Pressure point from rib vest - what are my options?

Hello everyone! I am a new karter in Colorado, and since taking delivery of my KA100 I’ve managed to turn about ~150ish laps in the last two weeks. Two full practice days, a short practice day, and then a race day as well. I am having some issues with pain in the lower front left of my rib cage, and was hoping to get some advice from those who have been down the same road!

After my second practice day, I began to notice a specific point of pain in my ribs on the lower front left of my rib cage. I am currently wearing a FreeM aluminum protector (size 2, I have a 40" chest). The issue persisted through my third practice day and also the race day. The right side of my ribs, while a little sore, are doing much better. This could partly be because the track we were at is clockwise with lots of high speed right turns (turn 1 is about 3 seconds of 1.7g sustained at 55mph).

However, I also noticed recently that there is a part of my rib cage on my left hand side that “sticks out” a bit more than on the right, and this area is where the pain on my left side is originating from. I have included a sexy picture for your entertainment. The area circled in black pen is where my ribs stick out a bit, and it’s where I am getting sore from the FreeM.

Unfortunately, this area is just about right where the leading edge of the FreeM is at, so it doesn’t seem like an easy “remove padding from this area” modification (at least to the FreeM). I’ve gone ahead and ordered a low profile seat bolt kit to see if that can help reduce any potential pressure points, but I feel like it’s the one-piece nature of the side panel on the FreeM that cause the side pressure to be translated to that raised area on the front of my ribs.

I have started looking around for rib vests that either may not wrap around as far in the front, or that wouldn’t translate pressure on the sides to pressure on the front as significantly as the FreeM. It seems like the ribtect vests (specifically the original vest) may be the way to go, as the side protection is not all one piece, so I can’t see pressures on the side translating as harshly into the raised area on the lower left front of my ribs. How is the comfort and protection of the original ribtect? Based on the issues I have described, does it seem like a choice worth trying?

Does anyone else here have asymmetrical ribs, or a side of their rib cage that sticks out more than the other side? Did you have pain only on that side when karting, and if so, how were you able to remedy the situation? I think it’s an isolation game of making sure that small area doesn’t take the majority of the blows from pressure on the left side of the seat. I am in a Compkart seat, size 4 and it is snug with my FreeM vest on but not tight. I did the first two practice days in a T8 that was too small for me (kinda tough to breathe), so that may have contributed to the issue a bit at the start (some soreness in sternum), but the soreness in my lower left ribs feels due to a pressure point from my rib vest and/or seat hardware, as that area where my ribs stick out a bit is the area that is the most sore.

Absolutely LOVING karting so far (and the Colorado group of racers is FANTASTIC!!!), but not a huge fan of this pain! It’s definitely an issue I need to resolve before I get back in the kart. I could tell it was holding back my pace from about halfway through practice 2 onward. Hoping I’m not the only freak with some ribs that stick out, and someone has been through this before and can steer me in the correct direction.

Thank you all for your help, and I very much look forward to being involved in the KartPulse community!



Ok so I have the freem and I have similar issue. Fit no so great on my body as well. Rides too high and side panels too curved.
Try a different one like the bengio bumper.

If you really want to solve rib problem, get a deepseat or ribtect seat. That is what fixed it for me, moreso than the rib protector.

1 Like

Welcome @KSchmied!

Have you had a chance to check out this topic? It won’t address your question on the pressure point directly, but might give some insights on the options available and what people have found to suit them.

I’ve tried the FreeM when I had rib issues and I didn’t like it. My Bengio Bumper is the only vest that alleviated all the pressure points and it’s the only thing keeping me racing to this day.

1 Like

Another thing that can help are flush mount hardware bits. Ribtect sells a kit for 85 clams that is as flush as you are gonna get.

Seriously though, get a deepseat. Everything else is bandaids on the problem.

Thank you everyone for the replies so far (and for moving this to the correct forum).

Dom, I have ordered the ribtect low profile hardware kit for the seat and will give that a go. I think from a general comfort standpoint it will be good to have anyways, as those stock bolts stick out pretty far.

My preference in sorting this out is to go from cheapest solution to most expensive, so I’ll be doing the bolts, maybe some seat padding, and probably a different rib vest before I consider the ribtect seat itself, but it could totally come to that in the end.

James, thanks for sharing that thread. Some great advice in there, but it does seem to be a pretty individual thing as well. Someone mentions that the curvature on the tillett is not “fixed” like the FreeM. That may be my contributing to my issue, because I originally started with a size 1 FreeM and noticed after wearing it at a rental race I had soreness that I never had when without a rib vest. I measured my chest and determined I got the wrong size, and so went with the size 2 thinking the curvature on the size 1 was too “small” for the size of my chest and it was “pinching” me if that makes sense. So, it may also be the shape of the curve of the side panel of the FreeM rather than the fact that it is all one piece (which would give me more options).

TJ, is the side curve of the bengio adjustable? What did you notice most when going from the FreeM to the bengio?

Ok makes sense. I went down same road and tried a variety of protectors, some more effective than others, but ultimately it’s the seat that made the difference.

We both have same issue. Notice that your injury is low… this is because the way the standard seats work is that the top edge of the seat is impacting at about that same level. By having a higher side/top to the seat, it won’t dig in anymore. You’ll still want a comfortable rib protector, but having a larger seat surface area to distribute the g’s will alleviate the problem.

I have both Bengio and Tillett latest rib protector P1.

Bengio offers great protection but it destroy your race suit. The back side curve start to chew thru race suit in about 1 track day with my body shape. Totally comfortable while in kart just ruins your suit. I let a buddy use it and he eaten a few more cheeseburger and has round barrel shape and it doesnt seem to chew into his suit. Bengio are kind of hard to size site unseen and sizing chart not really accurate depending on your body shape. I purchased a large based on sizing chart but probably needed a medium in reality.

You can wear it on outside but you look like a “fred”.

I opted for the tillett p1 in medium as it is bit more adjustable for fit curve and shape of your chest but not as burly as Bengio. Much kinder to race suit and I am happy with level of protection.

I destroyed my ribs two years ago and have not had any issue with Tillett P1. Steve at Tillett is pretty quick to respond and give you sizing info and general recommendations.

I still need to fine tune seat to find one that fit me a bit better but at 200$ a copy I going to use up the current one first!

In my humble opinion I think seat has alot to do with rib issue also. They need to be way smaller than you think you need. I am fairly new to karting at 2 years in but the seat got to be almost uncomfortable tight when stationary as it amazing how much the seat and your body flex/move when on track. If seat feel ok and not a little snug when stationary it way to big and you will destroy your ribs. Speaking from experience. Secondly you got to really work on strength muscle in your ribs/core.

If you have 40 ish chest and your in a size 4 seat it way to big. I am similar size and imaf 3 seat was way to big in chest and I destroyed my ribs. You will find Tillett has more range of seat sizes with stuff that falls in between traditional sizes. What sucks is it a expensive experiment.

The Bengio isn’t adjustable but it’s not super stiff, so it conforms to your rib cage pretty well. The padding is like memory foam. The thing I like best about it is it’s all smooth, no fancy design highlights or weird sculpting lines that end up being pressure points. Where the two side panels meet the spine panel is also a really smooth transition, which is where my main issues were with other vests. I felt like that was where big pressure was happening with the Ribtect and FreeM.

@Jamie_Gonzalez, the compkart seat size 4 is equivalent to a OTK size 3 if I have understood the sizing correctly, so while it’s a bigger seat it’s not the largest. With the FreeM and my suit on, I still have to squeeze into it a bit. It holds me snug, but is not tight. Snug enough that I abandoned putting the sparco padding on, so I have an unused sparco seat pad kit I could use to fill it out if a bengio or tillett protector is much less bulky than the FreeM. The way the size 4 fits, I really wouldn’t wanna go to a smaller size 3 (OTK size 2).

Ok that makes sense. I did not realize compkart seats are smaller.

@Jamie_Gonzalez, what is your chest measurement? I ask because if I go with the Tillett, I’m on the fence between a medium and a large. I almost wanna err on the side of large so that the front of my ribs gets more coverage and there’s less chance the leading edge of the protector stops right at that raised point on my ribs. How “wrapped around” does the medium Tillett fit on you? How much gap in the front between the panels?

Can you compare the foam inside the Tillett with the foam of the Bengio? I like how TJ mentions that the Bengio padding is like memory foam. Is the Tillett foam similar? TJ, have you ever tried the Tillett and could offer a comparison as well? If you can offer any insights, which foam is more dense, and which is thicker?

Looking more at my options, I am considering the ribtect original less and less. The separation of the panels might actually contribute to pressure points vs. alleviate them. TJ makes a good point about the sculpting lines inside the FreeM, and I kinda look at the ribtect the same way now. I think a smooth foam (Bengio or Tillett) that isn’t TOO dense that has some type of memory capability (to open a little more space for that rib on my left) would be ideal! I like that the curvature on the Tillett is adjustable as well.

I haven’t tried the new Tillett, but I had the old Tillett P1 when I popped my ribs originally. The new one seems a bit more robust.

Bengio is hard composite with padding. The tillet is some sort of kydex hard plastic covered in suede. It is still very rigid but has some flex. The padding is similar on both. I think the padding is a bit thicker on bengio.

The back panel is held in place with velcro on the Tillet so you can adjust how you want it to fit.

I would have to double check on chest size but I am 38-39. By Bengio size chart I should be a large but I dont think that is correct. 38-39 chest is a medium. Steve at Tillet recommended a medium.

The gap on bengio large is very small between panels on my sternum/ribcage. The tillet in medium has nice gap with some range of adjustment.

Buddy and I are very similiar build and height and he about 15 pounds heavier from extra cheeseburgers and beer he is really happy with fit of bengio in large.

It sucks but try to find a shop or online place that will allow you to return after try it on. Almost no way to fit these 100% with trial as very dependent on chest shape.

Thanks Jamie! Like your buddy, I also enjoy myself some cheeseburgers and have a bit more of a gut than I’d like. I like that you say the Bengio in L doesn’t have much gap in the front so there is less chance of the vest “ending” on that raised area on my left side as well. The only authorized dealer I’ve found in the US for the Bengio (for online purchase) is Italian Motors USA, but they state that all sales are final and there are no returns. Anyone know where I could buy the Bengio with a return policy in case it doesn’t fit right? My local shop doesn’t carry Bengio or Tillett (just OMP, FreeM, Ribtect, and Sparco).

I believe CPI karting in PA sells Bengio. They’re currently redoing their web store, so I can’t confirm.

I would call Italian Motors and explain situation. Claudia and Claudio are pretty helpful and they may make an exception.

I know OVRP stock the bengio stuff and I would call and speak to Colleen to see if you can order and return. She is great and always helfpul.

Orlando kart center is also a dealer. I stopped in when I was in Florida to pick up some Bengio kart shorts…great idea terrible fit. Legs length and waist are not in proportion for normal humans. Size 32 waist you need to be about 7 feet tall to fit the length of large short. Medium you need like a sub 28 waist and 6 feet tall!!

I was getting my ribs murdered by my IMAF Silver seats and K1 ribvest, in pain until the next race and then started over again. Bengio Bumper Carbon and a NEK Modular seat solved every bit of it. Jecko Seats are the same and I think IMAF makes a Modular, too.

My Bengio Shorts fit great. They’re meant to cover your hips, so they’re made to be worn like Urkel!

1 Like

I figure this thread could use an update!

After looking around a bit for the Bengio with no luck, I went to a local kart shop and tried on the ribtect 4. It fit really well and the side panels didn’t end on that raised area of my ribs, so I bought it and gave it a shot. It was definitely less thick and bulky compared to the FreeM, but provided adequate protection. However, it soon became obvious that the rib vest wasn’t the problem. I tried to pad the seat in several areas, and tried both .5" thick foam (the sparco seat pads) and something much smaller, about .2" thick, when I realized the thick sparco pads were squeezing me too tight. I tried the seat with just the bottom and back pads (no rib pads) as well. The .2" pads worked well for being so thin (these are the ones I used), but really didn’t change much. I was starting to wonder if I needed to make a bigger change.

Then 10 days ago at a practice session I felt a pop on the left side of my ribs, and my back began hurting something fierce an hour or two later. It hurt so bad that I could hardly walk or close a door. Being that this was the second time I’d been to the doctor in my two months of karting (bruised ribs, over and over, and now a pulled back muscle), something needed to change.

I emailed Tim at DeepSeat a few days after I pulled my back muscle and spoke with him about the seat and the sizes. I had tried on a ML ribtect at a local shop (without a rib vest on) and it was HORRIBLY tight. We agreed the 15.5" DeepSeat was the way to go, so I ordered it with express shipping so it would be here in time for the last race of my season (colorado karting tour).

The seat came in on Wednesday and I mounted it on Thursday. I was still sore in the back and ribs and decided not to practice on the seat before race day. I was hesitant to do this, since I had no idea how the seat would feel or handle, or whether it would agree with my body and actually be a help rather than a step backwards. As recently as yesterday (one day before the race) I was doubting my ability to drive in the race. My back felt particularly sore, and I feared that I’d get a few laps into the day and “pop”. Thankfully when I woke up today (race day), I felt a bit better so I took some ibuprofen and off I went.

The track we were racing at is Unser Karting Centennial Colorado (used to be known as “the track at centennial”). In a KA100, mid 58’s is a good race pace for the lead of the pack. While I know the track very well as it’s my “home” track (I got into karting on their rental fleet), I didn’t know it very well in the KA100. My best after the 30 laps I had coming into today was a 1:00.5 (was a cool morning, probably similar to today).

In morning warm-up, I managed a 59.9, and I wasn’t following anyone so I wasn’t driving “their” line. After fresh tires for qualifying, I managed a near 59 flat. In my experience, new evinco blues are worth about .5 seconds (the tires I was on before qualifying today weren’t TOO worn out… maybe 50 laps on them total)… so that means I picked up at least a full second from being more comfortable in the kart.

And the best part? I was able to race all day with only minor discomfort from my previous injuries. Even now at home, when I would normally be cursing myself and reaching for the ice pack… I feel fine! I was so hesitant to try the DeepSeat since it’s a pretty big jump from the “norm”. But I can’t believe how hard I was able to push today and NOT pull a muscle or bruise my ribs! And best of all, from what I can tell… the seat had no negative effect on the karts handling. If anything, the seat really allowed me to just let the g-forces happen and focus on braking points and turn-in and exits. I wasn’t hesitant on the big-g turns, I wasn’t afraid of the curbs, and I was able to get through the last race of the season, on two-month-old injuries WITHOUT doing any more damage.

Seriously. Dom, thank you for the recommendation. TJ, thank you for having an amazing family that makes such an amazing product!

A few pics of the seat :slight_smile: