You’re probably reading this article because you’ve decided to take the plunge into the exciting world of go-karting, right? Make sure you’re sitting comfortably and get ready to learn all about some great karts and what it means to be a beginner in this awesome motorsport!
So, what is the best simple go-kart for beginners? My personal recommendation would be the Birel RY30 model, primarily due to the forgiving nature of the 30mm chassis tubing and their overall wide usage across the US.
As I mentioned before, my personal recommendation won’t mean much when you consider the fact that there are a lot of different karts out there on the market for all drivers with any amount of driving experience. Let’s look at four rigs that’re perfect for beginners!
The CRG Heron
Chassis Price: $4,795.00 new
When you start karting as an adult, the best engine classification is the well-rounded 100cc variation. It’ll give you both a satisfying power output and manageable handling when compared to the slightly beefier 125cc, so it’s ideal for new go-karters.
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CRG definitely had this fact in mind when they made their Heron chassis, between its lightweight 30mm tubing and user-friendly ability to modify the kart any which way the owner pleases.
By definition, go-karts are pretty simple yet powerful bits of kit, but some manufacturers do a better job of making them easier to work with than others. CRG is one such company who wanted to introduce a kart that was ideal for those of us just getting started in the karting world.
Not only does this bad boy look awesome with its racing oranges and blacks, but it’s outfitted with great tech to make driving it an absolute breeze.
It isn’t exactly a light piece of kit, due to CRG choosing to implement cast-iron braking systems, but the stopping power that’s afforded by this choice is immense. You can feel safe knowing that you can stop on a dime if ever you feel uncomfortable while practicing, and as you become bolder, you can experiment with braking later into corners for great lap times.
Another great part of the brakes on this kart is the fact that they’re self-adjusting, so you won’t be stressing out at the track trying to adjust the brakes if they don’t feel quite right. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re above being maintained, it’ll just be way less to worry about.
The brakes will adjust with the correct pressure required depending on driving input, and if they’re overheating, the ventilated brake discs make it easier for them to cool off. Almost every part on this rig has a quick release function, allowing for simpler maintenance and part replacements. Easy to drive and even easier to look after? What’s not to love?
The bodywork is aerodynamic and helps with the kart’s cooling systems in order to deliver consistent speeds and longer drive times.
In short, you’ll have more time to drive and improve when you don’t have to make stops to cool off your brakes and radiator! And with the engine being in the 100cc category, you’ll have a wide variety to choose from.
For TaG racing series, CRG recommends the X30 (with restrictions), ICA, JICA, HPV and Yamaha engines. Like every other racing classification, the brackets are broken up into which engine type you’re running.
So, for example, if you pick an ICA engine for your rig, you’ll be entered to race in TaG ICA races. Because of this, make sure to do plenty of research into what engines are being ran at your track specifically so you can choose accordingly. It’ll suck if you nab a Yamaha engine and you realize that nobody is racing with them!
The Birel RY30
Chassis Price: $5,295.95 new
One of the nation’s favorite manufacturers, Birel have always been competitive when it comes to producing their karts. They’re very widespread and because of that, you can almost always find people running these rigs.
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Tried and tested over many years, the RY30 in all its iterations is a solid first rig for any beginner driver! Its lightweight chassis makes it perfect for both adults and teens, so if you have any kids around the age of 15, you can get double usage out of this choice.
As with the CRG Heron mentioned above, this kart runs best with 100cc engines which are perfect for people learning how to drive karts. They have solid power outputs without feeling too lively/ out of control; something very important for new drivers. The last thing you want to do is scare yourself, after all!
The Birel is very lightweight and easily adjustable in a lot of ways, which is all part of what makes it a favored rig for many go-karters up and down the States. You can transport it easily without fear of pulling a muscle which is always a bonus, because you need to be considering how exactly you’ll be getting to practice or race sessions.
Probably what makes it my recommended option above some of the others is the high representation of Birel as a brand at go-kart tracks. Because they’re very competitive and care deeply for racing, you can always find a representative from the company; an essential point of contact for spare parts or any repairs advice plus any other useful tidbits of info about tuning and the like.
Of course, this isn’t a guarantee for everybody reading this article! Check out your local tracks and see whether you have Birel representatives that hang around, and also see whether there’s dealerships within an easy driving distance.
If the answer to the above is yes on one or both counts, the RY30 might just edge into being the best pick for you. However, the price isn’t exactly the cheapest on this list of karts, and although you can easily find used chassis for far cheaper to save some cash, it might not be for everyone on budgets.
In terms of kart features, the Birel comes with a sizeable fuel tank as standard. Most tanks top out at 8 liters, which is perfectly fine and will handle fuel for races without more than one top-up necessary, but the RY30 has a 10 liter.
That extra bit of fuel can be pretty handy if you want to run for longer on practice laps, and starting out heavier in races can serve as an advantage in corners as you’ll have more downforce than your competition. So, while the kart is certainly simple to look after and run, it has a mean competitive streak at its disposal, too!
The 30mm tubing gives the chassis a little bit of ‘flex’, which might sound alarming at first. However, it simply means that the tubing is lighter-weight than its 32mm counterpart and, overall, you’ll have an edge in handling when compared to the stiffer tubing out there.
Engines are yet again a personal preference, and you can select between any of the standard 100cc varieties such as X30 and ICA, provided they fit with TaG specifications. It’ll not only make the kart easier to run with its touch-start, but you’ll have a better time finding races.
The Top Kart SR30.1
Chassis Price: $4,795.00 new
Engines: 100cc to 125cc
Another favorite kart brand in America, Top Kart have been outputting different karts to meet all kinds of needs for its consumers for many, many years. One of the very nice features of this kart that sets it apart from the others in the list is definitely its flexibility in choice of engine, being able to run both 100cc and 125cc varieties.
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You can use 100cc engines until you feel comfortable in your skills and either look at having it unrestricted to run at 125cc, or buy a new 125cc engine fresh to start racing. The choice remains with you on that front, of course, but it really is nice to have such a choice to begin with.
Top Kart boasts of this kart being easy and manageable for all go-kart drivers; beginner to advanced, which means that it can truly evolve along with you as you become more confident in your abilities.
Similarly made with 30mm tubing, this chassis allows for more flex while you’re racing and will increase your handling and therefore control over the kart.
It also comes with an impressive floating brake system, which means that the whole set-up is far lighter than a lot of other types due to possessing one piston instead of multiple. This isn’t to say that the brakes are better or worse, but certainly benefit from being lighter overall to add to this rig’s manageable weight.
Another handy feature that comes with this specific kart is adjustable torsion bars; in short, the kart’s suspension system. You are able to easily adjust the stiffness of this suspension to your personal preference, whether you want the ride to feel firmer (stiffer suspension setting) or softer (looser suspension setting).
When getting started, the former is preferable because it’ll teach you to feel the track beneath you far better.
With engine choice being far wider with this kart, you have quite the choice to make when picking out this rig! I would suggest choosing a 125cc engine and having it restricted to 100cc for you to start with, meaning you can get used to driving first before uncapping your engine’s full potential.
As such, you’ll be looking for X30 (unrestricted), X125T and Vortex RoK engines. If you don’t feel comfortable with this option (they are a bit pricier than 100cc, after all), you can just as easily pick out a 100cc variation and race with that to your heart’s content!
You can later tune it to 125cc or simply keep the 100cc if you’re comfortable with it and you want to practice and keep things casual. Before buying, of course, check in with your local tracks and see what classification people are using more often; 100cc or 125cc.
This will help in your decision as you really don’t want to be the odd one out because you’ll miss out on invaluable help, spare parts, hints and tips!
The Kart Republic KR2
Chassis Price: $4,595.00 new
Now it’s time for something a little different! The KR2 chassis from Kart Republic might seem a little unconventional as somebody’s first kart when you look into the manufacturer’s background as a pedigree-seeking race-specific company, but this model combines simplicity with competitiveness.
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Unlike the three other karts in this list, the KR2 is recommend to be ran with a 125cc engine specifically, which can be pretty intimidating for new go-karters. However, with proper care and a slow progression, this engine really isn’t any different to the 100cc varieties that I’ve covered so far.
It has a higher top-end speed, sure, but in lower speeds it handles much the same. If you’re a beginner in the karting world with goals of getting into racing earlier than most, I’d say that this chassis is ideal for you.
One of the nice features of this kart is the implementing of two different types of tubing. 30mm and 32mm are used together to mesh into both a flexible and sturdy chassis, allowing for those times where you spin into the barriers and also giving you great handling without compromise.
Although the build is lightweight and therefore easier to transport than a lot of different rigs, it weighs in heavier than a couple of the karts in this list. Not too heavy that you’ll risk injury by transporting it, which is great news!
The extra weight comes from the rear chassis having 32mm tubing, which allows the kart to sit better on the track and gain more traction compared to some of the other complete 30mm rigs out there. Let me tell you that it’s nice to feel as if your kart isn’t about to skid all over the track because the engine is too powerful for its light-as-a-feather build!
The KR2 also has an adjustable wheel base, which is a nice touch for its owners to lengthen or shorten it depending on their preferences. A longer wheelbase will give the driver more grip but slow them down on track a bit, whereas a slightly shorter wheelbase will let the driver achieve a slightly higher speed at the cost of grip in the corners.
With this and various other adjustable features for driver comfort, such as an adjustable footrest and a steering wheel designed to remain grippy in all weather, the kart is a solid choice for all levels of driver ability.
As I mentioned before, this kart only runs with 125cc engines, largely due to the somewhat heavier 32mm tubing requiring more of an ‘oomph’ for consistent speeds to be reached. Your typical choices will be either an X30 (unrestricted), X125T or Vortex RoK if you want to compete within TaG with a touch-start engine.
This kart is also very competitive in the Rotax race series, but I wouldn’t recommend it for beginner drivers. The engines that Rotax make are rather complex to say the least, whereas TaG-specified engines are easier to fix and maintain overall.
I might sound like a broken record by now, but take some time to check out your local karting scene to see which engines are the most common and which ones have dealerships nearby where possible.
How Much Maintenance Does A Simple Go-Kart Need?
Taking care of go-karts is much the same in single-speed classifications, which I’d absolutely recommend as your first ever kart and in general for beginners. Go-karts are sturdy, amazing creations, but owning one isn’t as easy as keeping it dry during rainfall and bringing it out for practice whenever you feel like!
Depending on how often you use the kart, your maintenance routines will vary. Whether you’re just practicing or racing will also be a huge factor in how often you need to do big maintenance activities, like draining the engine of fuel and oil, for example.
As long as you make a routine of checking things over, it’ll become like second nature rather than a chore. If you’re going to be the mechanic for your kart, I’d really recommend keeping the kart and engine manuals close at hand so you can read up on exactly what the manufacturers recommend, because it’ll differ slightly per model.
Otherwise, just use the following as a basic checklist:
- Change the oil: every 40 hours, more often on race weekends
- Inspect and clean the spark plug: remove the electrodes and clean them thoroughly, use graphite grease when putting it together. Do this every week or so. Replace the spark plug every year!
- Tire management: keep an eye on the treads of your tires and always keep three or four spare sets, minimum. Also set aside higher tread tires for wet weather
- Check brake pads & discs (for mechanical brake karts): keep two or three extra sets of brake pads to replace them when they’ve worn down
- Bleed the brakes (for hydraulic brake karts): do this every other week, or more frequently if you notice the brakes losing their responsiveness
What Safety And Other Equipment Do I Need?
Safety in motorsport is absolutely key. Not only will safety gear keep you safe against burns and impact when you crash, but it’ll actually help you in races due to the lightweight materials their made out.
As far as other equipment goes, you’ll need to make sure you have a suitable car to tow a trailer that can house your kart, and set aside a solid chunk of cash to buy spare parts and all the stuff you’ll need to keep it going (more on that below).
Below is a pretty definitive list of safety gear you’ll need as a beginner go-kart driver:
- SNELL-approved crash helmet
- Race gloves
- High-top race boots
- Neck brace (optional)
- Rib protector (optional)
- Race suit
- Waterproof over-suit
Budgeting For Go-Karting
Everything will depend on the kart you’ve decided to buy and where you live, but one of the most common questions I’m asked by beginner drivers is just how much everything costs.
There’s a lot of things to consider that most don’t even think about; everything from fuel money for your kart, race fees at tracks, membership costs at tracks and tools needed to make repairs to your rig.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exact costs, so I’ll lay out a range of what you need to remember when it comes to budgeting for your year of go-kart driving:
- Spare parts: $500 to $2,000 per year. Think of everything from engine parts to spare bodywork; it’s a wise idea to have something spare for every component of your kart.
- Race gear: $200 to $1,000 per year. This will depend heavily on whether you buy second-hand or brand-new. To save some cash and be on the lower end of the scale cost-wise, I’d recommend buying your suit, gloves, boots, rib protector and general gear second-hand, whereas your SNELL-approved helmet should almost always be new or barely used.
- Track membership & race fees: $200 to $800 per year. Variable dependent on your area and local tracks. If you aren’t looking to race, practice sessions will be cheaper. If you go less frequently, you can look at the cheaper side of this estimate. Races and organized events are more expensive.
- Maintenance tools: $50 to $300 per year. You need at least a set of metric wrenches to get a grounding for your kart toolbox. Everything else will be kart specific.
- Kart chassis: $1,000 to $6,000 each. Depends very much on which brand you choose, and whether you buy used or new. Need to be picky when buying used, with the chassis not bent out of shape in any way.
- Kart engines: $500 to $4,000 each. Varies dependent on the manufacturer and whether you’re buying used or new. Used engines are always a gamble, so I’d recommend you try to buy new where possible, or be very good at reconstructing them so you can repair a used one!
It’s my ultimate hope that you budding drivers out there have learnt a good deal of new information regarding the purchasing of a simple go-kart, and also take my tips about safety and budgeting to heart for the future.
Whether you want to simply experience the joys of karting at a steady pace or you’re getting ready for races, remember that the sport should always be fun above all else!