Shifter or single speed?

Columns: Zoom
A dilemma that affects people approaching karting but also those who already have some experience and want to try something different. (M.B.)

Another kart driver's dilemma, in addition to the choice between hard and soft tires, is to choose a kart with – or without – gears? To unravel this discussion, an issue for endless shop talk, say with a brew, we went to the track on a day of free practice to talk directly with drivers - recreational and competitive – who have already asked themselves this question.

What emerged is that those who race with a KZ (shifter kart) at an amateur level, often (but not always) started racing karts at a later age or with a brief experience with single-speed karts (some even started immediately with KZ). The kart with gears, as we know, is much more expensive and physically demanding; in fact, it is driven with one hand for half the time on the lap (unthinkable to "keep it" without physical workouts, training) and consequently the driving style also differs a lot from the single-speed, making shifters more similar to a car (remember that shifter karts also have front brakes). One of the positive aspects of the shifter karts is that if you make a mistake in a turn or corner you can always shift down a gear... With a single-speed kart, there is less chance to correct or fix a mistake, for example. Most of the drivers we interviewed, to be honest, always recommend starting with a single-gear kart, a real driving school for "clean" driving, especially to learn the rudiments of kart driving, such as racing lines, cornering. Shifter karts, being faster and more powerful, are perhaps more of a challenge for the "new entry" driver, attracted by adrenalin-pumping emotions and powerful sensations, but it is also right to remember that an OK’s cornering speed (top category of single-speed) is difficult to match on a KZ (and even on the straight it’s not like they go slow...).

From the point of view of used, second-hand karts, it is easy to find a shifter kart (perhaps dated and not very performing) at truly advantageous prices, especially for an amateur, also as there are more on offer compared to single-speeds, KZ being the most popular of the shifters. On the other hand, however, the management and maintenance of a shifter kart is more expensive due to more frequent engine maintenance overhauls even if, of course, it always depends on the use you make of it ...
Clearly, an international season of a single-speed will be higher than an amateur’s shifter kart, but with the same engine, the gearbox category is certainly more expensive (although as mentioned you can find very advantageous used cars compared to single-speed). If in the single-speed, especially in the regional championships (even non-ACI, Italian Automobile Club, or their federal counterparts) you can choose to opt for the "senior" categories to reduce costs (especially in the various single-make proposed), in the shifter categories the equivalent is the KZN. It should also be considered that the stresses on the chassis and tire wear are also greater for a KZ. Then there is another factor to consider, as we have also said in other articles, namely that the gearbox category is now considered the premier class, of professional drivers (10-15 years ago it was the opposite), and why many are attracted to KZ: a sort of natural completion of a karting career with the advancement of age/experience (the age we are referring to is 16/18 years). The single-speed, in other words, is considered less "adult", albeit with some perplexity of ours.

Last observation, literally no small matter, is linked to the physical size of the driver: whoever has a certain weight /height will surely find less handicap on the chronometer on a shifter kart. A driver already over 70-75 kg, for example, would find it difficult in queen categories such as OK. For this reason, very often single-speed categories that are heavier by regulation have been opted for.

Are you still undecided? The only way to decide is to try both of them, possibly in the order we have suggested and keeping in mind the reflections proposed! Remember though that if you are a "self-made man" with a KZ you will always need someone to give you a electric starter!

Created by: fmarangon - 25/02/22

Browse by Columns





SIM - Racing Simulator




Stay tuned!
Sign up for our mailing list