With some help from sim racing friends, I made the decision to invest some cash in my own gear stick shifter, and through the course of this article, I’ll share the insight I have about this piece of equipment and how it’s raised my enjoyment through the roof!
So, what are the benefits of using sim racing gear stick shifters? Although there are a whole host of benefits to using a gear stick shifter, the most important/prominent one is that having one installed will allow for better, natural-feeling control for certain race categories and car types.
Of course, I have quite a lot more elaboration to make on the core benefits of driving with a stick shifter, plus some added bonuses and other essential things to consider before deciding whether or not it’s the right purchase for you. With all of that said and done, read on!
The biggest thing to note about H-shifter gear sticks is the authenticity when compared to a real drive experience.
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A large part of sim racing is to recreate conditions for races and driving in reality, and because of that, these types of gear stick shifters really help create that immersive aspect that so many racers are looking for in their rigs. Most H-shifter variants come with a large amount of gears, but this will never be a problem if you’re driving 4-stock cars in races.
The rig will detect this and keep its gear range between 1 and 4 respectively, or however many speeds the car you’re driving actually has. The gated outlets to move the stick through will adjust to not allow you to shift into higher gears than is needed for that specific race, making it a great fail-safe to make sure you don’t sabotage yourself by accident.
Perhaps the most common complaint of this shifter type, however, is the slowness and very noticeable lag when compared to paddle shifting, and even sequential shifting. This is because you have to physically select the gear as opposed to hitting up or down when you need to.
That, and there is more distance needed to move the stick when compared to other shifter types. A big way to reduce this lag and extra time needed to operate the equipment, a lot of manufacturers offer something called a Short-Throw adapter which can be added to an H-shifter.
What this adapter will do is reduce the amount of distance you need to ‘throw’ the stick for it to register a gear, which makes this shifter competitive as well as authentic and all kinds of cool-looking. It also provides the satisfying ‘click-clack’ sound of a sequential shifter, and the feedback on this adapter is one full of praise.
The biggest potential downside of this shifter type is the simple fact that they cost considerably more than sequential sticks. ThrustMaster is the most affordable brand in this arena, and their TH8A 7-Speed shifter will set you back by $170 brand new.
However, there’s a huge boon to this price; whenever you feel like it, you can change the H-pattern shifter to a sequential one. You essentially get two styles of stick shifter for that price! The window of price scaling is huge, with brands like RT-Spec asking for near $2,000 for a professional H-pattern shifter.
If you spend some time shopping around, this stick shift can definitely be affordable, and with ways to reduce the lag which many stick their nose up at, you can enjoy a truly immersive experience at your rig without going bankrupt!
In a lot of ways, a sequential shifter is the best of both worlds when looking at authenticity to a real drive and keeping a competitive streak in your sim racing. It provides a nice dose of realism due to the separate gear column that can either attach to your wheel, or be mounted elsewhere, and the overall shifting experience is smoother and less hassle when compared to a H-pattern shifter.
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Only needing to select up or down in gears might seem strange, but when you’re handling the steering, pedals and keeping your eyes on the track in front of you, this time-saver will be valuable to keep you running at a good speed.
Using a sequential shifter will definitely result in lag when compared to paddle shifting, but the lag is greatly reduced. This means you can compete in races in which you are required to have a manual drive, therefore avoiding time penalties, without losing time due to gear selections!
The quick, snappy gear changing is a favorite within the sim racing community, and even those who would swear by their paddle shifting were converted when trying out a sequential rig. It’s the perfect blend of realism and stream-lined racing for sim set-ups, so what isn’t to like about that combination?
The price of this gear stick shifter is far more pocket-friendly, too, when compared to a lot of high-end H-pattern ones. For example, an RT-Spec professional sequential rig fetches around the $1,000 mark, which isn’t bad when considering that H-pattern professional shifters can total almost double that price.
Most stick shifters will come with the ability to change between sequential and H-pattern, so you can try out each type without breaking the bank!
Intuitive Drive: Gear Stick Shifters = Authenticity
As I mentioned when discussing the two distinct types of stick shifters, the overall sim racing experience will feel far more intuitive and comparable to the real deal when you have a gearstick in hand.
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Your rig will look complete and much like the inside of a car you can recognize. Part of what makes actual racing so exhilarating is how tactile the whole experience is, what with having full control of an absolute speed machine.
Before I started dabbling in sim racing, I was a kart racer for the better part of ten full years and let me tell you, there isn’t anything quite like that control you have as a driver. When I bought my own sequential gear shifter, it started to feel far truer to the experiences that I loved when I was in a go-kart and later, my family’s track car.
Making The Choice
Sim racing as an industry has truly flourished over the past couple of years, with so many new brands emerging and making a mark on the market. Because of this, you have far more options to choose from when looking at gear stick shifters than racers would have had a few years back!
There are brands to suit any budget out there, and websites will have full break-downs on which wheels are compatible with which stick shifters and pedal sets, making the process of buying new things for your rig a lot less painful than it used to be.
Because of the simple fact that you no longer have to pay out your savings for stick shifters, benefits of using this piece of equipment are even more apparent.
You can transform your sim racing rig into the cockpit of a real racing car for an authentic, intuitive and exciting experience for starting prices of $50 when you look at Logitech as an option.
When you add in the competitive edge you can have in races where automatic shifting is penalized, a stick shifter is truly a valuable investment. Think of it in that way, especially if you’re spending a few hours every day racing with your rig. Even if you stretch your budget to the $150 range, you’ll have raced your money’s worth within a week or two with consistent play time.
The type of stick shifter itself is a factor that rests solely with you, simply because only you know what kind of experience you’re looking for.
The H-shifter is fantastic for an exciting, realistic experience that can be modified to be competitive with the right equipment.
On the flipside, a sequential shifter will give you that competitive edge right off the bat, coupled with the appeal of realism.
With so many options available on the sim racing market, you’ll be absolutely sure of finding the right price for your desired shifter and totally capture the essence of racing excitement at the same time! A win-win scenario, really.