Whether you’re starting out with go-karting or you’re a seasoned veteran, you’ll know that karting can be dangerous and can make you feel sore and sick. That said, there are pieces of safety equipment used in go-karting that can prevent you from getting injured. I’ve already told you about neck braces, so today, I’ll focus on go-kart rib protectors.
Like neck braces, rib protectors aren’t essential for most karting races. However, as of 2022, you won’t be able to join any official FIA-CIK without one, as the FIA announced in late 2021. So, while I’m definitely not at a level to participate in such championships, it’s good to see that the FIA is taking steps to ensure the safety of karting racers.
That said, I’ve not used a rib protector yet, but I have seen a couple of drivers using them at my local track. So, alongside my research, I’ll include all the information they told me below. This comprises of what to look for when you’re buying a rib protector, how to find the perfect one and three go-kart rib protectors that stand out.
What to Look For in a Go-Kart Rib Protector
Despite seeming very simple at first glance, go-kart rib protectors come in various shapes and forms. So, it’s best to know what you’ll need to look for in one before making the final purchase. In case you’re in the market for a rib protector, I’d suggest you also visit a local karting shop to try some of them out.
Go-kart rib protectors are very versatile. Some rib protectors will only protect your ribs, while others can function as chest or lower back protectors. As a person who has had a long history of lower back pain, I can ensure that a rib protector would help me reduce that when racing. But, I haven’t had any issues in any of my races yet.
That’s why you’ll need to acknowledge why you need a go-kart rib protector. If you have no issues with your lower back or your chest, but you have had a rib injury when karting, then you should opt for a vest that just protects your ribs. But, if you want to be completely safe from any impact, then you should take a look at protecting vests for your entire torso.
As with every other piece of go-kart equipment I’ve mentioned, the material that a go-kart rib protector is made from is crucial. After all, if the vest was made from cotton, it would be nothing more than a tank top.
Most rib protectors are either made from Cordura or Kevlar. Cordura has great abrasion resistance, which means that if you slide across the track after a crash, you should have no significant injury. Kevlar is relatively similar to Cordura, albeit being much more durable and, thus, more expensive.
There are also brands that make their blends for go-kart rib protectors. Some of the most popular ones are Nitrix and DRI-M, which are robust materials. That said, these are also used for sports other than karting, including Supermoto.
Comfort is essential, whether you’re looking for a pair of go-kart gloves or a go-kart neck brace. The same is true for rib protectors. It can be bothersome to wear a go-kart rib protector that’s uncomfortable, especially during a long race or qualifying session when you have to stay focused on the track.
The majority of go-kart rib protectors have interior padding and straps so that you can adjust how they fit around your body. However, comfort is subjective; something might feel comfortable to me, and you might hate it. So, it’s better to try out a rib protector for comfort before you wear it in a race.
The closure is as essential to go-kart rib protectors as it is to go-kart neck braces. Unlike most other gear, the rib protectors have three different closure systems: Velcro straps, Buckle system, and D-ring straps.
Velcro straps are pretty straightforward, and the closure system is identical to the one for neck braces. These are usually better than other options because you can adjust how tight or loose the equipment is. However, you’ll always have to change the length of the straps correctly; otherwise, the rib protector might be too tight or too loose around your body.
Buckle closure systems don’t allow for much adjustability, but you won’t have to adjust the length every time you wear the rib protector. Most buckle mechanisms are made from plastic, which makes them prone to breaking.
D-ring straps are the best of both worlds. While you’ll need to adjust the length of the strap each time you wear the vest, the straps are very secure and safe. Plus, they’re very durable since the D-rings are made from metal, and the straps don’t go under too much strain.
A go-kart rib protector’s purpose is to keep your ribs protected in case of a crash. So, the additional features that are offered aren’t really appealing, like you’d see in racing suits.
That said, some extra features of rib protectors are the full vest versions, which keep your upper body protected, the padding on the interior for comfort, perforated ventilation, and some are made from highly lightweight components. I explain all of these more in-depth below.
The design is always a factor to look out for, no matter what type of go-kart equipment you want to buy. However, you won’t be able to show off your style with rib protectors since they have to be worn under your racing suit.
On top of that, most of them come in single-color designs. But, there are rib vests (which cover your upper body and ribs) that have a sporty design, like the vest from Bengio I mention below.
Once you’ve found your ideal go-kart rib protector, I can guarantee that you’ll be startled to see the price of it. While a rib protector will keep you safe no matter how big of a crash you have, it’s very odd to see the lower end of them costing around $80. And, you can imagine how surprised I was when I saw some of the official FIA go-kart rib protectors costing more than $200.
But, if you’re an amateur like myself, you’ll probably find a nice rib protector for around $100.
That said, there are several factors that you’ll need to consider when you’re looking for the perfect rib protector for you.
How To Choose the Perfect Go-Kart Rib Protector
All the factors I mentioned above are the basics that you’ll find on every go-kart rib protector. But, when it comes to professional go-karting, you’ll need to have the best equipment on the market. Or, if you’re just a beginner, you won’t need anything more than a simple rib protector to keep you protected.
Either way, here are some secondary factors that you should keep in mind when you’re about to buy your first go-kart rib protector.
SFI or CE Certification
Safety is everything in motorsports. Every piece of equipment in go-karting needs to be certified by a specific governing body, whether that’s a homologation from the FIA or a certificate from the CE or the SFI.
When it comes to go-kart rib protectors, you’ll need to make sure that they’re certified by the CE or the SFI. If the track organizers find that your rib protector isn’t licensed, you won’t be able to participate in official races while wearing it because it isn’t guaranteed that it’ll protect you.
Obviously, not having a certified rib vest shouldn’t be a problem if you’re taking part in local championships.
Unlike the certification, I mentioned above, having a lightweight rib protector is vital. Every pound matters in go-karting, and even the slightest of changes in weight distribution might make your go-kart undrivable. Plus, if you’re lighter than everyone else in the race, you’ll be at a more significant advantage.
On top of that, imagine having a rib protector putting strain on your upper body. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the one piece of equipment that’s meant to make you less sore ends up hurting you even more?
Breathability is vital when you’re racing go-karts. After a bunch of races under my belt, I can assure you that if you don’t have good ventilation while you’re racing, it becomes an absolute nightmare. There’s literally nothing worse than sweating profusely during a race. So, whether it’s a racing suit or a go-kart rib protector, you’ll need to buy them while keeping the breathability in mind.
This is why you’ll need to look for a rib protector that has parts made from breathable materials. I should also mention that if the rib vest is too heavy, it can also make breathability much harder since you’ll be put under too much strain.
Once again, comfort is the most crucial aspect of a rib protector, alongside breathability. If the rib protector doesn’t fit you, or if the style is uncomfortable for your body type, then you’ll end up having less fun while you’re karting. Plus, you won’t be able to focus on the actual race since you’ll have to find a comfortable position, which can make you a moving hazard.
That’s why you should look for go-kart rib protectors that have interior padding so that it feels comfortable around the ribs. But, you’ll also need to find a rib vest that has good-quality padding on the inside; otherwise, you’ll be paying extra for something that’s uncomfortable.
The primary purpose of a rib protector is to protect you. So, imagine wearing a rib vest during a race that feels like a brick and is as fragile as glass. Not only would it not protect you, but it might even make you feel sorer after the race.
So, apart from finding a go-kart rib protector that feels nice, you should also look for one that’s made from great materials that disperse impact evenly. The optimal rib protector should be robust on the outside but have enough padding on the inside to absorb the force of the crash.
Everything I just mentioned is essential to know, especially if you’re about to spend $100 on a rib protector. But, you might wonder what some of the best go-kart rib protectors on the market are.
My Top 3 Go-Kart Rib Protectors
A general rule for purchasing a go-kart rib protector is to try out different ones at a local store. A rib vest might look comfortable, and it might be made from robust materials, but it doesn’t mean that it’ll feel good around your body, nor does it ensure that you’ll be able to wear it during a race.
A couple of drivers at my local track told me that they tried out several rib protectors before purchasing one. I also read reviews online where drivers couldn’t correctly fit the rib protector they bought on their bodies because the straps weren’t flexible enough.
That said, the three go-kart rib protectors I mention below are the ones that stood out from what I was told by racers at my local track, as well as reviews online. If you want to buy one, you should try them out at a store first and purchase them only if they feel comfortable and robust.
Best Overall Go-Kart Rib Protector: Alpinestars Bionic
The Alpinestars Bionic rib protector, along with the one from K1 I mention below, were the ones that my fellow racers told me about. This one from Alpinestars is considered one of the best go-kart rib protectors in terms of the value it provides.
The outer shell of the Bionic is made from high-density Cordura, which is excellent in terms of durability. Unlike the other rib protectors I’ll mention, this one uses D-ring straps as its closure system. While some people don’t like them, I think that D-ring straps are the best ones to have.
On the inside, there are two different layers, which is great. The entire frame has padding and EVA, a material with impact absorption properties. Add to that the abrasive-resistant properties of the Cordura, and you’ve got a killer rib protector. The rear of the vest is perforated, so the ventilation is excellent.
Best Premium Go-Kart Rib Protector: Bengio Bumper Carbon Kevlar
If you’re about to participate in an official FIA championship, then the Bengio Bumper Carbon Kevlar is your best option. Since rib protectors have become mandatory for FIA karting championships, the options for certified rib protectors are limited, and this one from Bengio stands out.
For starters, the Bengio Bumper is made from a mix of kevlar and fiberglass, making it highly durable and abrasive-resistant. On the inside, there’s shock-absorbing foam, which is very comfortable and disperses any impact adequately, as well as protecting you from the vibrations of the go-kart.
Every rib protector is also hand-made by the Italian team of Bengio. This is also why each one will set you back around $250, but you’ll be able to wear it on any karting race worldwide.
Best Affordable Go-Kart Rib Protector: K1 Race Gear Karting Pro-Lite
The K1 Race Gear Pro-Lite is the best affordable go-kart rib protector for beginners like myself. It doesn’t have any additional features that you can find on the two rib protectors above, but it does its job perfectly.
As I was told by a fellow racer, the best thing about this rib protector is the way it fits. It doesn’t have a traditional closure system, but it has an elasticated band with velcro straps to suit you, no matter what your body type is. The height of the rib protector can also be adjusted by D-ring straps.
The outer shell is made from hydro-foam, while the inside is coated with a foam mesh lining. These aren’t the best materials out there, but they do their job. It’s a great deal when you consider that this one costs less than $80.
That’s all I had to say about go-kart rib protectors. While they are good in terms of safety, they’re not that popular due to their high prices. But, considering that the FIA made them mandatory for their official karting races, who knows if they’ll become necessary for official races in the next few years.
Stay tuned for more articles just like this one!
FAQs For Go-Kart Rib Protectors
Do you need a rib protector for karting?
You must wear a rib protector if you’re participating in an official FIA Karting Championship. Otherwise, rib protectors aren’t essential for karting, even though they provide the benefits that I mentioned above.
What do rib protectors do?
Rib protectors protect your ribs and upper body in case of a crash. As I said above, there are some rib protectors that can protect your whole torso.