Sim-Lab’s XB-1 Handbrake – Test Drive

Sim-Lab XB-1 Sim Racing Handbrake - Review
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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.


sim-lab xb-1 sim racing handbrake in box

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.

sim-lab xb-1 handbrake boxed

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).

Close up of the Sim-Lab XB-1 sim racing handbrake
From right to left on the Sim-Lab XB-1 shaft assembly: pre-load lock nuts, elastomer, sprint, load cell


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 XB-1 sim racing handbrake - all packaging
What’s in the box: USB cable, Spare elastomers and plastic packer, mounting kit and handbrake

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.

load cell and preload spring

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.

XB-1 sim racing handbrake close up

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

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:

installing the sim-lab xb-1 handbrake
Installation: two t-nuts and bolts. Very simple!

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.

Sim-Lab - Race Director

Once it’s installed, it’s really just a case of assigning the controller in iRacing:

assigning handbrake in iRacing
Assigning a handbrake in iRacing – taking this screenshot involved 3 keys on my keyboard while putting pressure on the handbrake column!

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!

Using the Sim-Lab XB-1 handbrake
Using the Sim-Lab XB-1 handbrake with my F33L racing gloves

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.

my rig setup with various accessories installed including the XB-1
Setup: Sim-Lab XB-1 / Buttkicker Gamer Plus / SimTrecs ProPedal GT / Grid Porsche GT3R DDU / Cube Controls F-Pro / Apex Race Deck

Conclusion

Pros:

  • High-Quality Construction: The XB1 is made entirely from aluminum, ensuring durability and a high-quality finish.
  • Customizable Resistance: Comes with elastomers of varying hardness (40a, 50a, 60a, 70a shore), allowing users to customize the resistance to their preference.
  • Two-Stage Brake System: Simulates the pressurization of brakes before becoming hard and firm, adding realism to the sim racing experience.
  • Plug-and-Play: Easy to connect and use without the need for additional software, although Sim-Lab’s Race Director software is available for those who want more control.
  • Good Grip and Comfort: The lever knob is well-sized and weighted, providing a secure grip.
  • Load Cell: the onboard electronics are amazing – it’s a very sensitive but easy to master device.

Cons:

  • Non-Adjustable Orientation: The handbrake lever stands upright and its angle cannot be adjusted, limiting mounting options.
  • Fragile Micro-USB Port: The port feels fragile and lacks feedback when plugging in the cable, which might concern some users.
  • Mounting Bracket Flex: When mounted on a 4040 aluminium profile, the angled mounting bracket exhibits slight flex when the handbrake is pulled firmly. This is not extremely noticeable but could affect the user’s confidence in pulling the handbrake too hard.

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!


Sim-Lab’s XB-1 Handbrake – Test Drive