Custom kart decals

Things have been a bit quiet on the track front; either race organisers were booking events 300 miles away or they were booking them the day before one of Junior’s ‘A’ level exams 😉 Since neither ticked my strict ‘can we race this weekend?’ requirements, there has been a but of a lull. The kart has been prep’ed and is ready to rock and roll. It has had a complete brake overhaul following our spinning out of the final at Hooton where Junior never really found the brakes to his liking. I’ve topped up on some spare parts and bought a new (used) bumper for the first time *ever* and I thought that I might spend some time on the blog. Junior is in the process of saving for a paint job for his new lid so now seemed like a good time to put together some guides for those looking to customise their on-track appearance. Welcome to Part 1: Custom Decals 🙂

Here is the starting point:

Our race debut at CPKC, three years ago!

The thing about kart decals is they need to look good. I spent hours in Photoshop putting various designs together in a bid to find something that struck a chord. Initially I was thinking ‘red Tony Kart Variant’ but it quickly became clear that Junior wanted to keep with the British racing green theme that we inherited when we bought our first kart.

Looking (and failing) to find something that we could build upon…

Having worked on custom decals, racesuits, race gloves and helmet designs, I can only tell you that you’ll normally know the second you see that magic design that really hits the spot. Unfortunately, these weren’t really doing it. Turns out custom decal designs are quite hard. Then, when searching for inspriation, I saw this and I knew…

The Caterham CK-01

It turned out that Caterham had planned to start their own budget kart series based around an in-house chassis design and an X30 engine. It went by the wayside when the Caterham motorsport arm collapsed although the karts they had made were sold when a large chunk of the F1 team’s assets were subsequently auctioned. I hadn’t really wanted to simply copy someone else’s design but this was the design that Junior wanted from the moment he saw it. Their kart even featured the FP7 nosecone that I was intending to move to (simply because I thought it looked much cooler than the M4 at the time).

Now I needed to find someone to print the decals. Kart David are one of the biggest kart decal printers in the UK and they are local so they were the logical choices. At that point I needed to get my requirements onto one of their templates. You can do as little or as much of this as you like; the printer will do the design for you if you are struggling or you can employ a designer such as Hilleard Digital Media, whose work I can also recommend. One of my concerns was that the colours wouldn’t be *exactly* what I wanted. I didn’t want there to be any room for misunderstanding, so I was pretty explicit about my requirements 😉

When you know, you know

There was a fair amount of toing and froing but the results were really pleasing.

Farewell nice, new decals! :/

I’m not sure we’ll ever really change the design although the carbon fibre effect was new and improved in v2.0 when we moved to Extreme. I was initially concerned that it made the decals look too dark so had Kart David produce a proof featuring a couple of alternative shades (that we decided against):

v2.0 of the decals feature a carbon fibre effect. I like! 😉

When we had the first decals made, I was a bit wary of fitting them myself so had Kart David do that part also (for a small fee). It would have been fine though; the soapy water and hairdryer method has subsequently worked very well for me.

This bodywork lasted exactly one month! :/

In summary, you need to:

1. Really know what sort of thing you want. Search the internet for inspiration. Save images of existing decals that you like so that you can give any designer an idea about what you are after.  The more you give them, the closer their initial design will be to your ideas.

2. Find a decals printer that has templates for your bodywork and work with them. Don’t be afraid to ask for changes (I’ve always hit double digits for version increments!).

3. Kiss goodbye to those shiny, new decals the second the adhesive dries!

 

Buy cheap, buy twice

I’m the sort of bloke who likes to do things his own way. I’m do look for different/better/cheaper ways of doing things. Sometimes I am very happy with the outcomes: the FP7 bodywork, custom decals, changing to an Alfano ADM. S but sometimes these things don’t pay off, action cameras would be a good example. Having tried an ActionPro back in 2013 that just wasn’t up to the shake-athon that is karting (the waterproof case broke, as did its replacement), I had bought a Sony for Christmas. I had high hopes for this but it, too, failed to cope with the demands of karting. Whilst the picture quality with the image stablisation was comparable to that of a GoPro, it appeared to suffer from an issue whereby the vibration was moving the battery sufficiently to power off the unit! My success rate in actually recording a session was around 20%. Then there was the problem that camera lacked a fully functional tile mount and I had to bodge a solution myself. It was a good job that I have GPS on the Alfano too, as the Sony’s… well, let’s just say you wouldn’t have recognised Llandow! The Sony went (quite literally) on eBay recently; when an item goes after 45 minutes you know it was probably underpriced! I have an option of a 4k GoPro loan whenever I need it so we’ll see how that goes.

Another purchase that didn’t pay off was a recent purchase of a box of Walbro carb kits from the US. $4.99 a piece was a great price. Too great in fact as the kits were non-Walbro. So much for the Walbro logo on the image!!! Another heading-straight-to-resale purchase :/

Switching topics completely, I was miffed to find Junior’s steering wheel turned out to be bent and in need of replacement. Luckily one came up on UK Karting and, on the day I was going to contact the seller to haggle a price, it was relisted with a £50 reduction 😀

Deja vu? I had expected the last one to last a little longer if I am honest :(

Deja vu? I had expected the last one to last a little longer if I am honest 🙁

Spent since last post: New OTK steering wheel £90

Total spent this year: £2,168

Five more minutes of fame!?!

After the visitor surge courtesy of The Kart Bandit, I was contacted by Karting Magazine who were interested in me writing something for the magazine. This was both exciting and fear-inducing in equal measures; it isn’t every day that you get an offer to write for national magazine but would I be able to write stuff that people who are paying for a magazine actually want to read??? It’s one thing to write a bunch of ramblings in a blog but this felt like there was much more at stake. We agreed that I would write for a three month trial period to see if it worked for both parties. I wrote a piece on the costs of karting, sent it off and heard no more until BOOM – it’s been published! 😮

So what is it like? Well, the magazine increased their font size after I submitted the article and had to cut out around 150 words, the result being that it doesn’t really flow like I intended (it took me a long time to get it down to 650 words and still keep some semblance of the story!). Does it still work? I’ll let you be the ultimate judge.

Now I have to start planning next month’s article…

 

Push starting a TKM Direct Drive engine

It was really nice to see some noob JTKMs practising at Clay on Friday who were either first or second time out but, in the damp conditions, spinning was inevitable and I found myself becoming the Push Start Guardian for the morning. I didn’t mind, it’s a JTKM Dad rite of passage 😉 Each time I helped a Dad get their lad going, I’d look around to see him on the floor as his lad drove off(!) so here are my tips on how to start and direct drive engine without tasting the tarmac…

Firstly, it’s documented in way more detail than I will offer on Karting1.co.uk in their post ‘How to Bump Start a Kart‘. I’ll just summarise the basics and the golden rule:

In your pit bay, you need to properly prime the carb. To do so:

  1. Disconnect the short piece of fuel hose from the small overflow tank
  2. Disconnect the long piece of fuel hose from the carb
  3. Blow into the short hose until fuel runs out of the long hose (that is connected to the fuel tank but no longer connected to the carb)
  4. Reconnect the long hose to the carb
  5. Remove your spark plug (but leave it in the spark plug cap and sat on top of the engine to avoid any potential for electrical damage)
  6. Remove your airbox
  7. Cover the carb with your hand and rock the engine-side rear wheel back and forth to draw fuel into the carb until you feel the fuel on the hand covering the carb
  8. Your preparation work is done – you’ve done your bit to ensure that there is minimal air in the system. Optionally, you are ready to fire up the engine with a handheld starter if you seek additional piece of mind. Obviously, you want to replace the spark plug before doing so (and you will find that you will leave it out and you will look daft when you try starting your driver – it’s just one of those noob things!).

Now push is going to come to shove, quite literally so with the kart on the grid…

  1. Get the driver to lean forward (it helps lessen the mass you’ll be lifting)
  2. Hold the rear bumper in the right hand (which will be doing most of the lifting)
  3. Hold the back of the seat with the left hand (which won’t be doing much lifting)
  4. Lift the kart – you don’t need to lift very high, in fact the lower the better
  5. GOLDEN RULE: LOOK UP, NEVER LOOK DOWN!!!
  6. Run as fast as you can for 5-10 yards
  7. Drop the kart down
  8. Keep pushing until it picks up. Driver will need to feather the throttle pedal until the engine starts to pick before accelerating away.

An engine with a properly primed carb should not require ‘choking‘ but an unwilling engine can be helped by the driver placing their hand over the airbox trumpet momentarily to increase the fuel to air ratio. Do this too much and you will flood the engine!

There is one other tip that I found helped us greatly (when we bought the kart it took a long run to get going and, after this tweak, it took a matter of yards). It’s a little more technical so please seek expert advice if you are unsure!

You can help yourself by ensuring that your carb butterfly is slightly open so that, when you hold it up to the light, you can just see daylight around the outside of the butterfly. This is the butterfly:

TKM_Carb

It is adjusted by the idle adjust screw as illustrated on p27 of Tal-Ko’s BT82 Parts and Drawings Guide. It’s worth emphasising that inappropriate changes to carbs can be seriously damaging to your wealth! Again, if in any doubt, please ask a more experienced TKM mechanic.

Hope this helps!

Karting information for noobs

I’ve noticed that a couple of my kart chums now link my blog on their karting1.co.uk signatures; I am honoured, Gents 😀 But I realise that it might be hard for noobs to see the wood for the trees amongst my ramblings 😉 So, if you are new to the sport and are looking for the helpful stuff, here is how to find it. Either:

Just click here. Or…

Scroll down and look for the ‘Categories’ section on the right hand side, then click the ‘Where to start’ link. That’s as good as it gets right now but if you’ve any questions, feel free to post…

ScreenShot160

Buying a kart (2nd Edition)

This comes up a lot on the forums so I thought I would update the articles I wrote on this in February and March last year! So what do you need to consider?

It is worth pointing out firstly that, if you are new to karting, you aren’t going to take all of this in straight away – it’s hard to write a guide that doesn’t bamboozle newcomers but is complete at the same time! Read it, learn from the forums (Karting1.co.uk is a very friendly place for noobs to ask questions), talk to some kart owners at the track, start to build up an idea for what you want – things might be a little clearer when you return!

1. What class of karts are raced at your local track or what are your mates driving?

Even if you have no plans to race now, you should bear this in mind. Why find that you need to replace everything in 9 months once you are bitten by the bug and want to start racing? Visit the local tracks on a practice day and chat to the other owners – you’ll find they have much more time to chat on a practice day compared to a race day. Ask everything and anything but bear in mind that everyone will have a different opinion – what works for one driver will not necessarily work for you! Contact the local kart club to get some expert advice and ask if they run open days where potential new owners can test drive a kart – why turn down the chance of a free go? Of course, if you already have mates who are owners then this may well answer this question for you.

2. Set your budget

Before you can go about finding the right kart, you need to set your budget. A Formula TKM kart from 2009 will start at around £600, a RotaxMax-engined kart nearer £1000 (if you are considering Rotax, you need to know that the engines must be sealed by a licensed engine builder if you are considering MSA racing). You can obviously spend more and look at much newer karts. You will also see older, cheaper karts around, many of which will be described as TKM 100cc karts. The key is whether the kart has a Tal-Ko BT82 engine – if not, you are looking at a much older engine for which part availability may be limited, as may your race options.

When I use the term ‘TKM’ from here on, I mean Formula TKM…

3. I’ve picked a class but how do I buy the ‘right’ kart?

Your options will be to buy a complete kart which just needs you to add fuel or a rolling chassis (everything except the engine) where you must source the engine parts yourself. The benefit of the former is that you can arrange to meet the seller at the track and test everything for yourself. With the latter, you can more easily perform a visual inspection (of the chassis without the engine mounted) but you won’t get to feel how it handles and, when buying the engine, you will really want to see it running to be sure it at least fires up ok.You may also need to source the carb/exhaust/starting system separately.

4. I’m going TKM, what engine type should I get?

You have three TKM engine options: Direct Drive, Clutched, TaG (Touch and Go). Direct Drive is the cheapest and simplest but the downside is that it needs a push start – either doing it yourself (and then jumping in) or having someone to do the pushing. If you can overcome this (it’s easy once you know how, apparently!), then you’ll find troubleshooting a whole lot simpler. Bear in mind though that, if you spin out on track, the engine will cut out and you will need to push start yourself once again. A clutched engine uses a centrifugal clutch and requires an external starter. If you spin, the engine should not cut out. Both Direct Drive and Clutched engines will have either cast or CNC-machined cylinder liner ports. Cast ports were used on the older engines. CNC-machined ports feature on engines after serial number 6500 (and all TaG engines) although you cannot use the engine number alone as a guide as the previous owners may have swapped the parts around. CNC-machined engines are generally considered to be better and command a price premium.

A TaG has a touch-button start system using an on-board battery. The wiring loom for TaGs has seen numerous upgrades, each more reliable than the previous version – you will want to know the age of a TaG engine and also whether the loom has been replaced at all. Because of the loom and battery, there are some tuning modifications to the TaG engines to offset the excess weight.

Engine prices for Direct Drive engines will fall into one of three categories: non-CNC £250-£350, CNC £500-£600, an ex-Super 1 (the national race series) engine (with some proof to back up any lofty claims) £750-£1000. Bear in mind that a new Direct Drive engine costs £1200, a Clutched engine £1300 and a TaG £1650.

5. What make of chassis should I get?

This is all a matter of personal preference. If you are buying from a manufacturer or trader, you can test drive the options and see what feels best. You may find it really boils down to availability of spares – is there an on-site shop at your preferred track and, if so, which manufacturers parts do they stock? Will you be buying replacement parts direct from the manufacturer or looking to buy used from eBay? There are plenty of options but you’ll find that OTK (a brand that encompasses the TonyKart, Kosmic, Alonso and Exprit brands of kart) parts are by far the most commonly available in the used markets.

6. Where should I buy?

You have a few options here. You can buy new or nearly new karts direct from the manufacturer. Obviously, this is the most expensive option but you should be confident of getting a decent piece of kit. You can buy from a trader – they are generally very helpful in making sure you get something that suits you, you’ll have some comeback if you encounter problems in the short term and, if they are based at the track where you drive, you’ll have a source of assistance in those times of need (and there will be plenty). You can buy from an individual – either through contacts i.e. the local club, via one of the big two UK kart forums (www.karting1.co.uk and www.karting.co.uk – the latter tends to have a more active ‘for sale’ area) or via eBay. Avoid eBay if possible – that’s the place where the karts that haven’t sold anywhere else end up. It’s a great place for spares but not necessarily for karts and engines. You may also see retirement packages up for sale from time to time; these can offer very good value for money and the spares can prove to worth their weight in gold in the long run.

7. How do I avoid buying a dud?

If you are new and do not have expert friends, it’s very hard to be certain. Buy from a trader would be the easy advice. You need to ask the right questions but, even then, you will ideally need to visually inspect the kart and then test drive it.

8. What questions should I ask?

  • What make, model and year is kart?
  • Where/when was the kart last used/raced? (you can lookup the previous results on the club’s result page and check for DNFs if you are as paranoid as me but also be a little wary of a championship winning chassis – they won’t necessarily have had the easiest of lives)
  • Is the engine Direct Drive, Clutched or TaG?*
  • What is the serial number of the engine?*
  • When the engine was last rebuilt and by who? (you can verify this with the rebuilder)
  • Does it have a cast or CNC-machined barrel?*
  • How many hours since the last rebuild? (a TKM engine needs a rebuild after 8-10 hours and cost between £300-£400!)
  • On what bore is the engine? (TKM engines have a range of bore sizes, the maximum bore size for a Junior TKM engine is 51.40mm, for a Senior TKM engine it is 54.75mm. The point here is that, if the engine is on it’s final bore, it may be needing a new barrel at the next rebuild and that’s not cheap)*
  • Is the chassis straight/when was it last checked?
  • Does the chassis have any cracks/re-welds/rust/flattening? (yes to any of the above will heavily impact the value of a chassis)
  • What size rear axle does it have? (30mm tend to be found only in older karts, 50mm is the standard nowadays, converting from one to the other will cost extra)
  • What sized seat is included? (if it isn’t your size, you’ll be needing to buy one before you get out on track)
  • In what condition are the tyres?
  • What is the condition of the bodywork?
  • Exactly what spares are included?

* TKM specific questions – I am sure there will be other questions specific to other classes, it’s just that I cannot help you with them!

9. What are the essentials?

You will need:

  • An external starter (if going TKM Direct Drive or Clutched)
  • A kart trolley – to push your kart from the pits to the track
  • A data logging system (Mychron or Alfano) – the Mychron 4 is generally recognised to be the best of the affordable bunch
  • Some fuel cans, preferably different colours (one for mixed fuel, one for unmixed)
  • Fuel filters

10. What spares do I ‘need’?

You will want spare:

  • Tyres
  • Hubs
  • Sprockets
  • Chains
  • Carbs

You might want to consider spare:

  • Axle
  • Bodywork
  • Stub axles
  • Track rods
  • Bearings

11. What about perishables?

  • Chain lube
  • Carb cleaner
  • Brake cleaner
  • WD40/GT85
  • Engine oil
  • Brake fluid
  • Fuel hose
  • Mechanics gloves
  • Cable ties
  • Hose clips
  • Nuts/Bolts

12. And tools?

  • Spark plug spanner
  • T-Bar socket (for wheel nuts)
  • T-Handle Hex/Allen Key set
  • Ratchet spanner set
  • Snippers
  • Screwdrivers
  • Hammer
  • Rubber mallet
  • Metal ruler

Feel free to post questions or suggest improvements 🙂

One year on…

This weekend just gone was one year since I naively took my first steps into 2-stroke karting. I had been talking to the Clay Pigeon Kart Club folk about getting Junior down to try out a 2-stroke kart. In my mind, it was nothing more than a chance for Junior to drive a fast kart after his Arrive/Drive exploits. It was a fun day, even if Junior was *ultra* slow – that’s him in the site banner photo – I always thought it made it look like he was ducking inside some seniors but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth! I had absolutely no intention of buying anything.

Twelve months and £4,255 later…

Our first test day!

We had our first test day during the recent school holiday. I spent the evening before getting everything together. When I bought the kart, I was struck by how much harder bump starting had been compared with the Venom we had rented for the day. I had started the Venom with relative ease but the EVR was another matter altogether – the seller and his son had done all of the pushing after my initial lightweight effort merely repositioned the kart at the pit exit but it was hard work and the sight of them disappearing around the pit straight bend (a misnomer, if ever there was one) was a little concerning. Also concerning had been the need to lift the back end high, nose dragging, bumping it down hard and push harder for as long as it took! My previous starting experience had been so much nicer – lift a little, drop down and run 10 yards. Anxious to avoid any ball busting push starts, my friendly local expert (cheers, Mark!) had come over to check out the carb and recommended leaving the butterfly (throttle valve???) very slightly open to ease any starting woes. With the remote starter battery charged and my two 5l cans of fuel filled with Shell V-Power (after I had verified with the pump attendant that V-Power was the Shell Super Unleaded!), I figured I had everything set.

It’s funny how all karting preparation takes so much longer than you think; I had planned to set out at 08:00 so that we could get down to Clay by 09:30 and be ready to roll when the track opened at 10:00. My pre-flight trailer checks took an eternity and we arrived 45 minutes later than planned, making four unscheduled stops enroute: one to remove the kart and trailer covers, which were clearly not planning on staying on the trailer for much of the journey, and three to shift the kart after it kept hopping sideways on the trailer. Note to self: do the ratchet straps up as tightly as they’ll go otherwise the kart will move (I had been trying not to stress the frame overly). We got the track in glorious sunshine – it was probably the nicest day of the year so far and I was hugely relieved to see my aforementioned friendly local expert, who had decided to bring his lad after all – thanks again, Mark 🙂 It was a day for the noobs – my son has two other friends who have started karting this year and we arrived within 10 minutes of each other and set up camp. Fearful of screwing anything up, I had typed up the following list of things to do!

1. Fuel mixing (5l:300ml):
1. Add 300ml oil to 5l petrol and shake well
2. Put a paper filter into my filtering jug and fill the 3l tank

2. Carb settings:
1. Run the low jet at 2.5 turns
2. Run the high jet at about 10 mins past

Note: The low jet is screwed in at zero and then rotated clockwise in half turn movements. The jets screw IN clockwise then OUT anti-clockwise. Screw it clockwise until it touches, then just wind anti-clockwise.

3. Chain/sprocket:
1. Use the 82 sprocket unless he is passing 15k, 79 might be more appropriate in dry conditions

4. Tyre pressures:
1. 14psi for slicks in colder conditions and 24psi for wets
2. Go up a psi or two if it gets colder, down if it gets warmer/lap times drop
3. Minimum 9psi for both

5. Starting:
1. Remove the spark plug and sit it on top of the engine
2. Remove the airbox
3. Remove fuel pipe from carb
4. Blow the fuel through until it’s almost at the carb
5. Replace fuel pipe
6. Cover the carb whilst rotating the axle and hope to see the fuel being sucked into the carb
7. Replace everything
8. Start the engine on the trolley using the remote starter

6. Bump starting:
1. Lift
2. Run
3. Drop
4. Push
5. As kart starts to fire – light acceleration
6. Lightly choke if still not going
7. Couple of stabs on accelerator if needed

I know that some of the above would be considered sub-optimal – we ran a large sprocket when we bought the kart as my son really struggled to get the revs up on the straights and the tyre pressures fairly high as he wasn’t getting any hat into them.

Prepping a kart seems to take 90 minutes regardless – this was the case at the Clay Open Day where my son trialled a JTKM and Junior Max, when we rented the Venom and when we bought the EVR so I shouldn’t have been surprised that we weren’t ready to roll until 11:45. So on to the big moment (as per Section 6) –  I set myself up at the back of the pit lane to give myself maximum pushing time before I got to the point I’d be running around the bend under waved yellows! Lift – run – keep running – something isn’t right, it doesn’t sound like it’s firing – we stopped at the bottom of the pit exit. “Dad, the spark plug isn’t in”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oops! With the spark plug in, it started perfectly – minimal lift, 5 yards and he was off 🙂 I watched from the centre of the track with the *hugest* smile of satisfaction – all the effort, hours reading online, watching kart sales, hassle of towing, haggling, buying – were forgotten. It was open track and, with no more than eight karts on track at its busiest, we were able to kart, kart and kart. My son’s previous times were massively off of the pace – 10 seconds off in the Venom, 8 seconds off when we bought the EVR but his early times now were in the 42s. His revs were > 15k so we moved down to a 79 sprocket and let the tyre pressures down to 11psi as the track warmed. His best time was a 37.5 until he lost a wheel (Lesson #145: always check your nuts) and then things got colder and the wheel loss seemed to create some doubt in his mind as he never broke 40s after that. It was a fantastic day though – I only forgot to put the spark plug in one more time and he’d have carried on all night if he could have (as it was we used the 10l of fuel we brought and it was getting time to think about leaving). 140 laps in the bag, a kart than ran beautifully and started every time, no offs and 8 seconds quicker than his previous best. I even had a chance to take some nice pics too courtesy of Greg, who lent me a very, very nice piece of glass 🙂

Cost of day: £12 petrol to get there, £15 petrol for the kart, £35 practice fee, £40 Clay Pigeon Loyalty Card

Total spent so far: £2170

All these bits soon add up!

Three orders placed with Spellfame inside the first week – that’s planning for you! I ordered:

  • Spark plug spanner – £7.50 (the handle is too short for my liking)
  • T-Bar socket for wheel nuts – £7.50
  • Mechanics gloves – £4.75 (hands still freeze in them)
  • Carb cleaner – £3.45
  • 3m fuel pipe – £3.45 (fuel pipe on kart was very brown and hard to see where the fuel was so it’s been replaced)
  • Pulse pipe – £1.56 (seemed like a good idea to replace the piping but that little wire tie on the engine looks delicate – not yet installed)
  • 3x Fuel funnel filters – £2.25
  • Fuel tank brass filter – £9.50 (recommended by a friend to help avoid getting dirt in the carb)
  • 9v battery – £2.50 (spare Mychron battery, necessary to make up minimum order for free postage!)

Including VAT, Spellfame are £50 better off for my custom. In addition, I have also splashed out on:

Total spent so far: £2068!!!!!!!!! (£568 over budget – hope the missus isn’t following this blog)

 

Junior Karting Helmets

I hadn’t budgeted on getting my son a karting helmet: he already had a really funky motorcycle helmet that he had used for arrive/drive karting and, as he wasn’t going to be MSA racing for some time, I saw no need. Unfortunately I then started thinking about it more – if I was going to get him an MSA-approved helmet later in the year, I might as well get it now and rest assured that he has the best protection possible. Of course there is always the question “How much do you value the contents of the helmet?”. It’s hard to argue with that so which helmet to get?

For MSA racing, under-15s require a helmet certified to the Snell-FIA CMR2007 standard. The most common choices are the Arai CK-6, the Bell KC3, the Koden CMR2007 and the V2 CMR. Next you want to find out what size you need – the SHARP Helmet Safety Scheme Guide is a great resource for finding out how to measure your head and how to test a helmet’s fit. Then you want to find a shop that sells not only your preferred helmet but as many as the others as possible – don’t just order one off the internet as I did!!! Head sizes differ and it may be that your head isn’t good a fit for the helmet you thought you wanted and returning helmets via the post is an expensive business – I speak from experience 🙁

I discounted the Koden on appearance and comments from Dads whose lads had upgraded from Kodens to other more highly regarded helmets and opted for the Arai – partly on reputation and the fact that you see a lot of them on the track and I ordered online as it was the best price and came with a free spoiler kit. When it arrived, my son complained it was tight on top of his head. After making him try it on at least a dozen times and keep it on for 20 mins in a bid to get used to it, I stupidly ordered a bigger one assuming it would be fine – it was too big. Needing to resolve this because my 14-day return deadline on the two Arai helmets I now owned was rapidly approaching, I went to my local shop, had my son try the Bell in comparison with the Arai and bought the Bell in the size that fitted the best. The good thing about the Bell helmets are that they come in individual sizes i.e. 54cm, 55cm, 56cm etc whereas the Arai comes in size ranges i.e. 54-56cm, 57-58cm etc. The Arai also has a larger visor area compared to other Arai motorsports helmets (I was told they had to have a little less helmet/make the visor larger than their other motorsports helmets in order to stay within the maximum weight permitted under the standard) which, to my eye, makes it look a little more WSB and less F1. Returning the two Arai helmets, including insurance for £800 cost me £30. The kicker was the store charging me £5 to cover the ‘free’ postage they had offered. After all of the haggling I’d been doing to save money, I’d just wasted £40! We won’t talk about this again, ok?

Total spent so far: £1935