When starting out in go-karting, what helmet should you buy? What should we be looking for when it comes to go-kart helmets? We’ve created a helmet buyers guide on what will work & what won’t.
Helmets are probably one of the more expensive items aside from your kart package that you can purchase. People might be spending say five, $10,000 on their kart package and they go and try and save a few hundred bucks by buying a $300 karting helmet. Or they could go and spend 1,000 to $1,500 on a different karting helmet as well depending on the brand.
Let's look at some of the perks behind purchasing a cheaper helmet and some of the perks of purchasing a more expensive helmet. Now, with our cheaper brands, a lot of those brands have motorcycling brands that have ventured into kart racing as well. You are looking at the HJC brand that I'm thinking of. They do a respectable helmet and a cheap price.
Again, it gets you on the track. The safety requirements, they’re still there. Obviously, you must pass certain safety ratings to be able to manufacture a helmet. You can purchase a HJC helmet around the $300 mark for the cheaper end for our karting helmets. They come with some basic decal designs, so you can pick different colors, different schemes. They've already got their stickers on it.
Now most helmets come with a clear visor to start off with. What I notice a lot with kart racing, our budget/motorcycle helmets have a larger eye-port, where you're looking through from once you put the helmet on.
With more vision, obviously, it's pretty good for a kid to be able to see more when they're hitting the track for the first couple of times. One thing I would note that with the clear visors are, just imagine yourself looking into the sun with no sunglasses on. It's quite hard to see. The glare that you get when you're trying to drive a go-kart at speeds of say, 100 kilometers an hour, you don't want to have much glare. You want to be able to see clearly.
The first thing you should be doing is, whichever brand of helmet you're going to buy, is to get a tinted visor. Now, this is so often overlooked. We see people buying brand new stuff, brand new trailer. They've probably got 25 or $30,000 worth of stuff. Brand new helmet, brand new suit, brand new boots and gloves. Clear visor, kids looking, but they can’t see! You're coaching the kid and down the straight he's squinting. He literally can't even see. So you expect these kids to push the limit, yet they can't see where they’re driving.
No matter what helmet you get, if it comes with a clear visor, try and buy a tinted alternative. The other area where a tinted can come into play is when it's a little bit wet on track. Now, if it's raining, we want to go back to our clear visors because we want to see a bit more vision. If it's overcast and it gets too dark, then the tinted visor is going to be a bit too dark.
But when there's a bit of a shine on the track, so there's been a bit of water and it's mixed with the rubber, that glare that you get. Just imagine you're putting Polaroid sunglasses on, and you can see a different shade on the road. That really helps with identifying where the racing line is or where the shiny part of the track is that you'd want to stay off in the wet conditions. That's has another advantage of having that tinted advisor also.
Some of the disadvantages with purchasing a cheaper, more budget type go-kart helmet are, look, obviously they've passed the safety requirements and recommendations. I'm not 100% sure because I've always had pretty good equipment for my head. My dad was always big on, we've purchased a kart and engine. We've got all the gear, but let's protect the actual head. That's where the information is, that's what we need to protect. If you're going to drive fast and drive safe and drive smart, we need your brain switched on.
Budget helmets can take the force of a kart crashing and your head hitting the ground. But I don't know, I'd always tend to go towards the higher end helmet brand. Which is looking at the Arai, Bell, even the Stilo, which has got that technology coming from motor racing and it's more suited to kart racing with a slightly smaller eye-port.
Again, it's good and bad. I think the Arai probably has the biggest eye-port in their kart racing range. The SK6 is the model that I'm referring to. That's really good with cadet kids. Bell has a slightly smaller eye-port but seems lighter.
The other thing that people want to consider is how heavy the helmet is. That's where some of our budget helmets are because they are made with different materials, at a cheaper cost. Again, I don't know the exact weights on some of these helmets, but if you're carrying say two kilos compared to one and a half kilos, that's a lot when you are only 25 kilos, your body weight as a cadet.
You've got a six-year-old kid, seven-year-old kid, a cadet driver who only weighs 25 kilos, and you are thinking that you've got basically 10% of that body weight on his head. That's going to be quite hard to hold it up for his neck. Especially when you're driving 10, 15 laps at a time, holding up your neck towards the end of a race is going to be something that's quite important.
You either try or save yourself 500 grams by going to a slightly more expensive helmet. Then all of a sudden, the kid can drive for longer, can do more laps, he can concentrate for longer. When you're looking for some negatives for the higher end brands, it's that kids often mistreat their helmets. Let's be honest. They're probably going to drop it at some point, or it might be in the seat rolling around.
The other negative is that most of these helmets are purchased just white. Now, Bell does a range of helmets that are already pre-painted, obviously at an additional cost. They’ve got different designs that you can purchase depending on your color scheme of your race suit or your kart.
If you've gone and spent money on your kid's helmet and he's throwing it around, then you're not going to be very happy as a parent. Just be mindful of that, when you're looking to purchase a new go-karting helmet for your son or daughter, or for yourself in that matter.
If you're looking to get it painted afterwards or get decals, put on it, the cheapest way is to just get some decals. Now, there's people that are doing vinyl wraps nowadays, which you see from car vinyl wraps. Technology's improved, materials have improved, and they look pretty sharp. By the time you put a clear coat over some of these vinyl wraps, you can't really tell.
You're getting that at a fraction of the price of a helmet paint job. We might be looking at a vinyl wrap at say 400 to $600. And then you're looking at a paint job, which is anywhere from 1,200 to about three and a half, $4,000 depending on whether you're getting chrome or different effects put in.
Again, it's just, it's knowing what you're going to spend on your own helmet or your kid's helmet. Then work out whether you're going to get it designed, or you're going to leave it white.
One thing I recommend is getting a known brand for your helmet just so you know you've got that technology; you've got that lighter weight helmet. That's always really important for me. Make sure you get a tinted visor as well, just so you can see.
Then decide whether you want to get your helmet vinyl wrapped, painted, or simply left plain. If you look to get a paint job, you want to go a bit more extreme and have that personalized helmet. That's your profile, what people distinguish you on the racetrack by.