There are three quite clear levels of pedals that are available. There is; entry level, medium grade, and enthusiast. Typically speaking your entry level pedals come as a bundle with a wheel that is great for those that aren’t satisfied with using a controller.
Medium grade is when you start to see the pedals come on their own and are usually purchased by those that sim race quite often but maybe not enough to invest into the enthusiast level. Finally, the enthusiast level. This area is when you’re serious about your sim racing, and you want to have no excuses for why you are slower than the guys in front of you.
Oftentimes people think they just make the car slow down and speed up when you press them. While on the surface that may be true, pedals are actually more important than your steering wheel.
When trying to maximise performance from a race car, there is a balancing act of keeping the car rotating through the corner, while not making it over rotate. This is often controlled by the amount of weight that is on each corner of the car through each stage of a corner.
When you hit the brakes for a hard brake zone, all the weight is being shifted to the front of the car and making the front tires have more contact with the road. While this is happening the rear is becoming lighter and making the rear tires have less contact. This is what helps you gain front grip on the entry to corners, when you need to turn the car. The opposite happens when you get on the throttle at the exit of a corner.
Have you ever tried to leave maximum brake pressure all the way to the apex of a corner? It should result in the rear of the car being incredibly unstable and more often than not, ends in a spin. When you begin to turn the steering wheel for the corner, you have to modulate the release of the brake pedal to start bringing back balance to the outside rear tire helping you to not spin. This is where the last few tenths in each corner are often won and lost. The better pedals you have, the easier this balancing act is to get right.
While, entry level pedals can be great too, no pun intended, enter the world of sim racing for a low amount of financial commitment. Where they struggle in comparison to the higher end models is that they are often limited to being only attached to the wheel that they were likely purchased as a bundle with. This limits your upgrade path in the future if you ever wanted to upgrade just your pedals or just your wheel. A lot of times you won’t be able to.
Not only that, these pedals are often made entirely of plastic. These pedals also lack the force’s you need and as a result you won’t get much feel from the brake pedal.
In my opinion, if you’re reading this article you’re probably past the entry level stage and are looking for more. Right?
Onto the medium grade stuff. At this level, this is when you’re getting more serious. You want to get better but maybe don’t have the budget to go to the enthusiast grade stuff or maybe you are looking to gain a small competitive edge over your mates racing online.
These are often purchased separately from the wheel which already is one major upgrade over the entry level range because you’ll have more customization options in the future. From here, you start to get into mostly metal designs that are sturdier and better built, as well as you get springs in the pedals to help modulate better.
Now we start to see with the brake pedal the use of what is known as a load cell. What is a load cell you might ask?
Well a load cell is a type of transducer that will give electronic readings of; tension, compression pressure or torque. Why is this good?
Well it gives the brake pedal more weight and these companies often try to mimic a real life brake pedal to the best of their ability. Not only that, you can adjust the point at which the pedal is at max force to your liking. These are a huge upgrade over the entry level options and while you will definitely gain lap time because your braking will be more precise, the enthusiast models will get you even more. They’ll get you consistency.
Enthusiast grade. This is the top of the top. This is no compromise, I want the best thing on the market. I personally use the Heusinkveld Sim Pedals Pro (The old model of the Sim Pedals Sprint) and have felt they are an incredible upgrade over the Fanatec Clubsport V2’s I had used up to that point. Not only is the build quality superb on all of Heusinkvelds products, their attention to detail in design and making sure that the pedals are not only built well but they are easy to set up and will work comfortably for a long time. This combines to make a pedal experience that can only be rivaled by, well, driving a real race car. I was able to be so much more consistent on the brakes after a short adjustment period on Heusinkveld pedals, and to be honest, they feel identical to many of the brake systems I’ve driven in real life.
If that’s not enough, then let’s go through why consistency is so important from your brake pedal. Consistency is the key to being more confident. The more confident you are on the brake pedal the more you’re willing to push the envelope in brake zones, try going a few meters later, trail brake a bit more into the corner, go for that late braking maneuver. These are things that you may never even attempt if you’re on one of those lower end pedals sets. That can be the margin of finishing P1 or finishing P2. And who wants to finish P2?
In conclusion, the Heusinkveld Sprint and Heusinkveld Ultimate pedals are both top quality pedals that I think everyone should have if they want to improve on the simulator of their choice. They have no flaws that I can think of, and will leave you with only yourself to blame for not winning. Rather than your pedals.