that stocks safety gear so you can get your exact sizing details in different brands. As with any branding, sizes will differ dependent on the brand.
However, there are a lot of size guides to be found online from the companies themselves so you can actually accurately gauge measurements from the comfort of your own home!
Features To Look For In Rib Protectors
A lot of specific features will differ depending on what type of kart racing you’re doing, but there a few things I would say are essentials to look for overall. These general things are:
- Check for SFI or CE certification (this will make it more expensive, but it’s worth it considering that the protector is in tip-top safety condition)
- When trying on the rib or chest protector, make sure it feels light and unobtrusive on your body
- The straps securing the rib protector aren’t scratchy or uncomfortable (you’ll be wearing it for long stints of time)
- All padded parts of the vest actually cover the necessary areas (no point in getting a rib protector that’s too high on your ribs, for example)
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Other features should be specific to whether you’re looking for a vest or rib protector. For example, a full vest which protects your chest will feel a lot more rigid than a rib protector, so that should be on the top of your feature list when shopping around.
I can’t stress enough how important a rib protector when karting truly is.
It not only enhances your comfort so you can keep racing for longer, but in a lot of cases where top speeds exceed 70 and 80mph, it’s an essential part of keeping yourself safe if the worst happens and you crash head-on.
Being shunted and shifted around in the kart will no longer be a danger with the proper equipment, and now that you’ve read over this guide of what to look for, I have no doubt that you’ll be able to make an informed decision when buying your own!