Last updated: September 29th, 2021
Established in 2012, Heusinkveld Engineering is one of the first companies to offer high-end, off-the-shelf hardware solutions suitable for professional race simulator use.
From its development and production facility located in Groningen, the Netherlands, the company manages to put out some of the best and true-to-life sim hardware on the market despite having a relatively small team of only 25 employees.
With innovation at the core of its business, Heusinkveld’s product designs are based on integrated kinematic and force models, resulting in products that offer more adjustability and durability than merely converting standard automotive parts for simulator use.
Buyer’s guide to Heusinkveld – contents:
Heusinkveld has invested significantly into R&D over the years, giving it an enviable knowledgebase upon which to design its products. The company takes great pride in the fact that its products are used by both hobbyists and professional racing drivers alike. The company develops its own automated testing equipment, which simulates intensive long-term use in a short period of time, allowing it to validate prototype designs for the most demanding use cases rapidly.
Needing little introduction as one of the best-known pedal manufacturers in sim racing, Heusinkveld offers two fantastic pedal sets; Ultimate and Sprint. However, the company also makes other sim racing products that are generally lesser-known, like rigs, handbrakes, and shifters, so I’ll be going through Heusinkveld’s complete product catalogue in today’s post and talking about their benefits and features.
Sim Pedal Development
I want to kick things off by discussing what technologies go into Heusinkveld’s pedals that make them feel so real. Obviously, developing a sim pedal isn’t a simple affair, and you don’t just put these things together and hope for the best, but it’s important to understand that regardless of how much money you spend, at this point, no set of sim racing pedals is perfect. That’s to say that no set of pedals currently on the market can reproduce the feeling of things like pedal shudder as a result of ABS activating or the textured feel of brake pads interfacing with a spinning rotor.
There are all sorts of things that Heusinkveld have done to achieve a more authentic feel, but certain things are not possible at the moment. This includes all the things that happen in a real-life race car or streetcar that is currently very difficult to simulate, such as the effect of brake fade due to changing fluid viscosity relative to temperature. Heusinkveld uses some technological trickery to achieve more realism, such as implementing hydraulic dampeners on its Ultimate pedals, which can provide valuable feedback, but it still doesn’t replicate what you feel in a real car 100%.
When something feels real, it’s easier to drive properly
The brake pedal in a real car generates an increasing amount of resistance against your foot as you push it down. The harder you want to brake, the more force you have to apply, and this is perhaps where most people will feel the most significant difference between pedal sets. Cheaper pedals tend to have a more consistent feel throughout the majority of the pedal stroke. They only really stiffen up right at the very end of the range of travel when you reach the bump stop, which, as you can probably guess, makes it a lot more challenging to establish muscle memory. Essentially, you’re having to teach your brain to move your ankle to a specific position to apply maximum braking force without locking up rather than using a certain amount of force.
Since physical force provides a physical point of reference, it’s much easier to train your brain this way. This is why many experienced sim racers will tell you that a better-quality pedal set is one of the largest contributing factors to faster and more consistent lap times.
Don’t forget that there are three types of positioning sensors used in sim racing pedal sets; potentiometer-based, hall-effect based, and load cell-based, but since both the Heusinkveld Sprint and Ultimate pedals sets are at the higher end of the market, we are only concerned with the latter here.
For a closer look at all three technologies, you can head over to my in-depth pedal buyers guide.
Mounting and Spacing
One thing that’s often overlooked is the horizontal spacing between the pedals themselves. If you do a lot of heel and toe driving, this, in particular, can be very important. Most cheaper pedal sets don’t allow for any adjustment of the spacing between the pedals. In contrast, higher-end pedals like the Sprint and Ultimate pedals can be individually mounted to a pedal plate in whatever configuration you like, so not only can you move them from side to side, but depending on your mounting solution, you can even offset them front-to-back should you wish to do so.
Speaking of mounting solutions, having a solid base for your pedals that won’t slide around on the floor, flex, or move relative to your chair is absolutely essential, so make sure that you’ve got this sorted first and foremost. You can buy separate baseplates for both the Sprint and Ultimate pedals, and unless you plan on constructing something yourself, these are an essential purchase. Remember, the heavier the pedals, the more of an issue this is going to be.
Heusinkveld Sim Pedals Sprint
Heusinkveld’s Sprint pedals are a perfect choice for both casual sim racers and professional eSports drivers. With a robust, compact, and highly adjustable design with custom electronics and powerful SmartControl software, they offer fully adjustable pedal geometry and plenty of configuration options.
The Sprint model replaces the discontinued Pro, and the newer pedals include all new concepts for bearings and pivot points to minimise unnecessary play. Automated testing routines have been used to simulate up to 1 million duty cycles to ensure maximum longevity and toughness.
Durable load cells measure the throttle and clutch positions and the force applied to the brake. Unlike designs with rotary potentiometers, load cells provide true linear output in relation to your pedal output. They are insensitive to dust and dirt and do not wear out, resulting in unmatched accuracy and durability over time.
Custom-developed and EMC tested electronics make sure each pedal responds instantly and accurately in your favourite simulator software, whilst the included SmartControl software allows easy configuration of dead zones, brake force, and the customisation of pedal output curves.
Throttle, Brake, & Clutch
The throttle is smooth, accurate, and incredibly adjustable, giving you excellent control over any race car. With five pedal travel settings – adjustable pedal force curve, spring preload, pedal angle, and pedal height – you’ll be able to set up the throttle precisely to your liking.
The dual-stage brake system consists of an adjustable initial coil spring, simulating the pad to disc gap, and progressive rubber springs. The pedal firmness is adjusted by selecting from 6 different rubber stack heights, while a 120kg load cell measures up to 65kg of maximum actual brake force.
The clutch features a regressive spring mechanism to simulate a typical concave clutch curve and features three settings; adjustable spring preload, pedal angle, and pedal height.
As I mentioned above, the Sprint pedals come with SmartControl, a powerful configuration tool allowing you to set up your pedals in ways not previously possible. Working together with all-new electronics, SmartControl gives you the ability to establish throttle, brake and clutch curves, dead zones, ranges for maximum pressure, and so on.
You can also save profiles for each car you drive. You can make these adjustments without recalibrating the pedals (including iRacing) and save them into profiles, which you can load again in a few mouse clicks.
Heusinkveld Sim Pedals Ultimate
Heusinkveld Ultimate pedals are suitable for high-end professional motorsport simulators. They feature a strong, stiff, compact, and durable design using custom-developed 12bit USB electronics for an instant and accurate response. The maximum actual brake force is 136kg, measured with a 200kg load cell, while the maximum clutch force is 45kg. The pedals incorporate fully adjustable geometry and adjustable hydraulic damping on every individual pedal.
All structural parts of the Ultimate pedals are made from CNC precision laser cut stainless steel. Heusinkveld made mathematical models to calculate pedal travel and operating force, predicting with great accuracy how each pedal feels in all of its many different configurations. Furthermore, design tolerances have been optimised to have a minimal amount of unnecessary play.
Also, the Ultimate pedals all stainless-steel metal profiles are bead blasted with glass beads before assembly, resulting in a high-quality semi-gloss metallic look with smooth edges.
The Ultimate pedals are a full-hydraulic pedal set with all three pedals featuring an adjustable hydraulic damper. As pedal assemblies in real cars have hydraulic flow through hoses, tubes, and cylinders, the Ultimate pedals’ dampers aim to simulate the effect that these assemblies typically provide.
The brake and clutch both feature a 2-way damper which adds resistance depending on how fast the pedal is pressed/released. The throttle pedal features a damper that resists speed at the ingoing stroke. This helps with smoothing the throttle application, and it is also used on some real race cars for this purpose. Moreover, you can adjust the resistance of all the dampers.
A great bonus here is that the Ultimate pedals’ hydraulic system has proven to be ultra-reliable and does not require periodic maintenance. Even in the unlikely case of a failure, all hydraulic dampers can easily be removed while the pedal still retains its basic functionality as the pedal sensors are separated from the hydraulic circuit.
Should you buy the Sprint or the Ultimate Pedals?
Now comes the tricky question; which pedal set should you buy? This is, of course, very hard to answer as it comes down to factors like budget, your racing experience, and the amount of physical room you have to install the pedals. Both the Sprint and the Ultimate pedals are entirely load-cell-based, and every set of Heusinkveld pedals comes with a USB-controller and a USB-cable.
The controller has 3 RJ-sockets with a load cell amplifier to which the pedals are connected.
The most significant difference lies in hydraulic damping. My suggestion for potential Heusinkveld pedal buyers is to buy the Ultimate pedals if you have the cash, as they are indisputably the better pedal. However, if you’re upgrading from, say, Thrustmaster, Logitech or Fanatec gear, the Heusinkveld Sprint pedals will feel like an entirely new universe. I’d almost recommend that you own a set of Sprint pedals before upgrading to the Ultimate pedal set so that you can appreciate what “good” feels like.
Heusinkveld Sim Rig GT
Moving on to some of Heusinkveld’s other products, we have the Heusinkveld Sim Rig. This is a sturdy mounting platform for your high-end simulator peripherals, including an integrated triple monitor mount. It’s made of waterjet cut aluminium brackets combined with standard aluminium profiles, meaning this rig kit allows you to build a lean and compact GT-style simulator suitable for both professional and home use.
By integrating the monitor mount into the rig design, a triple screen setup can be positioned right on top of the steering wheel motor, maximising the horizontal and vertical field of view while maintaining a very lean rig design.
The pedal mounting plate, shifter bracket, and handbrake bracket are compatible with all Heusinkveld Engineering products, while the steering wheel bracket and seat brackets are compatible with a wide variety of brands. The monitor stand supports triple 24″-28″ screens with 7,5 x 7,5cm or 10 x 10cm VESA mounts.
Heusinkveld Sim Shifter Sequential
Covered over on our sim racing shifters guide, Heusinkveld’s Sim Shifter Sequential is a very compact item, so if you only want sequential and no h-pattern, this is a pretty sturdy and compact addition to your sim.
The shifter has the feel of a real sequential gearbox becuase of its ball spring resistance system. With a short throw action that has variable resistance depending on the position. This means that the lever requires a higher initial peak force before the resistance drops as the lever simulates the gearbox sliding into gear:
The unit features soft bump stops which makes shifting a relatively quiet procedure compared to some of the other devices mentioned!
Heusinkveld Sim Handbrake
Today’s final product is the Heusinkveld Sim Handbrake, which borrows much of its technology from Heusinkveld’s pedals and features a strong, stiff, compact, and durable design made out of stainless steel. Using load cell technology, the amount of force you apply on the lever determines the output to your simulation software of choice.
The handbrake system has an adjustable soft-grip lever, allowing the lever to be tilted 120 degrees in infinite adjustable steps to offer maximum flexibility. The handbrake can detect forces of up to 17kgs (measured at the soft grip at the lever) and features overload protection. The load cell is (indirectly) activated by a rubber, which gives the handbrake a firm and progressive feel. The handbrake comes with two types of rubber, so the feel of the handbrake can be adjusted.