Cube Controls F-Core sim racing wheel on Richards rig - G-Performance

Sim Racing Wheels Buyer’s Guide – a comprehensive guide to sim racing wheels Leave a comment

Over the past few years, I’ve had the luck to be able to test most of the sim racing industry’s latest and greatest sim racing wheels. Today I’m sharing my experience here on the G-Performance blog.

As a sim racer myself, I’ve come to learn what I need in a wheel, what is an absolute “must have” and, the nice but not absolutely necessary features too.

In this buyer’s guide I’m going to share with you what I think you should consider if you’re planning to replace or upgrade your existing sim racing wheel.

In this guide, we’re going to look at:

  1. Your requirements for a wheel (GT, Indy, Stock, NASCAR or Formula Racing)
  2. What wheel size should you choose?
  3. Wheel rim style
  4. Onboard Displays (DDUs)
  5. Grip material
  6. VR “Friendliness”
  7. Wireless
  8. Compatibility

We’ll also feature the opinion of my good friend and professional racing driver, Scott Mansell from Driver61.com and Troph.ai, and input from two major manufacturers in the space, Cube Controls and Ascher Racing.

1. Your Requirements for a wheel

Broadly, most simulator owners have a racing category preference, and we’ll assume that iRacing is your “go to” platform.

Most European sim racers compete in GT class (GT3) and sports prototypes (GTP and LMP2) in the IMSA and Special Events classes. There’s also a lot of Formula spec racing, notably Super Formula, FIA F4, Dallara F3 and IndyCar. Less popular in Europe but with a huge following in the USA, there’s off road, Rallycross (RX), and Dirt Oval Racing, as well as NASCAR.

Despite there being a significant number of cars and categories to race in, the sim racing wheels themselves fall into simpler categories:
a) Formula
b) GT Sport
c) GT Pro

Let’s look at the key factors you should consider when you’re shopping around. I’ll start with my view of what’s important and then move on to specific wheel features you’ll find important. As I write this guide, I have my Cube Controls F-Pro on my desk. Featured in the current Cube Controls line up, priced at €905,00 excl. VAT.

The wheel has a diameter of 282mm. This is very much positioned in the Formula racing category, where wheels tend to be smaller and the cars have a fast steering rack. This is so that you don’t have to cross your arms at the apex of tight, hairpin corners.

A smaller wheel diameter also allows for fast steering corrections. The smaller diameter suits my driving style which is smooth in the high-speed corners with occasional fast corrections to “hustle” the car around the circuit in medium speed corners.

I chose the F-Pro because I don’t want a display screen built in (although there are some wheels with this features and they look excellent). In fact, I run a separate DDU mounted above my Simucube 2 Pro. I like the carbon faceplate and overall build quality. The wheel feels rugged, sturdy and communicates FFB (Force Feedback) detail exceptionally well. This is due to the machined and anodized aluminium body, upon which the QR adapter and paddles are mounted.

With the wheel in hand, the grips have the right diameter and have a grippy, comfortable feel to them. They’re shaped “ergonomically” meaning they fit my hands well. There are numerous, backlit “momentary” push buttons, two toggle switches, two 7-way joysticks, 4 front rotaries and 4 thumb rotaries. While I don’t always use them all, assigning Traction Control, Brake Bias and iRacing Black Box Controls to the rotaries and push buttons is easy and leaves me spare controls for my other car setups.

Finally, the rear paddle shifters work well, they’re quiet and it’s difficult to mis-shift. The clutch paddles are very helpful for a competitive grid start

Buying a Sim Racing Wheel: Key Factors to Consider

With my outline in mind, here are the most important features of a good sim racing wheel:

2. Wheel Diameter

Choose a wheel di ameter that suits your driving style. If you like to hustle your car around the circuit, making quick corrections to slides and initiating fast rotation into a corner, a smaller wheel diameter is for you. Formula wheels are generally in the 282mm to 290mm side category. A favourite Formula spec wheel is the SIMAGIC FX wheel (see the 4-paddle variant in stock) with a wheel diameter of 290mm and priced significantly lower than the F-Pro at €556.56  excl. VAT.

A larger diameter wheel, 300mm and higher, lends itself to smoother driving styles. The Cube Controls Mercedes-AMG – GT Edition naturally lent itself to smooth inputs during our review, with its diameter of 320mm. 

Please accept marketing-cookies to watch this video.

 3. Wheel Rim Style

Most of us are very familiar with Formula Style sim racing wheels. Cube Controls offer the F-Pro and F-Core at a lower the price range, with the CSX-3 being higher priced and feature rich. As a budget alternative to the CSX3, the MOZA Racing FSR Formula wheel offers a carbon fibre frame and paddles with a 4.3 ” screen built in (requires USB hub on non-Moza wheelbases).

At the very high end of GT racing, Ascher Racing offer the McLaren Artura based Sport, Pro, GT4 and Ultimate wheel that are the product of collaboration between McLaren and Ascher Racing. Their wheels share design and components from the GT4 specification Artura racing car – offering an extremely true to life product with ultra high stiffness in the chassis design.

McLaren Artura GT4 race car interior

If Formula isn’t your thing, try the D shaped 320mm rim found on the Cube Controls GT Sport. Priced at €565.00 excl. VAT, you get a Cube Controls button box on a rim more suitable for rookie classes including FF1600, Mazda MX5 and GT86 racing.

 4. Display Screen

Integrated display screens are certainly very nice to have. The Cube Controls CSX3 features a high contrast 4″ display that can be customised via SimHub. You can change the dashboard entirely through SimHub – perhaps choosing to upload a dash design from one of my favourites, TWF (The Wheel Feel), or using Cube Controls proprietary designs. Having a display screen integrated into your wheel design adds cost and complexity but reduces mistakes and keeps you updated on your performance.

Dash displays are very useful for displaying your delta time and best lap time, position and fuel. You can also setup a spotter alarm so that you can see when a car is alongside you in proximity. If you’re a sim racer with an urge to get as close to modern Motorsport as possible, then opting for a display is the way forward.

Aside from the CSX3 and the Moza FSR, the SIMAGIC FX Pro also features a 4.3” screen surrounded by soft glow LEDs. Configurable vis SIMAGIC’s software: SimPro, the FX Pro is an excellent all-round choice.

 5. Grip Material

Most Formula wheels use a PVC / rubber compound grip material, where the more classic GT style round rims are almost always Alcantara. Alcantara is visually very nice to look at, especially when the wheel is brand new. The Moza FSR is the exception to this, it uses perforated leather grips. The GT Pro Zero V2 from Cube Controls offers several choices: Suede, Rubber, Reparto Corse Suede (Italian suede leather) or perforated leather. With glove use, careful cleaning and regular brushing, you can maintain Suede or Alcantara and keep it looking nice.

Most drivers don’t have time for lengthy maintenance sessions, however, which is why rubber / PVC compound grips have become so popular. Over time, these compounds have been developed to be more durable while becoming more comfortable. The ergonomic curvature of the grips has also evolved significantly, with PVC and rubber compounds being the best materials to take advantage of newer ergonomic designs.

Early compounds tended to become quite fatiguing in long endurance races. Modern compounds alleviate fatigue by creating the right amount of cushioning without compromising the Force Feedback felt through the wheel.

The other benefit of PVC grips is that gloves are optional. This reduces heat build up and helps you stay cooler, and naturally saves you money as you don’t really need gloves in a modern simulator.

 6. VR Compatibility

VR Compatibility, or “VR Friendly” wheels are essentially a reflection of how easy the wheel is to interact with while you’re wearing a VR headset. To state the obvious, complications such as an onboard display screen or a very large number of rotaries and buttons will go unused during VR headset racing.

There’s a limit to how far you can remember your wheel layout while using VR, so to help you along, most wheels have a PVC shrouding around the edges of the buttons.

The thinking behind this design feature is to help you index your fingers neatly over the buttons, without accidentally pressing them. If you shut your eyes and imagine what you’d need to feel without pressing the button, this adaptation makes sense. 

On that note, a simpler wheel layout, such as the Mclaren Artura Sport or the lower priced Cube Controls F-Core are both great choices for the VR user.

 7. Wireless Connectivity

While the classic and most frequently used choice is to have a wired, USB connection to the wheel, Cube Controls and Ascher Racing wheels come with varying favours of wireless connectivity options.

Starting with Ascher Racing, each of the products we have in our current inventory, the McLaren Artura Pro and Artura Sport can be purchased either as USB only or Simucube Wireless (SC Version). Simucube Wireless is Simucube’s proprietary wireless connection protocol. This means that it only works with the Simucube 2 range of wheelbases: the Simucube 2 Sport, Pro and Ultimate.

Meanwhile, Cube Controls take a different approach with their wheels, incorporating Bluetooth and USB connections in the majority of their designs (check the product description to be sure – the CSX3 is USB only). Where there is Bluetooth functionality available, the onboard battery is charged via USB.

To put the F-Pro formula wheel in Bluetooth mode, hold this button (pictured) when powering the device:

 8. Compatibility

High end sim racing wheels use a standard “fitment” to attach to a QR hub of your choice. Cube Controls wheels come with their Universal Hub Adapter. This small extension screws onto the back of the wheel chassis and provides a 70mm or 50.8mm PCD fitment.

Matching a QR hub only requires two items of information. Firstly you need to be certain that your QR hub is compatible with your wheelbase. In most cases, a direct drive steering wheel comes shipped with a “wheelside QR hub”.

Secondly, you’ll need to know what fitment the wheel side QR hub supports. In the majority of cases, 70mm PCD fitment is standard.

Ascher Racing will be releasing their new Asetek QR hub, which provides a USB connection to the wheel through the hub. This is a nice solution as it completely alleviates the need for a separate USB cable.

Scott Mansell from Driver61.com: What does a Pro Driver Think?

“The steering wheel is of critical importance to be quick, especially, for drivers coming from the real world into the SIM, rather than just starting out in the sim.

We rely so heavily on feel and obviously, g-force, and the steering wheel really communicates to you what the car is doing.

In the simulator of course, the feedback you act on is visual and audible. But the steering wheel is where you feel everything through your hands, especially understeer, the oversteer, and the balance of the car.

Scott-Driver61

We talk about driving technique on Driver61, all the time – understanding the balance in the car, how much the car is in rotation, or at least understanding when you have understeer or oversteer is really important to refining your technique, and becoming a quicker driver.

What I’m looking for is good communication, is the wheel able to give me a relatively similar feeling than I would get in a real racing car? And so that’s the feeling I’m looking for. It’s how the steering wheel loads up and then releases when I get some oversteer in the corner. Can I feel that very gentle release of torque, when I get some understeer as the front tires are sliding across the track?

I also want to make sure that the steering wheel has that weight to it, that it feels like a proper steering wheel, coming from the real world into the SIM, and, that it’s comfortable. When we’re spending a long time in the simulator, it’s important to me that it’s comfortable, and it features all of the buttons that you need to be able to make the required changes that you want.”

Scott Mansell, Founder: driver61.com and troph.ai

Martin Ascher needs no introduction as the Founder of Ascher Racing. In our opinion, Ascher Racing wheels are the “go-to” in the professional eSports world, with many top split, championship winning drivers opting to use Ascher hardware.

I asked a few questions to find out more. Over to you, Martin!

What makes Ascher Racing wheel designs stand out from the rest?
“At Ascher Racing, we’re dedicated to maximizing our customers’ performance. Each component is meticulously designed for optimal functionality, whether it’s switches enduring 10 million cycles, shifters and clutch paddles with unlimited lifespans, or ultra-precise encoders. Therefore, we often challenge norms with innovative approaches. Ergonomics are always a priority as well: On the finalized product, everything, from buttons to encoders, joysticks, and of course, our double shifters, must be within easy reach. All in all our wheels deliver a seamless experience unmatched by any other company.”

McLaren Artura Pro - picture by https://simracing-pc.de/

Ascher Racing McLaren Artura Pro by Simracing-PC.de

How do your design and engineering processes deliver the maximum stiffness (and therefore: FFB detail) through the wheel? 
“Our development process involves rigorous testing and feedback, including insights from F1 world champions. Iterative refinement ensures our products meet the highest standards, with examples like over 120 iterations for illuminated switches. Stiffness is the culmination of numerous factors, including material choice, design, arrangement, and fastening methods. My background in aerospace engineering, specializing in lightweight design and FEM analyses, contributes significantly to this aspect.”

How much emphasis is placed on ergonomics and how does Ascher Racing develop more ergonomic products? 
“In our development process, special emphasis is placed on testing components. Even the initial 3D prints are utilized in simulators to analyze defects and make necessary adjustments. We conduct component tests using separate setups and perform endurance tests (e.g., shifters tested for 20 million cycles). Early long-term tests are conducted in simulators, where each component or wheel can be in use for up to 2 years before becoming commercially available. Additionally, my role as a developer who actively drives provides valuable insight. It allows me to better understand the requirements, innovate new features, and identify areas where discomfort arises after hours of driving on circuits like the Nürburgring Nordschleife.”

Thanks to Martin for providing us with this insight! If you’re interested in Ascher sim racing wheels, take a look at their latest wheel, the Ascher Racing Mclaren Artura Pro and Sport variants.

What should I do next?

Buying your next sim racing wheel can be exciting and, with the right research you can find a device that helps you unlock performance while thoroughly enjoying your sim racing time. Take a look at our sim racing wheels category and feel welcome to contact us with any questions you might have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SHOPPING CART

close