I’m sure you’ve heard it said one thousand times that karting is for everybody, right? That’s definitely the case, but there are some things that heavier drivers will have to encounter that most won’t come across! In this article, I’m going to outline some tips to help heavy drivers with karting.
So, what are some karting tips for heavy drivers? Here are our 5 karting tips for heavy drivers:
- Understand the Handling
- “The Bind” and How to Mitigate It
- Know Your Strengths (and Weaknesses)
- Sliding = The No-Go Zone
- Input Mindfulness
These tips might not mean much to you right now, but never fear! I’ll be going over each of these factors and exploring everything that a heavier driver in the world of karting needs to consider. You definitely don’t want to miss that, so read on!
Understand The Handling
To kick things off, I want to focus on one of the most prevalent things heavier drivers will encounter on a track where weight can make big differences. And that, as you can probably already tell, is all about how the kart handles.
Compared to smaller, lighter drivers, you will find that having more weight on your side greatly improves traction on the track. There’re many reasons for this, but it ultimately boils down to having more points of contact with the asphalt beneath the wheels; hence, more traction.
This can be both a positive and a negative thing. Honestly, it’s more of something for you to be aware of so that you can properly prepare and drive around it. This factor won’t lose you races by any means!
Having better traction will be a huge boon in rainy, slippery conditions where your kart will be struggling to find any traction at all. Extra weight compared to others racing around you will keep the kart on the track far better, making heavier drivers a force to be reckoned with in wet weather (provided you know how best to tackle those conditions).
On the flipside, having too much traction and points of contact with wheels on hot asphalt in hotter weather can be a big detriment if you don’t manage your tires properly. Not only that, but it can make steering difficult if your kart is all-but stuck to the track!
This can lead to phenomena such as kart hopping where the vehicle will, you guessed it, hop around corners which can be dangerous and badly damage your rig.
Traction talk aside, you will have a much more stable kart compared to lighter drivers. Having a more stable center of gravity and weight will likely be a detriment to your overall handling, however, as your inputs will be registered slower by comparison.
As I said, these are all worst-case scenarios and simply things to keep in mind rather than lose sleep over. There are many ways to tweak a kart chassis to loosen it up and therefore lose some traction if you’re experiencing kart hopping as a heavy driver, and methods to fine-tune your handling so that it’s just as responsive as a lightweight driver’s.
“The Bind” And How To Mitigate It
Another stumbling stone that heavier drivers will encounter is a phenomenon called “the bind”. Well, every driver will experience this to some degree or other when they race indoor karts, but heavier drivers will suffer the most from it.
To keep things simple, “the bind” is especially common in indoor karting due to these rigs possessing a solid rear axle. This is due to indoor karts being generally more accessible and easier to drive than outdoor race karts; they don’t need to be as flexible, nor are they as consistent across the board.
Unfortunately, go-karts need a lot of flex in their chassis overall to work efficiently. When cornering, your rear wheel closest to the apex will typically lift off the ground by some margin and this is what helps karts in outdoor races stay consistently fast. This happens due to the rear axle possessing some flex alongside the chassis itself.
When you have a rigid rear axle, most likely for safety reasons, this typical action is negated. A lot of indoor karts compensate for this by having a more flexible front axle geometry which allows the flex to a lesser extent, but it simply isn’t efficient for heavier drivers (especially in slower corners).
And unfortunately, indoor kart tracks are riddled with those slow, creeping corners.
Because of this, you’ll lose progressively more time when cornering on these sorts of tracks with indoor karts. The inside rear wheel not lifting enough or at all is what we call “the bind”, and it’s hard to counteract.
Of course, with careful driving, you can achieve anything!
Under these conditions, you need to perfect what’s called a “snap-in” cornering technique which employs a quicker, sharper turn on the steering wheel to carry as much of that flex through as you possibly can; turning your weight into an advantage rather than a disadvantage.
Know Your Strengths (And Weaknesses)
Knowledge is certainly power; in every aspect of life, and definitely in the world of karting!
As a heavier driver, there are certain parts of a kart track that you’ll have an easier time conquering and, on the flipside, areas that you will struggle with. Make sure to commit these to memory and plan your strategy accordingly!
On outdoor tracks, you’ll truly shine under braking and cornering. Your weight will carry through for extra momentum which will allow you to undercut lighter drivers with ease! No matter the corner, always allow for proper braking room and then let your kart plus your body do the rest.
As you can probably guess, the other side of this coin is that you’ll struggle under raw acceleration compared to lighter drivers. Straights and fast parts of the track will be hard for you to stay competitive in, but don’t fret over it. Simply perfect your cornering and these portions of slower driving will hardly matter! Most drivers lose time in the corners as it is.
Commit plenty of practice and make note of every session you compete in so you can measure how well you can keep up with the lighter drivers around you. Memorize maps of new kart tracks and give it your all!
Sliding = The No-Go Zone
This is a general warning as well as a big one for heavier drivers out there. No matter who you speak to, go-kart drivers will always tell you that sliding your kart, while cool, isn’t fast nor competitive.
You want to avoid this at all costs, and as a heavier driver, accidental slides can really kill your momentum.
Whereas your weight will be advantageous in corners and under braking, a slide is that loss of control and therefore traction. Your weight will carry further than lighter drivers when they slide, and you’ll be helpless while the slide completes and your competition slams on the gas and jets away.
In order to avoid sliding, never brake too late going into a corner. Being heavier than others around you, more braking will be required in order to properly slow your momentum from the straight which has led up to that corner. And never apply steering lock while under braking! This is prime slide-inducing material.
This is certainly another general comment about being purposeful in your inputs made within go-karting, but it’s extra important for heavier drivers out there. I covered this briefly in all my other previous tips, so remember to keep those in mind and add it to the knowledge imparted here, too.
At its core, a racing go-kart is a pretty simple piece of kit. It’s a metal chassis made of tubing as part of its suspension, four wheels, an engine, some brakes and a steering wheel. Every part of it is supposed to be lightweight and stripped-back for the ultimate racing feel. This means you don’t have anything to fall back on when you make bad driving inputs.
As a lightweight kart driver, this can severely hurt your race if you steer while braking simultaneously, or press both the gas and brake pedal at the same time carelessly, but it won’t completely ruin your chances. You have long stints of straight track and high-speed corners to make up for it.
But as a heavy kart driver, these kinds of mistakes and mixed inputs can land you in last place without a chance of climbing your way up the pack unless the others are really suffering in the corners.
I’ve always been told to be purposeful and direct when making inputs while karting, and everybody is given this same sort of advice. If you’re on the heavier side of the scale, however, this is especially important.
Due to being heavier and how this can make it harder to accelerate quickly, falling behind due to poor or sloppy inputs, whether it be steering, braking or even leaning into directions, is far more detrimental and harder to recover from.
Try to remember this when jumping into a go-kart and you’ll soon find that every action you do on the track will be seamless and executed with ease.
Some Extra Food For Thought
So, now that I’ve gone over the most important things to remember when driving a kart while being a heavier individual, it’s time for me to drop yet another truth on you, dear reader:
None of the above things will inhibit you as a driver!
Everything I’ve talked about can easily be mitigated and controlled by driving well. And besides, there are so many factors that can totally flip these things on their head that I’d honestly recommend not losing sleep over these facts and simply keeping them in mind.
For example, indoor karting places will have totally different karts with different power outputs due to engine age and all sorts else. One of your beanpole buddies could hop into a kart which just doesn’t have the same power as yours, and you can wipe the floor with him; “the bind” be darned!
And in competitive racing classes across all parts of the world, you’ll find that weight correction is standard practice. Every driver will be weighed before a race and the heaviest driver will become the standard for everybody else to follow with weights being placed in lighter drivers’ karts.
Most of the things I’ve touched on, such as handling differences between light and heavy drivers, can be so nuanced that you won’t even tell. Truly, these are all tips to remember and be prepared for. Being a good driver will outweigh (ha, get it?) everything on this list every time.
There you have it, readers! A list full of things to consider when driving karts as a heavier individual, and loads more besides.
Remember that go-karting is all about having fun and racing in an exciting machine that’s full of thrills for people of all walks of life. Don’t sweat the small stuff! Head down to your local tracks and practice with these tips in mind and you’ll not only improve, but you’ll have a blast, too.