Often unnoticed as they sit below a desk or at your feet, it is amazing the difference a good, or even basic, set of pedals can make to the sim racing experience. But you may still wonder whether you need a set of sim racing pedals or if you can get by without them.
You need sim racing pedals if you want a more realistic, immersive experience. Not only will your sim racing experience feel more like you’re driving a real car, but you’ll also be able to improve your lap times as well. The best kinds of sim racing pedals are load cell and hydraulic.
What is it exactly that makes them so much better than your average controller and why should you go out and spend your hard-earned cash on the accessory? We answer these questions and more below, and we’ll also list a few of our favorite sim racing pedal sets.
3 Different Types Of Sim Racing Pedals
Potentiometers are the cart horse of the sim racing pedal world. These are simple linear motion sensors that convert how far you push the pedal into a percentage and sends it into the game. You tend to find these in more budget models like the Logitech G29/G920 pedals or Thrustmaster T3PA set.
Don’t think that because the technology is old it is obsolete. For the prices you pay they offer a good input to help you control the games, better than any game pad. The thing they do lack is any output, like a realistic level of resistance, so that you can get the sensation you feel in your feet like you would for any driving you do in real life.
2. Load Cells
Load cells are the standard that most mid-range pedal systems use today. Instead of braking force being determined by the linear travel of the pedal, load cell pedals output a signal to the game that depends on how hard you press the pedal.
What does that mean? Simply put, the harder you press the brake (it’s usually only the brake that features a load cell), the more you will decelerate. This is more akin to how your road car’s brake pedal works.
3. Hydraulic Systems
Finally, the gold standard in pedals is the hydraulic system. These are only present on high-end pedals, and they use specially designed hydraulics that convert your applied pressure into electrical signals and offer the perfect resistance to get the most realistic feel available on the market today – but at a very high price.
The 3 Key Benefits Of Sim Racing Pedals
1. Increased Immersion
One of the biggest reasons for a greater increase in control is simply having a more natural feel to driving. You drive your real car using a steering wheel and 2 or 3 pedals, so the only way to realistically mimic that is with a set of pedals at your feet! This will boost the overall immersion factor, and make your sim racing experience more enjoyable.
2. Better Control
It is also very difficult to have 10 fingers try to control acceleration, braking, turning, using the handbrake, shifting gears, as well as adjusting any settings on the fly. Pedals let you use your other two limbs to share the load and have a far easier time managing small inputs.
3. Improved Performance
It is almost impossible to adjust brake or acceleration pressure with buttons that have no built-in flexibility. So, it’s no surprise that using a set of sim racing pedals can improve your performance on the track. You’ll be able to input finer control on your gas and brake pedals even with a cheaper set of potentiometer pedals.
Buying more expensive pedals doesn’t automatically translate into faster lap times. However, they can offer more immersion through systems like hydraulics and realistic rumble effects, and they may offer finer levels of control and customization that do indeed allow you to gain some extra speed. However, expensive pedals are not a must for beginners.
How To Choose Sim Racing Pedals
2 vs 3
First, you should consider how many pedals you need. This is all down to the type of driver you want to be. Keep in mind though that if you want to use a gear shifter in your setup, you’ll need a clutch pedal to get the most out of it.
Next up is the materials that the pedals are made from. A lot of the lower end pedals are made from cheaper plastics and can be a little small for some players. The lightness of the lower quality pedals can also be an issue if they aren’t attached to any racing rig.
Having pedals slip away from under you can be a very frustrating end to a race. The higher end models tend to be made from metal and offer good grip to give the players optimum performance for their game.
Another thing to consider when you’re going to purchase these pedals in how cross-compatible they are. Do they work well with different wheels or gear stick shifters? Will they attach to any sim racing rig or will you have to get out the drill and make them fit?
These are worth taking into consideration if you are likely to upgrade parts of your rig over time, as you don’t want to find yourself limited by a piece of equipment, or having to change it because they aren’t compatible.
How They Look
One final but somewhat less important point is the aesthetics. Some pedal sets can look incredible, especially those at the premium end of the market. The brushed stainless steel, the hydraulic systems, or even the simple plastic set up all look great sitting alongside any other accessories that you have.
There are a lot of great brands out there offering some excellent products. Thrustmaster and Logitech are leading the charge when it comes to affordable, quality technology, and Fanatec also make some great mid-range products. For the high-end market, look no further than the likes of Heusinkveld for the best quality options available.
The main thing to take away here is that there are plenty of options around to suit every style of player. Make sure you know what is important to you and find a product that meets those criteria. Below are a few of our favorite sim racing pedal sets to get you started on your search.
The Best Sim Racing Pedals
Sim racing pedals can boost the immersion and quality of your sim racing experience. When choosing sim racing pedals, make sure to go for the best build quality and the most flexible compatibility, and you will be able to enjoy limitless, quality racing for several years to come.
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.