Last updated: September 6th, 2023
Today we’re reviewing Sim-Lab’s new XB-1 handbrake. It’s a very nicely designed device with a small load cell and electronics built into this very compact sim racing handbrake. It has a very nicely designed range of setups – if you like a stiff handbrake, or something slightly looser, the XB-1 can do that. It’s also very sensitive which, once mastered, gives you huge scope for fine drift/rotation control.
Spoiler alert: The Sim-Lab XB-1 Loadcell Handbrake sets a very high bar for sim racing handbrakes at this price level. Whether you’re a dedicated rally driver or looking to enhance your sim racing setup, the XB-1 is the one you need to get.
How Does it Work?
The Sim-Lab XB-1 offers a Load Cell design in a very small package. In case you don’t know, A load cell is a type of transducer that converts force into an electrical signal. We see them all the time in sim racing brake pedals and higher-end sim-racing handbrakes. In the case of the XB-1, the proprietary 150kg load cell is designed to measure the exact force applied to the handbrake, rather than just its travel distance (as a Hall sensor would).
There’s a two-stage system in the XB-1 that includes a tensioned metal spring (under two preload nuts), followed by an elastomer stack pressing into a load cell chamber. This combination provides an initial light resistance that gets harder halfway through the pulling process, all while ramping up the signal from the load cell.
Sim-Lab provides options for elastomer stiffness, and replacing the elastomer(s) is very easy – in fact the unit relinquishes its elastomer setup much like a Heusinkveld Sprint – so to sprint owners this process will feel very familiar.
Something that is really cool – the unit is plug-and-play (although I recommend you install Race Director – more on this in a moment) and when you adjust the preload, the handbrake requires no re-calibration. The elastomers are changed by unloading the pre-load nuts and carefully pushing the handbrake lever forward while unhooking the hinge at the base of the handbrake chassis.
Just FYI, take care when you’re doing this as the force you need can expose the potential for a slip of the hands to pull the loadcell wire. I made a note that this wire needs securing in some way, but I doubt you’ll change the feel of the handbrake more than once or twice in its lifetime.
The handbrake also includes a dual-stage damper, which simulates the feeling you might find in a modern rally or drift car. This feature imitates pressurizing the brake system as in a real race-car brake system.
Installation is a walk in the park – because it’s so narrow it can be mounted on a single aluminium profile edge as this photo explains a lot more clearly:
The handbrake is PC only and connects to your gaming PC via a D-type USB cable. The D-Type USB port is on the back of the handbrake.
I recommend you install and run RaceDirector at least once – you’ll find deadzone and curve profile settings once you’ve installed the platform. I didn’t follow the calibration process as it was obvious the handbrake was calibrated out of the box.
Once it’s installed, it’s really just a case of assigning the controller in iRacing:
How does it Feel?
The handbrake feels good, and in particular, the machined handle grip is the perfect length and has a lot of grip. It has a nice sensitivity to it – you can be forceful if you want to initiate a big drift, but for fine, tight dirt corners you can be very smooth with the inputs and get some great rotation happening!
For Rallycross, this is an ace handbrake – because your input can be as fine on the handbrake as it is say, on the brake pedal. The car’s rotation becomes very easy to control with small inputs, which really smoothes things out.
As a recommendation, consider the Push / Pull Rally Shifter (which we reviewed recently too). With the push/pull rally shifter installed, you’ve got a really versatile off-road / drift / rally setup that I’ve particularly enjoyed playing with – fine gear shift control, up and down with my right hand and fine input control through the handbrake with my left hand. A mighty combination indeed!