Side bite is a crucial element to your kart’s handling. However, it can be difficult to fine tune your side bite to be at optimum level. This is because there are just so many ways of adjusting it, and every adjustment is dependant on the other. Finding the right balance can be tricky.
Side bite is a term used by drivers in reference to the amount of grip you have throughout a corner. Having a lot of side bite means that the rear of your kart has a lot of grip. Having less side bite is having the rear of the kart feel looser. 6 things to look at when adjusting kart side bite are:
- Track Width
- Torsion bars
- Ride Height
However, it is also very important to know that there are many ways to adjust the amount of side bite you get from your kart. Various factors play a part in how much side bite you need. This depends on the amount of grip on track, the circuit layout, and the weather conditions.
Why Not Have As Much Side Bite As Possible?
Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as having too much grip, but not in the way you might think! Higher grip means higher cornering speeds, however when a track has a lot of grip, karts need to have less mechanical grip to balance that. When you have too much side bite, your kart will ‘bind’. Binding is when your kart loses momentum and cornering speed.
If you have ever pushed your kart in the pits and turned the steering wheel into full lock, you would know how hard it becomes to push. It feels like the brakes are being clamped down and the kart doesn’t want to move. This is binding, when none of the wheels are able lift and you start to lose rotation in your kart.
Having a lot of mechanical grip as well as high track grip means that the chassis is does not flex properly. This can cause hopping from mid corner all the way through to the exit of the corner. Hopping is of course going to cost you your speed and smooth cornering.
On the other end of the scale, if you have too little side bite, your kart will slide into corners. The oversteer will cause you to drift through corners which might feel fast and look cool, but you will end up in last place.
Many drivers do not understand this concept and therefore do not know how to fix it. This is why it is crucial for you to understand the concept of side bite, and why it needs to be balanced. Remember this: the kart sliding too much means that there is not enough side bite. The kart not sliding enough means there is too little side bite.
Tire pressures is the first item on this list. This is because it is the quickest and easiest way to adjust the handling of your kart. In fact, if you go to a race weekend, you will see almost every driver next to their kart with a tire pressure gauge in their hands.
Tire pressures can vary depending on weather conditions and the amount of grip on track. They can go from 10 psi all the way up to 30 psi. Generally, lower tire pressures equal more side bite due to the contact patch between rubber and tarmac being higher. However, tire pressures that are too low will create too much side bite and cause the kart to lift both inside wheels off the track.
There are other elements to take into consideration when adjusting tire pressures though, such as the rate at which your tires get to temperature. Decreasing your tire temperatures will mean that your tires will heat up slower, and this means it will take longer for you to reach optimum grip levels.
Tire compounds have a huge effect on your kart’s side bite levels; however, these are bit easier to understand. Softer tires equal more grip. However, these tires tend to overheat and wear out quickly. Harder tires will have the opposite effect: lower grip levels but will keep temperatures down and last longer.
2. Track Width
We have discussed track width in a previous article but focussed mostly on rear track width. It is a crucial element to increasing or decreasing your side bite, so it is important to mention again. It is important to only adjust one at a time to find your balance, as they work in conjunction with one another and losing your balance on track width can be a nightmare to recover from.
Front track width is the easiest to adjust. This can be done quickly by using the spacers behind the front wheel hubs. I often used to adjust my front track width between sessions as the grip levels on track changed. Your front track width adjusts your kart’s turn in.
Widening your front track width gives you more front-end grip and more front bite. The result is a quicker and more responsive turn in. Whereas narrowing it gives you the opposite effect and will create less bite at the front end which can be useful for high speed circuits.
Rear track width is where it can become confusing because this is the opposite to the front end of the kart. Narrowing the rear track width can give you more rear bite. However, it can become too narrow and cause your kart to hop through corners.
Seating positions can be changed to adjust the amount of side bite you get from your kart. The easiest adjustment to make is to increase the seat angle so that you are leaning further back. This increases the side bite of your kart because your shoulders are further back, putting more weight over the rear tires and pushing them into the track.
Setting your seat to be higher up vertically will also give your more side bite because your centre of gravity will be higher, leading to more weight being pushed down onto the tires.
Driving position is another key factor that can determine how much bite you get from your kart. Many karting drivers who are just starting out struggle with their driving technique and positioning in the kart which causes their kart to be unbalanced and unstable.
Be sure to not lean too much when cornering. Try to push your steering wheel forward rather than pulling on it in order to shift your weight further back. This was also discussed in more detail in our article about mounting a kart seat.
4. Torsion Bars
Torsion bars can be useful in adjusting the rigidity of your kart’s chassis and in turn adjusting the amount of side bite you can get from your kart. Some newer spec Tony Kart models have an adjustable torsion bar underneath the seat. It can be adjusted vertically or horizontally.
Having the bar flat (horizontal) will free up the kart and give you less side bite. Setting the torsion bar to its vertical position will do the opposite and give you more side bite. Furthermore, these torsion bars can be customized in stiffness, where a softer bar will give less side bite and vice-versa.
Front torsion bars can also be adjusted to increase or decrease your front-end bite. Stiffer settings of the torsion bars will give your more bite and a more responsive turn in. However, the kart can become more ’darty’ and have too much oversteer.
Axles are important in determining the amount of bite you get from your kart. Axles come in different types of stiffness: soft, medium and hard. This is dependent on the type of axle and can also be adjusted through set ups.
Softer axles mean less grip, but they absorb bumps on the circuit. They essentially will act as a shock absorber and also allow the chassis to flex more. Harder axles create more grip as they allow the chassis to transfer weight to the outside tire and help it to dig into the track.
So, if your kart is loose through corners and you find the rear end sliding, adjust for a stiffer axle to create more side bite. If your kart struggles to lift the inside rear wheel to rotate, your axle is too stiff and you will need to use a softer setting.
When racing on circuits with a lot of grip, it is recommended to use a softer axle as stiffer axles will cause too much side bite and a hopping kart through the corners.
6. Ride Height
Raising your ride height will have the same effect as raising your seat position. It will add more weight pushing down onto the tires and raise the centre of gravity. This will give you more side bite and higher grip levels. The consequence of having your ride height too high will be that your kart will be lifting both inside wheels off the ground.
Lowering your ride height will take away some side bite. This means that the tires will then be more prone to sliding rather than gripping onto the circuit. With this in mind, adjust your front and rear ride height according to which side of the kart you want more grip on.
Lowering your rear ride height will solve hopping by shifting weight more towards the front of the kart. Raising your rear ride height will help to reduce understeer as your weight is pushed more onto the rear axle, increasing rear grip.
Quick Solution Guide
Adjustments to make if you have too much oversteer (not enough side bite):
- Increase rear tire pressures by 1 psi
- Tighten side pods
- Increase torsion bar stiffness
- Narrower rear track
- Stiffer rear axle
- Lower rear ride height
- Increase seat angle
- Lower all tire pressures by 1 psi
Adjustments to make if you have too much understeer (too much side bite):
- Increase front tire pressures by 1 psi
- Loosen side pods
- Lower torsion bar stiffness
- Widen front track width
- Lower front ride height
- Soften rear axle
- Increase all tire pressures by 1 psi
Side bite is a key element to your kart’s handling ability. You need to find the perfect balance in order to use it to your benefit. There are hundreds of ways to adjust the bite of your kart, and it will require a lot of testing in order for you to find your ideal balance. On top of that, weather conditions and grip levels on track change up what you need to do to find your balance again.
At the end of the day, the more you understand your kart and how to adjust it, the more likely you are to find that balance that you need. Ideally, you should read through the manual of your kart’s chassis and find what works for your specific kart. However, I hope that this guide gave you some quick solutions to adjusting your kart’s side bite!