In my humble opinion, there’s one part of every sim racing rig that sits above everything else in terms of importance. Simply put, it’s the seat! Over the course of this article, I’ll evaluate both types of racing seats that this article mentions and assess each type of material.
So, which material is best for a sim racing seat? On one hand, PU leather gives a race seat more of a luxury, authentic look due to its closeness to a real race car’s interior. And on the other hand, fabric race seats are entirely breathable.
Because you’ll rarely find sim racing seats made of vinyl or other compounds, but will see PU leather and fabric everywhere while you’re searching, let’s spend some more time getting in-depth about them! Settle in and read on!
If you’re looking at a standard racing/gaming seat, you can almost guarantee that PU leather will cover it. Not a lot of seats that are commonly referred to as cockpit builds have this material in its coverings.
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There aren’t many reasons for this that I can properly discern, but overall, cockpit seats/set-ups come with vinyl leather more often that PU. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more affordable and better suited to a casual enjoyment of sim racing, a standard racing-style gaming chair is definitely a better option!
And the material reflects this fact. Although PU leather isn’t real and is instead manufactured, it’s far more durable and will last longer than fabric seat counterparts. There comes the risk of tearing PU leather if you catch sharp objects on it, of course, but you can count on a seat lasting a solid number of years without signs of wear.
As I mentioned previously about the base benefit of PU leather when compared to fabric, this covering is highly stain-resistant and it’ll stay looking great even after you’ve spilt an energy drink all over it by accident (trust me, it happens)!!
You can easily clean it with a damp cloth and there won’t be any lingering marks. Although PU leather is most commonly seen in racing-style gaming chairs as opposed to cockpit rigs, there’s a huge boon of this material feeling and looking more authentic overall.
Sports cars come with leather as standard, more often than not, and synthetic leather does a great job of replicating this!
With the market for sim racing growing far more rapidly than ever before, even the fact that casual racers often choose racing-styled gaming chairs doesn’t make it any less viable of a pick.
There are a lot of ways to attach a cockpit to these seats and it’ll work out cheaper overall; a great way to get started in the world of Sim Racing without bankrupting yourself! After all, even cheap cockpit racing seats fetch an eye-watering $400 price tag brand new.
When you compare that to a much-more affordable $150 racing-styled gaming chair and a separate cockpit stand for $100 or so, you can save quite a lot of cash.
This set-up is what I ran for a couple of years while I was just dabbling in sim racing, and before that I was sat on a cheap armchair with a totally home-made wheel stand in front of me! PU leather is a great material for those of you out there who are enthusiastic about virtual driving and looking for authenticity.
- Longer-lasting: Although PU leather can be susceptible to tears, it’s overall more durable than most other materials
- Authentic: Real leather is expensive! PU leather looks very much the same and provides you with that amazing vibe of being in a real car seat
- Easily maintained: Spills won’t stain this material. Juts take a damp cloth to any food or drink spillages and it’ll be wiped clean with ease
- Great for beginners: Because PU leather is often seen on racing-styled gaming chairs, this material is both comfortable and durable for those who aren’t spending every waking hour sim racing
- Affordable: Mostly covering racing-styled gaming chairs, PU leather is a cheaper material and a long-lasting investment that won’t be too much of a big payout
- Attracts heat: If you’re a keen racer who wants to be spending a lot of hours at their rig, PU leather isn’t the best pick due to how the manufactured leather ‘sweats’ and traps heat, making the driver sweaty and uncomfortable
- ‘Scrappy’: Although undoubtedly easier to maintain, PU leather’s ability to tear can often leave these seats looking worn-out far before their time if you catch a set of keys or another sharp object on your chair
- Limited: You don’t see many cockpit or motion cockpit seats using this material, so if you’re looking for a full rig plus a seat to go with it, PU leather simply isn’t available
- Part of a Puzzle: Racing-styled gaming seats don’t come with the ability for cockpits to be built into them properly, so your rig will be separate and not quite as immersive as other variations
There’s a lot that can be said for outright comfort in a racing seat, and fabric-covered racing seats definitely have more of that when compared to other rigs. It’s a softer covering and will add an extra layer of padding alongside the different materials inside of the chair itself, which is always nice when you’re looking to spend a lot of time seated to do something.
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The biggest difference between fabric and leathery materials is the fact that the former is highly breathable. The baseline comfort is increased due to the softer material overall, and you have a better, longer-lasting comfort without overheating.
Another huge point of comparison is the fact that fabric-covered seats are far more readily available in all kinds of racing seats, not just one type unlike PU leather. You can pick up fabric-covered seats of every kind; from racing-styled gaming chairs all the way up to complex motion cockpit seats.
Breathability and longer time spent racing are the most important factors in play here, because those who are serious about sim racing with full rigs want to make the most of their equipment. That often means racing sessions of four or more hours at a time.
Probably the biggest downsides of fabric involve the vulnerability of stains simply not coming out, and most fabrics not ageing very well. A lot of fabric types will become bunched up and start losing their elasticity, which can lead to sagging parts of your seat cover.
It depends on the type of fabric that covers the chair, of course, and because of this fact you’ll often find these seats are combined with some kind of vinyl leather. This way, the fabric is used for its breathability in the back of the chair while a type of “leather” gives the chair some more longevity.
However, a lot of people overall just prefer fabric seats, and this comes back to the fact that a lot of race drivers in actuality practice using such seats. Playseat especially boasts of how they design their seats with feedback from said racing drivers, and almost every one of the racing seats they offer come with a fabric covering.
Comfort and a certain tactility make these kinds of seats the favorite pick of professionals and casuals alike!
- Breathable: Undoubtedly the best kind of material covering for long racing stints due to the breathable fabric offering extra comfort and lack of over-heating
- Lots of Choice: Unlike PU leather, fabric-covered seats are available as all kinds of sim racing seats, including the more complex cockpit and motion-cockpit varieties
- Racer’s Pick: Racing drivers practice for races using fabric-covered sim racing seats, a clear indication that these seats are definitely best for the more competitive sim racers!
- Hybrid Options: If you don’t want a fully fabric-covered seat but want the same breathability, you can easily find seats covered with some parts vinyl leather and most parts fabric; making a more long-lasting choice
- Doesn’t age well: Because of how fabric can lose its coloring and elasticity, your racing seat will stop looking and feeling brand new pretty quickly
- Stains easily: Spills won’t just wipe away from fabric-covered racing seats, unfortunately. It will have the seat looking scruffy and you’ll be stuck with stains on it unless you spend a lot of time and money to lift the tough ones
- Pricy: Because fabric is a favored material for cockpit-styled seats, you will find yourself paying a pretty penny when first buying one
- Doesn’t last: If you’re looking to spend a lot of time racing at your rig, you’ll love the comfort but the seat will wear a lot quicker than synthetic leathers
Each kind of material offers different benefits and drawbacks; it honestly depends on what kind of sim racer you are.
When I was getting started, I bought myself a PU leather racing-styled gaming chair that I could also use for PC gaming at my desk simply because it was multi-purpose and suited my needs at the time.
However, as I started spending more time racing, I did start looking at fabric-covered seats for their better comfort and testimony of multiple racing drivers who use them to practice. There’s no doubt that fabric-covered seats are more competitive for that reason, and I recently made that transition after saving up to nab one for myself.
Not only that, but there are other materials out there on the market to consider between these two! I mentioned vinyl leather a lot in this article, which is similar to PU leather but is softer and more forgiving, making it similar to fabric-covered seats while also being long-lasting.
Real leather will be a big amount of money to invest but you can count on never needing to replace that seat.
Truly, the choice will be yours depending on how much money you can spare, and how long you spend sat in the driver’s seat.