Neck braces are a fairly controversial piece of equipment in karting. I don’t use one when I practice at my local track, and I haven’t seen any adults using them either. However, the karting academy at my track provides kid drivers with neck braces. So, I wondered why that’s the case and why adults aren’t offered any.
Neck braces aren’t essential for go-karting, whether it’s a professional or a recreational race. Unlike karting helmets and karting suits, there are cases where go-kart neck braces will make your karting experience much more dangerous. Thankfully, after extensive research, I didn’t find anyone who got seriously injured from a neck brace.
Go-karting is already dangerous enough, so any piece of equipment that makes it more dangerous shouldn’t even be on the market, right? Well, as I’ll cover below, there are types of neck braces that will keep you safe and others that might be a hazard. However, let’s first look at what you should be looking for when you’re buying a go-kart neck brace.
What to Look For in a Go-Kart Neck Brace
Since I didn’t have the chance to talk to a driver who wears neck braces on the track, all of the information I gathered is from forums and the track organizers at my local track.
A go-kart neck brace must be comfortable and sturdy; otherwise, it will be a burden rather than a piece of safety gear. Most racing neck braces are made from a sturdy outer casing to withstand a heavy impact without breaking.
The magic happens on the inner casing, which is made from padded foam. This is used purely for shock absorption reasons, and the thickness of it determines your neck’s range of motion (which I explain below).
Range Of Motion
From my experience, I’ll acknowledge that you have to constantly move your head throughout a race. Apart from focusing on how to approach a corner, you’ll also have to look for passing drivers, overtaking opportunities, braking points, possible debris on the track, and much more.
To do all of that, you’ll need a good range of motion in your neck, which isn’t that easy with certain neck braces. Some of them are firm and tight around your neck, which leads to a reduced range of motion.
This won’t only affect your performances, but it can become dangerous. So, you’ll have to invest in a go-kart neck brace that provides enough range of motion around your neck.
There are two closure systems that are used by go-kart neck braces: Velcro and Buckle. Both of them work similarly, but they have their benefits and drawbacks.
Velcro straps are similar to what some go-kart gloves have. The main benefit of a velcro closure system is that you can control how tight or loose the neck brace is around your neck. It’s also very secure, and you can readjust it quickly.
Buckle closure systems are generally really safe. The buckle is located at the front of the neck brace. Unlike velcro straps, most buckle neck braces don’t allow you to adjust them, so they might be too tight for you.
Like any other piece of go-kart equipment, go-kart neck braces are a way to show your personality. Go-kart neck braces come in several colors and shapes. While the latter can affect your performance, the color and the design of the neck brace don’t affect you at all.
Before you buy a neck brace, you should find the shape that fits you best and ensure that it’s made of good materials. Once you’ve got that in the bag, you can choose any color or shape you want.
Neck braces aren’t full of features like go-kart gloves and go-kart suits. After all, a neck brace is meant to save you from a massive crash and feel comfortable, so any additional features would be unnecessary.
That said, some additional features of go-kart neck braces include sweat-absorbent fabric around the collar and SFI-certification for those of you who want to wear them during an official race. I also found some neck braces with dual closure systems, which provide greater safety.
The price point is always important, whether it’s a helmet or a pair of go-kart shoes. Neck braces are no different, and I was amazed to find many of them costing as much as go-kart gloves.
Go-kart neck braces prices range from $30-$200, depending on their features and the material they’re made from. Most professionals opt for ones that cost around $100 because of their features and comfort.
Should You Wear a Go-Kart Neck Brace?
As I mentioned above, go-kart neck braces are pretty controversial. Some racers would advise you to always wear one, while others are against them being allowed for official races.
From my research, if you’ve got a proper go-kart neck brace, they’ll save you in case you get into a nasty accident. It’ll also prevent you from minor injuries, like whiplash and overstretching your spine.
That said, most cheap go-kart neck braces offer a minimal range of motion, which can be dangerous when you’re approaching a corner at top speed. Also, neck braces aren’t as tested as the HANS device used in F1, so there’s not enough research to guarantee that they’ll save you from getting badly injured.
As I said, I’ve not worn a neck brace just yet, but after asking the track organizers at the track where I race, I figured that they’re not essential. Cheap ones tend to be a hazard rather than a safety measure. That said, there are drivers out there who can’t participate in a single race without wearing a neck brace. So, there’s no definitive answer on whether you should wear a go-kart neck brace or not.
My Top 3 Go-Kart Neck Braces
Like any other piece of go-kart equipment I review, I tried to find some products that people like and tell you about them. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any suggestions from fellow drivers at my local track, so all my research was done online. Before I go on, I need to clarify that I’ve not personally used any of the three go-kart neck braces below; however, I consulted professionals on karting forums who have been using these for years.
So, let’s check out some of the best go-kart neck braces on the market.
Best Overall Go-Kart Neck Brace: EVS Sports R4
The EVS Sports R4 is the best go-kart neck brace in terms of value. While it costs around $100, it provides many neat features that justify its price point. Before I tell you about them, it’s worth noting that many professionals loved how comfortable the R4 is.
This neck brace is made from foam rubber, which allows for a large range of motion, and provides a lot of comfort around the head. It has the best closure system since it utilizes an adjustable buckle, which secures your neck and can be as tight or loose as you want. It’s also very lightweight for its size, weighing in at 1.4lbs (635g).
Best Premium Go-Kart Neck Brace: Valhalla Racing 360 Plus
The Valhalla Racing 360 Plus go-kart neck brace is the best that the market has to offer. It’s the closest go-kart neck brace to a HANS device, which goes to show how safe it actually is. But, keep in mind that it costs as much as a full suit and gloves.
The 360 Plus is one of the only neck braces that’s not purely made from foam. It’s made from glass-filled nylon, which provides the best neck support. The foam patches on some parts of the neck brace are reasonably stiff so that you don’t get injured. On top of all that, the neck brace is very comfortable because the foam pieces are adjustable.
Best Affordable Go-Kart Neck Brace: EVS Sports R2
The EVS Sports R2 is a very popular pick at the affordable range. It’s priced at around the price of regular foam donut-shaped neck braces, which are known for not being very safe. But, its shape is unique from a design and safety aspect.
The R2 is made from polyurethane foam. Yes, I don’t know what polyurethane is either, but I do know that it’s soft and comfortable. Plus, it’ll prevent you from getting any minor or severe injuries while you’re racing. On top of that, it weighs less than 1 lb (283 grams, to be exact)!
That’s pretty much all I had to say about go-kart neck braces. While they’re unnecessary, you should try some of them out and see if they make your racing experience safer and more fun. Because, after all, go-karting is meant to be fun!
Stay tuned for more articles just like this one!
FAQs For Go-Kart Neck Braces
Do I need a neck brace for karting?
No, wearing a neck brace isn’t necessary for karting. However, there are professionals who don’t take part in races without the neck braces that I mentioned above.
Can you use a HANS device for karting?
No, the HANS device isn’t meant for karting. If you want something that will provide similar safety to the HANS device, then you can take a look at the Valhalla Racing 360 Plus, which I reviewed above.