When I got into karting last year, everyone seemed to consider the Bengio rib protector as the best on the market. The sentiment sounded like everyone buys a cheap rib protector and then they eventually get a Bengio when they crack a rib. So, I picked one up and have been using it ever since. However, I’ve been dealing with quite a bit of rib pain and injuries on my left ribs all year. What made it hard to figure out was the pain was actually happening on the front part of my ribs just below my sternum. The side of my ribs were totally fine. This confused the people I was talking to about the issue because rib injuries in karting seem to be primarily on the side of the rib cage, not the front edge / sternum.
I changed seats from a standard OTK style seat to a NEK Modular seat. The new seat supports my 6’2" frame a lot better. However, changing seats was not enough. Whenever we ran our local track clockwise, that same front left rib area would get injured just from the cornering forces (no crashes). I was feeling super defeated because I figured I had the “best” rib protector on the market and a new high end seat but I was still in a ton of pain.
This weekend In the pits, I was explaining to my wife where I was hurting and showing her with my bengio on and it all clicked. The Bengio rib protector is very stiff and has a very pronounced curvature to the side panels. Because of the curvature of the left side panel and the shape of my rib cage, the front edge of the side panel curves a bit inward (e.g., starts curving in towards my ribs). When pressing on the side of the rib protector to demonstrate the cornering forces to my wife, I realized that when the side panel is pressed in, the front edge is pressed in right on top of the ribs I kept injuring in the front!
So, at the track on Sunday, I tried on a Greyhound rib protector that a local shop had with them. Its design is very similar to the Tillett P1 rib protector. Unlike the Bengio, the rear panel of the Greyhound is a big velcro panel which allows you to independently reposition the angle of the side panels. This allowed me to angle them a bit outward so the top of the rib protector was wider than the bottom (v shape). Additionally, the curvature of the side panels is less pronounced while the panels themselves are also a bit longer than the Bengio (both are size Large and the “correct” size for my measurements). All this meant that when pushing on the sides of the Greyhound, the front edges do not dig downward into the front of my ribs!
I was sold (and desperate) and bought it on the spot. I threw it on and went out for my next session. FINALLY!!! I was 100% comfortable and could actually lean into the seat when cornering without pain. I was still a bit sore from the prior day’s practice wearing the Bengio but was able to drive six sessions yesterday and finish the weekend without increasing the pain. Woke up this morning and am in no pain beyond a bit of dull soreness! I’ve never tried a Tillett P1 but the Greyhound is a very similar design and $130 cheaper.
Anyway, just wanted to give my experience on here so that it may be useful if anyone else is searching for a solution to a similar situation. I’ll still use my Bengio for rental karting as the forces are way lower and I wear my rib protector on the outside of a T-shirt usually. I’d imagine that the suede exterior of the Greyhound would get destroyed if exposed directly to the seat bolts in rental karts. So, the Greyhound is staying under my karting suit when sprint karting and the Bengio will be relegated to rental races.
TL;DR: Everyone’s bodies are different and finding a rib protector that fits you well is critical. Just because 90% of the grid is wearing a particular model, does not mean that same model will work best for you.