Ever since their conception in the late 50s, karts have come a long way and established themselves as a respectable discpiline of motorsports. Their easy learning curve and relatively low cost makes them the most popular choice for those looking to get into racing. Almost every racing legend in history has started their careers on a karting track.
Karts are open-wheel machines and despite their greatly improved safety and performance over the year, they are still dangerous and accidents happen even to the most experienced drivers. Most of the global companies that manufacture racing equipment also make karting equipment, ensuring that all drivers are protected on the track. Not only does gear offer you protection, it also helps your performance and comfort by a great margin. The most important equipement that you need in your karting gear bag is the following:
- Neck Brace (Protector)
- Rib Protector
Why is karting gear important?
The importance of karting equipment can not be underestimated. While leisure karts feature bumper guards around the wheels, more professional racing karts feature an open wheel design. This open wheel design, combined with the competitive spirit of races means that collisions could happen and in the most extreme cases; karts can even flip. For such accidents, it's very important that you're wearing the proper gear to ensure maximum protection. Also, protection is not the only benefit you get from wearing your equipment. A karting helmet will not only protect you but also isolate your head from wind, track debris and more; giving you a clearer field of vision. A racing suit will not only keep you protected but will also keep your body cool and comfortable. Gloves will improve your grip on the wheel and greatly dampen the vibrations coming from the kart (karts have no suspension, which means that you'll feel every single bump on the track).
Karting Equipment 101
1. Karting Helmet
Your most valuable asset on the track is also your most vulnerable. Head injuries, even the small ones, can have grave consequences therefore the helmet is usually touted as the most important piece of gear on the track. A good helmet will use high-strength materials that are not only durable, but lightweight as well. Helmets also feature comfortable padding and lining on the inside, keeping you comfortable on a track. There is a lot of research that goes into developing and manufacturing a helmet. A lot of them have multiple features that benefit your comfort such as an aerodynamic shell and ventilation that gets fresh air inside to cool you down. Karting helmets, just like karting helmets, have to pass through a certification process that includes rigorous testing; ensuring that it meets quality and safety standards. The two most important certifications are SNELL and CIK-FIA.
2. Neck Brace (Collar)
While the neck brace is usually an optional piece of safety equipment, it is greatly recommended that you wear one. The neck brace sits on top of your shoulders, between them and your helmet. They are usually feature an abrasion-resistant exterior and a foam-padding interior with multiple densities inside, helping to limit hyperflexion and hyperextension of the neck in case of an accident. Most neck braces will feature a buckle/velcro closure to ensure a tight fit around your neck.
3. Rib Protector
The rib protector is a piece of equipment that is designed to go around your ribcage, protecting them from vibration, impact and friction. Karting seats sit snug around your body and without a protective surface around your ribs, a karting session can leave your sides feeling sore for days. The kart's agile driving nature means that your body's weight is shifted sideways hundreds of times around the track, putting pressure on the ribs. This is why rib protectors feature a rigid outer shell and soft, comfortable padding on the inside. A velcro closure keeps it snug around your body and their ergonomic design allows them to be carried for long periods of time without impairing your range of motion and downgrading your comfort.
Another essential piece of equipment, the karting suit protects your body from abrasion and is usually built of tough, resistant fabric. Contrary to racing suits, karting suits do not have fire retardant properties as the karts are open wheel machines and the risk of fire is virtually nonexistent. The most important aspect of your karting suit is sizing and fit. It is absolutely essential that a karting suit fits you well, since a loose fitting suit will result in excessive movement and a tight fitting one will greatly reduce your range of motion. Most karting suits feature stretch panels on high range of motion parts of the body, ensuring that the driver is comfortable even during long races. Suits are usually fastened with a zipper and velcro straps to ensure it stays in place during the race.
A good pair of karting gloves will do so much more for you than protection. They will give you a better grip on the steering wheel as karts are notorious for the high amount of feedback running through their steering. Since karts have a stiff chassis, the vibrations run through your hands as you grip the wheel and gloves can greatly help dampen them. Karting gloves are made of durable, high-strength materials such as Nomex, providing both abrasion and fire resistance. Some of the best gloves in the market use outside seams, ensuring that no extra fabric is sitting between the glove and the fingers. This gives them a comfortable, natural feeling that is further enhanced by their specialized palm materials that greatly improve your grip.
A balaclava is very important for karting as it helps absorb the sweat coming from your head, keeping it from penetrating deep into your helmet's lining. These moisture-wicking properties of the balaclava keep you cool during long sessions and also help preserve the longevity of your helmet. By keeping you drier and cooler, they also greatly improve your performance and comfort on the track as well.
By wearing a specialized pair of karting underwear, you are drawing the moisture out of your body and helping it cool down. This can prove essential during long races as it can greatly impact your performance and resistance on the track. Karting underwear uses specialized materials that draw moisture away from your body and cool you down in the process.
A good pair of karting shoes is always made of a durable material, be it suede, leather or a woven fabric. Woven fabrics typically use technical materials that are supreme in terms of weight compared to natural materials such as leather or suede; while still providing great levels of safety and protection. Karting shoes feature a rubber sole that is specifically moulded for the use-case, ensuring that there's sufficient grip on the heels as well as a highly tacticle sole surface. This will allow you for greater control over your input on the pedals, which can prove vital when it comes to maintaining your pace on the circuit. All of these safety features are also implemented with comfort in mind, ensuring that the driver remains comfortable even during long sessions.