Last updated: October 11th, 2021
Featured image: Heusinkveld Sim Pedals Ultimate+
Improving the pedal feel in my sim was a massive step forward for my driving – when I upgraded from my old Fanatec pedals to the Heusinkveld Sprints I found a vast improvement in my ability to modulate the brake pressure while trailing into a corner.
While the lower budget Heusinkveld Sprints are a highly desirable item for your home simulator setup, and they’re probably good enough for 99% of sim racers out there, there is always an upgrade path available. In today’s (updated) post, I’m going to talk about the latest revision to their flagship pedal set: the Heusinkveld Ultimate+ pedal sim racing pedal set.
The Heusinkveld Ultimate+ pedal is a more expensive item pitched at the professional simulation market, experienced sim racers or Esports professionals.
As Heusinkveld put it in their pedal selection guide, “Only choose the Sim Pedals Ultimate if the following applies to you:”
You want to simulate 1:1 brake forces for all race car types. Although the maximum brake force of the Sim Pedals Sprint (65kg) is already above most other commercially available sets, the Sim Pedals Ultimate allow for up to 136kg of force allowing you to simulate the actual brake force of F3/GP2/F1/LMP/Indycars.
You want to have hydraulic damping on your pedals. All Ultimate pedals feature a 1-way (throttle) or 2-way hydraulic damper (brake/clutch).Heusinkveld Pedal Selection Guide
Heusinkveld Sprints vs Ultimate+, what’s the difference?
I’ve been lucky enough to own several different pedal sets, including (the now obsolete) CSLs from Fanatec, Heusinkveld Sprints, Heusinkveld Ultimates, the updated Ultimate+ version and finally, the SimTrecs GT ProPedals.
Except for the price, there are two other clear differences: visual (engineering and build) and naturally, pedal feel.
The Ultimate+ pedals are made very much for purpose, with little visual flair. They are made for what they do, no more! Compared to the Sprint pedals, they have a longer chassis and, they’re slightly wider.
The Ultimate+ pedals are much larger units than the Sprints, so you might need to check the dimensions before mounting to your pedal base. In my case, I had to slightly reconfigure my 8020 profile rig to lengthen the end mount to suit the Ultimate+ pedals.
One of the biggest complaints from Ultimate users was the fact you couldn’t configure the gen1 Ultimates with Smartcontrol. Happily, the revised electronics now have Smartcontrol compatibility, meaning you can set up your pedals exactly the same way you do with the Sprints. No more DiView!
The controller device is housed in an aluminium case that is intended to minimise EM interference. The load cell and amplifier are quite sensitive, as many of you who have watched the output jumping up and down in DiView will agree, so this revision is a welcome addition.
The Ultimate+ throttle
The Ultimate+ throttle is a significantly larger item compared to the Sprint. Ultimate+ pedals are bigger, heavier and use a thicker laser-cut plate throughout. The Ultimate throttle uses a 1-way hydraulic damper in tandem with an adjustable main coil spring.
The throttle’s damper resists speed at the in-going stroke which helps with smoothing the throttle application. The damper adds resistance depending on how fast the pedal is pressed or released (“bump” is the correct word) which makes the pedal feel very smooth and weighty. There’s a satisfying, albeit quick rebound, which I think can be slightly adjusted by changing the spring tension.
My only complaint with this pedal is the play at the pedal hinge:
Frankly, this surprises me, although it’s nothing some careful shimming couldn’t remove.
The Ultimate+ Clutch
There’s a hydraulic damper on the Ultimate+ clutch pedal, with a cam at the back to simulate the movement of a diaphragm spring clutch.
I’ve always felt this is one of the best clutch pedals you can add to a simulator. In its day, it was quite an innovative design, with the resistance changing as you compress the pedal, a lot like a real clutch feels. Things have moved on somewhat, in that most pedals simulate this movement in their own way.
The Ultimate+ brake pedal
Probably the most important pedal in terms of feedback, The Ultimate+ brake pedal is bigger than its cheaper relative.
The hydraulic 2-way damper on the brake unit from Heusinkveld has always been my favourite feature of this pedal set. It compresses and rebounds smoothly and in a really intuitive way. If you add too much stiffness from their newly revised elastomer set, you will lose the sensation of the hydraulic damper working, particularly the rebound. So, to get the most from the damping, bear in mind not to add too much pedal stiffness.
Clearly, there’s a very physical, industrial presence to the Ultimate+ pedal set with some very thoughtful design in the damping on the brake pedal and clutch throw emulation. My sense is that the brake in particular is designed to give such a wide scope to adjust the feel that more or less any car can be emulated.
This is a full-hydraulic pedal set: each pedal features a 1-way (throttle) or 2-way (brake / clutch) hydraulic damper. As pedal assemblies in real cars normally have hydraulic flow through hoses, tubes and cylinders, Heusinkveld uses these to simulate the damping effect that these assemblies normally provide. Professional feedback that I’ve seen mentions that this brake can easily beat the more expensive hydraulic systems, and overall the sense of realism, weight and useful physical feedback is enhanced over the original Heusinkveld Sprints.
How do hydrualic pedals feel?
There’s a certainty underfoot with the Ultimate+ that the Sprints get close to, but not like this. I’m not sure how that reads frankly, but I’ll try my best!
Perhaps it’s the extra weight and maximum available pressure through the brakes but once adjusted to a max pressure of my liking, I found the brakes extremely smooth and fantastically easy to modulate. There’s just more usable travel in an ultimate, particularly when you lift off the brake while trailing into a corner. The extra damping, especially the pedal return, makes it feel that much more realistic.
Something to be careful of, just because a pedal offers a higher maximum pressure doesn’t mean you have to use it! If you’re a professional driver preparing for an indy car race, go ahead and use 75kgs of brake force! But for an amateur home sim user, this is much too much and it’ll ruin your ability to trail brake nicely (in my humble opinion). If I’d have spent more time with the pedals, I’d have used a stiffer rubber packer in the same way I did with the sprints. I found myself wanting the pedal just that little bit stiffer.
The clutch is extremely realistic – it has a nice smooth throw, and the weight on the pedal drops off when it’s fully depressed. That’s because the design of the pedal emulates a diaphragm clutch much as you’d find in the real car. The 2-way damper is responsive to how much speed you use to depress the pedal – I wonder how far this could be tuned to only allow a maximum speed of gear change (like some manual track cars do).
Finally, the throttle. Again a really smooth and certain response with absolutely loads of scope to adjust the weight transfer in the car, particularly on lift-off.
For me, the big improvement in the Ultimate+ are the brakes and clutch for the overall feel. If you’ve got the spare budget and you’re genuinely an enthusiast interested in high-end simulation, or you’re in a racing car in real life that needs a lot of brake pressure (like a Radical SR3, LMP3, LMP2 or F3 cars and above) then go for the Ultimates.
However. This comes with a caveat. Heusinkveld have been dominant with their pedal sets for many years, and when they announced the release of the Ultimate+ pedals, I was expecting something more radical. You see, with the exception of the added Smartcontrol compatibility, the new pedals add very little compared to the Gen 1 pedal set. I suspect that the revised dampers are more of a cost cutting measure than a genuine improvement. Right now I can’t quite escape a feeling that the dampers supplied with the original Ultimates are the marginally better dampers!
It feels like Heusinkveld have released a final generation of this pedal which appears to offer very little in terms of actual improvement. I suspect they might be working on other newer products behind the scenes.
My other problem with the latest incarnation of these pedals is that, they’re simply not as special as they once were. The industry is moving forward with new product development at a pace. Personally, as leaders in their field, I would have expected Heusinkveld to bring more to the table. I want to love these pedals, and I do. But it feels like returning to an old relationship rather than something exciting and new. Find a set of gen 1 pedals on eBay or, shop around – our current workhorse pedal set can be found here.