Hello. Looking to get started at 38

I would like to say hello. I’m fresh here, and do not yet own a kart. I will probably buy one after my next move in about 16 months or so. But i want to have a good idea of my direction at that time. I want to get back in to racing, and have been torn between going back to superbikes or doing some sort of open wheel like Formula Mazda. A friend suggested an X30 kart.

Where are you located?

The United States, specifically South Dakota and Texas, but probably soon Utah, Northern Nevada or New Jersey.

What age bracket are you in? Junior (<16), Senior (16+) or Masters (30+)

I’m 38

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your mechanical ability, or willingness to wrench on things?

  1. I always maintained my racebike myself, including changing the motor, adjusting the valves etc. I did have a friend do a frame swap once when I broke it in half, and I always have someone else build my shocks and forks.

Talk a little about your racing experience so far.

I have always loved cars and motorcycles. I spent 4 years doing constant track days and a bit of club racing on a dedicated SV650 track/race bike. I have not been active for 6 years, and it is eating my soul.

What’s the main thing you need help with to get you started.

I travel for work. I’m constantly changing locations for a year or two at a time. I need to know what type of kart will be eligible for a good number of classes all over the United States of America. I think I would like to start with an X30 if that is a good option. I know it is a good bit of kart for a first timer but I have about 50 track days and 6 races under my belt on 2 wheels so I am not exactly green to the world of racing either. I would also like to know if there is a master list of events, tracks, clubs etc for my country. So far I have not found one without massive gaps in information.



Typically I would recommend a slower class for a newbie, but you seem like you’re versed enough in racing and wrenching and at an age where you know your limits, so you would probably be fine starting in something like an X30. Be aware though, a kart on sticky tires with that much engine is going to be a whole different strain on your physically than other cars or bikes. No suspension and 2-3 Gs in the corner can beat you up, but you’ll get used to it. Certainly more intense than a Formula Mazda (and cheaper).

X30 is a good package with support across the country in terms of teams, shops, and available race series. It’s a fairly reliable engine, drives nice, and is a good go-to for 125cc racing. The only thing to be aware of is that karting is fairly regional and somewhat fragmented here, so before you invest, make sure whatever tracks you’ll be visiting have an X30 following so you have somewhere to race. There are pockets across the country that follow different rulesets or support different engine packages. But X30 is pretty universal so there should be somewhere you can race no matter where you go.

Even with your wrenching ability, it’s important to link up with some sort of local support so you have access to parts, tuning advice, etc. Once you figure out where you’ll land, we can recommend shops, kart brands, and or teams in the area who can help you get your feet wet.

I agree with TJ, X30 at Masters weight (usually 390ish) is a good option to start, but don’t be afraid to look into a KA100 or other aircooled 100cc. Just because it makes less power doesn’t mean the racing/fun level is worse.

Look at the entry list or results of your local track and see what draws a crowd. If X30 only has a couple masters, but KA has a big draw I would do that all day regardless of power. For example GoPro Motorplex, a hyper competitive club day track, always draws a high 20s to low 30s KA class, but X30 is down in the teens.

Good luck and have fun with whatever you choose!

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While I rarely (never) suggest one to a new karter, you may also consider a shifter. In my experience those with bike experience transition to shifters quite well. Shifters are also in some ways more flexible to the type of racing you can do. By this I mean you are not just limited to Sprint racing, but Road Racing (enduro, long course) is also an option depending on the area you move to. I know some guys who do both with the same kart. In some regards coming from bikes I would say a shifter will come more naturally because the line selection is more similar to what you’re accustomed. Where an x30 requires more sweeping lines and conservation of speed, a shifter often comes down to getting the kart into the corner, rotated, and straighter off to get the power down.

Where you end up matters, too. For example if NJ ends up being your home, there isn’t much 100cc stuff around here because our primary series (f-series) was 125tag.

If NJ is your ultimate destination, delay purchase until local. You will need to find a home to race out of and that is likely to be NJMP or OVRP. Ovrp program is pretty consistent but NJMP/Etown are going through changes as the f-series figures out its next move (no longer welcome at NJMP and Etown is turning into an Amazon warehouse).

I started in x30 (racing, learned on 100) in my 40s. It’s a gas but gets pricey with tires needed every weekend. I really enjoyed it, if I had a do-over, I woulda preferred to start in lower HP to be less of a passenger, initially.

TJ - Thanks for the heads up. I bet those lateral forces are like nothing I have experienced! A phenomenal street car does what, 1g? And with a bike you are leaning so it doesn’t feel like lateral force. I am interested in why you say it is more intense than FM. Keeping in mind that I have experienced neither. I will definitely try to be good to and in good with the vendors. I’m a great parts changer but I’ve never really been a set-up guy. I will definitely need help. I take care of the guys who support club racing. They are important.

Ricky - while I am not sure that I would want to start out in a shifter (I prefer slower bikes on the track, my racebike had 68 wheel horsepower) your reply made me curious. I have never been on a kart track but given that it is a little vehicle on a little track I just kind of thought of it as little roadracing. It did not occur to me that the lines would be significantly different between a shifter and an X30 or whatever. But if you have to sacrifice the line to keep the kart on the pipe, well, that makes sense.

Dom - Sadly I move too much to know at any given point where I will be in a year or two. My contracts are seldom all that long. I’m not too against having 2 karts for different uses if I enjoy it enough, but I will hold off buying until my next move for work. I’m hoping for Utah. Lots of Jeep stuff to do out there and on top of that I can do motorcycle stuff in California and Utah Motorsports Campus. And I would assume there is a strong karting scene in California too. Maybe Utah also, Karting seems like a family sport and those Mormons are all about family stuff. I fully understand the priciness of tires. Bikes are the same deal. I sure wouldn’t be against the idea of running a kart that would run on pump gas though. In my motorcycle experience the performance difference between 93 and race gas isn’t as big as the difference between someone who practices a little more and someone who doesn’t. But I don’t know if that is much of an option. And race gas smells good.


A good field is important to me. I am not just interested in track days, I most definitely miss the dogfighting. And I was on an SV650. I’m certainly not against racing in a lower power class. If anything I prefer it. But competition is the most important thing. I’m curious about the weight thing. I’m 205 pounds. Not little. Are those just minimum weights?


I usually race where most competition is. It seems to be 206LO (senior or master) where I live.
In SCCA that would be SRF3.
Both are reasonable cost and effort.
There is no point in racing when there are 2 people on the track in a class.
You want to be racing with 20-30 people at the same time at regional events.

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Things happen faster in a kart. Most drivers who move up the racing “ladder” comment on how slow the initial steps up the ladder feel compared to a kart. Plus a kart will out-handle almost anything until you get to REALLY fast formula cars. The cycle of energy in a kart is so direct and quick because there is no weight or suspension, everything is immediate. Pro-level drivers have often said that a kart is the closest feeling you can get to a high-level formula car like an IndyCar or F1 car. That’s why so many of those drivers train on karts in the off-season.

Just watch an on-board of a FM vs. a kart:


Up until IndyLights that was a common comment of the drivers I talked to. How less lively and fast the F2000 and ProMazda cars were.

I got out of the Road to Indy stuff in 2018 right when the new cars were introduced, but they are that much faster I would have to guess.

I didn’t start Karting until I was 40. Def not too late and still in the ballpark from a body weight perspective to make weight in most Masters class. You’ll find yourself building your body around min weight of the class because weight is everything in karting and much more than 5-10 lbs over min and you won’t be running for race wins in a competitive field. That said I’ve been 200-205 all year and made weight just fine.

I’m biased with KA100 as it’s simple, effective, fast enough and has good fields most everywhere these days. Masters KA fields are late adopters but growing in numbers all the time. Good news is if you pick up an KA to figure out karting and find yourself in an area that races 125’s you can bolt the 125 combo to your kart and go, don’t necessarily need 2 karts just because you don’t know what engine package will be raced at your next destination…2 engines is cheaper than 2 full karts.

I started on bikes myself way back in the day, hurt myself and moved into cars for a long time (HPDE and instructing for various organization) before the itch to race wheel to wheel at a higher level got me and lead me to karting which is more intense, generally has better competition and can be raced just about anywhere you want to travel any weekend of the year.

I never thought an injury would keep me down for long but after breaking 3 bones in T1 at Texas World i was just never as good. And ive been down at over 100 3 times. It’s a game of numbers. I like the 2 motors idea. Perfect.

I should probably drop some pounds.

Wellp, karting can make you thin (if you want to be fast). Also, it’s pretty infrequent to have significant injury karting. Never say never but for the most part, we walk away from our crashes. Sometimes, dragged away (looking at you TJ).

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unless you try to go karting without a rib vest…invest good money here, rib pain is miserable.

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What Andy said. My first karting day = bruised ribs.

Don’t be like me. Get a bengio.

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I’ve never cheaped out on safety gear. I might be rolling rattle can patched together fairings but never low end gear. :upside_down_face: Injuries are way spendier than safety equipment.

EDIT: Why is it every time I try to give a thumbs up it ends up a heart? Seems kind of intimate.

To add… I only have 10 or so track days in cars but quite a bunch in sim. My observation about the difference between karts and cars (even 1000lb lightweight formula cars I’ve driven) is the length of the energy cycle.

Karts, being light, shed energy very, very fast. (And can take in energy fast). Cars require time to accomplish the same result. It’s extremely noticeable when you lose traction and are trying to right the ship, which takes uncomfortably long in heavier cars.

In addition, cars feel laconic relatively, and do not drive kart like. High downforce cars feel more kart like.

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@KartingIsLife hes correct. Appears bugged. Try it.

+1 on Rib protection, it’s not optional, not wearing it will take you out for a long time

As for single speed vs shifter…good old debate, at the end you need to try both to figure out. Drive is completely different, but one is not better than the other per se. Traditional wisdom is usually to start small (e.g. KA senior then move up to X30 or similar then shifter, if that is your thing). BUT at 38, having work commitments and limited time, you need to consider sometimes priorities are different and reality is that if you can’t hit the track regularly you won’t be competitive in any category anyways, anytime soon. So if thrills is what you are seeking then a shifter may be the ticket. All that to say that the only way to find out is to try them, rent a X30 (or rotax, whatever is available) and a shifter back to back on the same day and see what you like best or feel more confident with (or intrigued by). A shop can help you with that, try to find one that is not ideologically bent in either direction

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That’s an interesting take. Frankly I don’t care about battling for the lead. I just want to be battling.

That said I have always felt like until I get a podium or two on a bike I have some unfinished business. But I think as I barrel towards 40 I just want to be back in the fray. A season spent not racing feels like a season that I just watched go by. I’m over it. :slightly_smiling_face:

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