Testing the RSR-21 Cockpit from Rock Solid Rigs

RSR-21 wooden racing cockpit

Featured Image: RSR-21 and Ascher F64 V3 wheel

This week I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Foster, Founder of RSR (Rock Solid Rigs) who has developed and launched the RSR-21. Rock Solid Rigs have a very different take on the ordinary Aluminium profile rigs we’ve become used to. The different take? A very clever, FEA-designed, multi-layered birch plywood sim racing cockpit. The amount of Motorsport engineering and materials expertise that has gone into this product is astonishing.


Challenging Conventions

The RSR-21 is a convention-defying take on the (highly saturated) Aluminium profile sim racing rig market. Aluminium is so prolific in our industry that some might approach a rig manufactured in an alternative material with a bit of doubt.

side view - seat mounting

So let’s address the elephant in the room: can wood be a higher tensile material than aluminium profile? The short answer is yes – and layered correctly, wood can offer measurably less deflection (flex) than an equivalent made from Aluminium.

Heavy-duty construction detail - no tools required for adjustments
Heavy-duty construction detail – no tools required for adjustments

Layered wood is more robust than concrete and steel in building applications. The use of wood in building technology is an emerging, sustainable and surprising market. The premise is that cross-laminated materials (including wood or carbon fibre composites) can create new material properties. As an example, F1 wing sections have multiple layers of carbon so that the engineers can control flex under very high aerodynamic loads. The amount of thought and R&D required to get to this stage is not trivial.

If a composites engineer wanted less or no deflection at all, that’s of course possible and requires a change to the way the carbon is layered in the manufacturing process. I suppose my point here is that the subject of materials science and composite engineering is an entire branch of engineering and represents a life’s work to master. It’s more involved and complex than simply bolting aluminium profiles together. This is why the design is patented – and rightly so.

Top view with the keyboard and mouse tray (right) and handbrake and shifter mount (left)
Top view with the keyboard and mouse tray (right) and handbrake and shifter mount (left)

With this understanding, it should come as no surprise that the same design techniques apply to wood. The layering in the RSR-21 is intentionally designed to achieve certain properties. In RSR’s product, deflection is designed out and minimised to the point where is able to perform better than equivalent profile or metal pedal plates.

So don’t look at these rigs and assume that Aluminium is better. It just doesn’t work that way.

At this point it might not surprise you to mention that this is very much Mark’s area of specialism, he’s a Senior F1 Composites Engineer and has worked with several front-running F1 teams on manufacturing and simulator design. His design, analysis and assembly of the RSR-21 borrows the same principles of F1 carbon fibre tub assembly. You’re looking at breakthrough technology for sim racing, based on tried and tested F1 methodology.

side view with shifter shelf

Remember when I explained the use of FEA (Finite Element Analysis) during my Cube Controls SP01 review?

FEA has also been applied to the development of the RSR-21. So every cut and every section has been analysed in a simulated environment from a load-bearing and stress point of view. This, as Mark points out, took several prototypes and more refinement once he went into early-phase production mode.

Dave Cam: Reviewing the Rock Solid Rigs RSR-21

Environmental and Sustainability

Sustainability is an issue we all need to be more mindful of. As I write this, I read that a major insurer has dropped out of the Florida insurance market as they deem climate-related issues too much of a risk for them to be able to offer their products.

Materials like Aluminium takes an enormous amount of resource to produce – the carbon footprint is huge even before it has been pulled into extruded profile. Energy costs are increasing and resource scarcity is a growing problem. This is a sign of things to come.

Very close up on RSR-21 sim racing rig
Very high-quality finish – everything is flush, and smooth and of course, there are no sharp edges

RSR’s approach is to maximise its sustainability credentials by only using FSC-approved wood. The wood comes from purpose-grown forests, and for every rig sold, 5 trees are planted. RSR use recycled plastic where possible – for every box delivered, only 22 grams of plastic is included.

This is quite simply, modern corporate social responsibility and more companies are coming on board with this way of thinking.

As someone who runs solar PV and tries to minimise their carbon footprint where possible, RSR’s values are incredibly refreshing to me. Mark is proud of their environmental credentials and is paving the way for more sustainable options for sim racing consumers in the future. It’s inevitable that other manufacturers will follow his lead.

deflection test
RSR-21 pedal plate deflection test – you can see the video on the RSR Instagram, here.

You’re still probably going to ask: but, how stiff? The answer: 80kg/mm. The wooden RSR-21 is so stiff it takes 80kg (175lb) of foot force to move a solid brake pedal 1mm. This 140kg Formula One-style deflection test Image above) was carried out using a solid load cell replica of an Ultimate brake pedal from Aira Technology bolted directly to the RSR wooden cockpit with no extra reinforcement or baseplates.

You can see the deflection test video on the RSR Instagram, here. The product has genuinely been developed in a Motorsport engineering environment.

How it Looks

Mark and I spent a long time talking about the details. The manufacturing has been executed with extreme care. Everything is smooth and nicely flush with the accessories. Barrel nuts are used to connect each section for strength and rigidity – and looking at the rig itself it’s aesthetically very pleasing and looks far more at home in wood than a more industrial-looking bit of painted aluminium.

rear view - RSR-21

As you run your hands across the wood it feels smooth, there are no sharp edges and so much care has been put into the finish. Once built, the adjustments are “tool free”. Mark also pointed out that, because of the way the larger items have been cut, they can distribute the product in smaller boxes, which drastically reduces delivery costs and of course, the carbon footprint associated with travel.

Wheel deck - Pre-drilled for Simucube via a bracket, Fanatec, Thrustmaster & Logitech hardware (fixings included).
Wheel deck – Pre-drilled for Simucube via a bracket, Fanatec, Thrustmaster & Logitech hardware (fixings included).

Lowering myself into the cockpit there are plenty of strong points to hold onto as I lower myself into the seat. If I couldn’t see the wood, I wouldn’t know I was sitting in a cockpit made from the stuff.

How it Feels

When you’re using your rig, take a long hard look at your pedal plate as you exert maximum force on the brake pedal. You’ll see some movement (I know I can on my current rig – it’s significant enough that I can detect it with my eyes). The RSR pedal plate, however, was rock solid (so Rock Solid Rigs isn’t just a clever name!) There’s also no movement around the wheel deck and as you can see from the images, we were using a Simucube 2 Pro and an Ascher Racing F64 V3 wireless wheel (review of that particular sim racing wheel coming very soon). We were using the rig at what you might consider a high level of torque and brake force.

cockpit view - RSR 21
Cockpit view – RSR-21

We spent a lot of time in Assetto Corsa, modified slightly and with a Williams F1 car. The rig and setup overall felt great, very professional and ergonomically, and well thought out.

I particularly like the solid feel of the keyboard and mouse trays and the shifter/handbrake support. No movement between shifts when we were testing the Mclaren F1 which, is manual and quite the handful if your heel/toe technique isn’t on par!

another side view of the RSR-21

Naturally, I felt extremely confident applying force to the brakes and I’m happy to report, quite simply, that this rig has no detectable flex during use whatsoever.

pedal deck

Conclusion

Pros:

  • Innovative Material Use: Utilizes multi-layered birch plywood, challenging the conventional aluminum profile rigs, and providing less deflection and higher tensile strength.than Aluminium
  • Sustainable and Eco-Friendly: RSR Emphasizes their sustainability credentials by using FSC-approved wood and recycled plastic, with a commitment to planting 5 trees for every rig sold.
  • High-Quality Finish: Smooth, flush finishes with no sharp edges, contributing to an aesthetically pleasing design that’s comfortable to use.
  • Stiffness and Stability: Exceptional stiffness with 80kg/mm, ensuring minimal to no detectable flex during use, even under high torque and brake force.
  • Tool-Free Adjustments: Designed for convenience with tool-free adjustments, making it user-friendly for customization and setup.
  • Compact Shipping and Assembly: Efficiently designed for smaller packaging, reducing delivery costs and carbon footprint.
  • Designed by Experts: Developed with the expertise of a Senior F1 Composites Engineer, incorporating F1 methodologies for sim racing.

Cons:

  • Material Perception: Potential scepticism from users accustomed to metal rigs regarding the durability and longevity of a plywood structure.
  • Limited Reviews: While the simracingcockpit.com review is thorough, there are still very few reviews in the Internet. I suggest you try it; you’ll want one immediately.

Issues Other Reviewers Found:

It’s important to consider that every product may have room for improvement or aspects that might not meet every user’s expectations. Potential areas of concern could relate to the long-term durability of the plywood material under extreme conditions, the rig’s adaptability to various setups, or the ease of integrating third-party accessories.

With all of that said, the RSR-21 sim racing cockpit is an aesthetically pleasing, very reasonably priced sim racing rig that I recommend to anyone wanting something that looks nicer in the home and offers a very, very solid base for your sim racing. It’s priced at close to half that of a “high-end” aluminium sim racing cockpit and on that basis alone, the RSR-21 gets my vote.


Testing the RSR-21 Cockpit from Rock Solid Rigs