Last updated: October 3rd, 2023
Featured image: Sim-Lab XB1 sim racing handbrake
If you’ve been following our recent posts as we build your sim racing cockpit, you’ll have had the opportunity to add some great upgrades. Of course, another appealing component that can add an extra layer of immersion to your sim racing experience is a handbrake.
While you do not need a handbrake to play racing sims, having one can provide a much more immersive feeling. If you plan on only playing F1 games, then a handbrake will have limited use. However, let’s say that rally or drifting is your favourite racing discipline. Then it’s vital to consider adding a handbrake to your rig.
Some drivers just love to have extra control with a handbrake, particularly for rallying and drifting. What’s more, your gameplay will feel more authentic, and you’ll have more control of the vehicle, giving you better lap/rally stage times. With all this combined, a handbrake becomes a very fun and practical addition.
Our top Sim Racing Handbrakes:
- Sim-Lab XB1
- Fanatec ClubSport V1.5
- Heusinkveld Sim Handbrake V2
- Moza HBP
- Universal USB handbrake
- Meca EVO Handbrake
- Simagic TB-1 Handbrake
- Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod+
- Akina Handbrake
- VNM Handbrake V1
XB1 Handbrake by Sim-Lab
The Sim-Lab XB1 Loadcell Handbrake is one of the newest additions to the sim racing marketplace. This one is fitted to my rig:
This device’s core feature (and strength!) lies in its proprietary and patented 150kg load cell. Instead of measuring travel, the XB1’s loadcell measures the exact amount of force applied, providing an authentic racing experience by leveraging your muscle memory.
The advantage of this approach is that it’s reliable and easy to master. It’s quite sensitive, which is no bad thing for finer control especially for drifting and Rallycross.
In terms of construction, the XB1 Loadcell Handbrake is robust. Its full-metal construction ensures durability and longevity even under intense use. It also includes an Elastomer set, each one labelled to indicate resistance, making the device fully adjustable to suit your specific needs and preferences.
For real rally and drift car racing, the XB1’s unique Dual Stage Damper provides a “two-stage feel” to the handbrake, the initial travel of the brake lever simulates pressurizing the brake system as in real race cars. For a more direct application, you can choose to remove this feature and equip the brake stack with a single elastomer or even a plastic spacer. Personally, I like the predictability of the resistance provided by the elastomers, and I think you will too.
When you order the XB1 handbrake, you’ll receive the handbrake itself, an Elastomer set of 3, mounting hardware, and a USB cable. Additionally, the software (called Race Director) is available for free download. This handbrake is (in my opinion) the best I’ve ever used, and it is staying put on my sim racing setup!
As an aside, I’ll recommend the Sim-Lab Push/Pull Rally Shifter if you’re keen to use a paddle shift *and* this handbrake – I use my right hand for the push/pull shifting and my left for the handbrake. It’s a perfect combination.
Fanatec ClubSport V1.5
The Fanatec ClubSport V1.5 is a sturdy, all-metal construction with a foam-style grip. It has actually been available on Fanatec’s website for a long time which I suspect is a sign of the quality of the thing. If it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it! This is a very popular handbrake and, treated with respect, can prove to be very durable.
The handbrake can be set up vertically or horizontally, which is a level of customization that really appeals at this price point. This can help a lot when you want the handbrake to be in an upward position like the set-up of a rally car. One downside is the lack of mounting choices, which are not much better than that of the universal handbrakes and will require a similar custom solution to connect it securely to your rig.
In terms of connectivity, everything is fine if you plan on using this handbrake in unison with a Fanatec wheelbase. The ClubSport is compatible with PC, Xbox, and PS4/PS5 (assuming you’re using a Fanatec wheelbase). However, if you want to use another brand of wheelbase and use the Clubsport handbrake as a stand-alone device on a PC, you’ll need to purchase an additional USB cable from Fanatec. Priced at a very appealing $160, the Fanatec ClubSport V1.5 handbrake is a great step up from the entry-level models but still doesn’t give as much feedback or provide as much connectivity as some of the higher-priced items further down the list.
Heusinkveld Sim Handbrake V2
Anyone familiar with the name Heusinkveld will know that the company is heralded for its top-shelf offerings, and the Heusinkveld Sim Handbrake V2 is no different and in our opinion, is probably the best pick of the bunch. It’s only slightly more expensive than the Thrustmaster TSS, but don’t forget that this is a dedicated handbrake only. Still, if you can afford it, then it’s worth making the investment.
This Smartcontrol compatible offering from Heusinkveld uses an upgraded load cell to measure the forces between the real world and the simulated environment, which at the time of development was quite a technically impressive thing to do.
Compatibility-wise, this is a PC-only device, although at least the USB cable is included with the unit. Mounting choices are still not amazing, even at the top end of the scale. It seems to be an area where manufacturers across the board have room for improvement regarding sim handbrakes. Still, all those little niggly issues aside, if you want to truly immerse yourself into a game like Dirt Rally, Automobilista, or Richard Burns Rally, then this is the handbrake to get.
Moza HBP Handbrake
The brand new Moza HBP sim racing handbrake is finally here.
Constructed from aeroplane-grade aluminium, the Moza HBP handbrake features a CNC machined body with an anodized finish, providing wear resistance, sturdiness, and durability. Equipped with a 16-bit position sensor, this handbrake offers a long maintenance-free life while maintaining exceptional accuracy and responsiveness.
The Moza HBP handbrake boasts a dual mode and multi-angle adjustable design, allowing users to mount the lever horizontally or vertically for a customized fit. Angles can be adjusted to suit individual preferences, simulating both road and race cars. Users can also fine-tune the rebound strength and brake travel by replacing springs and adjusting the stop position, ensuring optimal performance and comfort.
With its USB connectivity, the Moza HBP handbrake can be connected directly to a PC or to a Moza wheelbase with a handbrake port. Its ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing design allows for easy mounting on most racing rigs, and optional table clamps are available for users without a dedicated rig.
Measuring 290 x 235 x 130 mm and weighing 1.7 kg, the Moza HBP handbrake is a compact yet powerful addition to any sim racing setup.
Universal USB Handbrake
For a highly budget-friendly suggestion, I recommend checking out a universal handbrake which can easily be found on online marketplaces like Amazon. There’s a good selection of styles, colours, and sizes to choose from, all for less than $100. If you’re trying to save up money to purchase other peripherals, but are also looking for a sim handbrake, then a generic handbrake could be the right choice for you.
How you mount the handbrake to your rig will, of course, depend on which model you choose, but most likely you will need to devise your own custom mounting solution for handbrakes in this category which is fair enough when you consider the price point. One very important thing to note is that these types of handbrakes generally only work on PCs. Having said that, considering the economic price, this lack of compatibility can be forgiven. In general, the overall quality of these devices is not bad, but they cannot compare to other choices on this list.
This type of handbrake is a safe bet when looking for a starter-level item for your set-up. However, if you know you’re planning on creating a top-of-the-range system, perhaps it’s best to keep reading.
Meca Evo Handbrake
Meca is a small manufacturer based in the Czech Republic. They’re actually better known for their Meca Cup1 hydraulic sim racing pedals (in my opinion!). As their pedals get great feedback, so should their 200kg load cell-based sim racing handbrake, the Meca Evo Handbrake.
In Meca’s own words: “…developed in cooperation with real rally drivers, thanks to which you will have the opportunity to experience the feeling of passing the hairpin through the handbrake.”
Sounds good to me!
The load cell (pictured) is a strain gauge-based single point Load Cell with a max load rating of 200kg (item: NA151), which is mated to custom electronics that Meca has designed in-house. You can set your own output curves and dead zones using their MECA CONTROL PANEL software, much like you can with the new Heusinkveld handbrake on the Smartcontrol platform.
The platform offers adjustable stiffness by swapping out the polyurethane rollers – there are 3 in total supplied with the handbrake.
It’s customisable, too. The Handbrake’s “lever head” is mounted on an M10 thread and so, if you’re reasonably handly with a lathe (or have a friend with one) you can have some fun by producing your self-made head.
Finally, the elastomers are replaceable polyurethane-based items. You can adjust the shift length of the brake and its stiffness to your liking. There’s in-built elastomer protection, too – so there should be no concerns about longevity!
Simagic TB-1 Handbrake
The TB-1 Handbrake from Simagic is the perfect addition to the cockpit of any sim racer who loves racing rally and touring cars or drivers who are into drifting. Thanks to Simagic’s patented two-stage mechanism found inside the TB-1, it accurately replicates the feeling of a real handbrake and delivers tremendous resistance and longevity with its CNC-machined aluminium body.
You can adjust the resistance of the TB-1 by simply swapping the different grades of high-durability elastomers provided, which offer varying levels of stiffness that allow you to fine-tune the device to your preference.
Plus, with a 100 kg load cell, this sim racing handbrake can replicate forces applied when braking with incredible precision. Overall, the handbrake weighs 1.3 kg, stands 350 mm tall, 180 mm wide, and has a depth of 66 mm.
The TB-1 is also 100 % plug-and-play ready from the box and is supplied with all the necessary equipment to mount and connect the unit to your rig.
Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod+
The Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod+, like the TH8A, is a multi-purpose device. However, this model offers an alternative setup, capable of being a sequential shifter or an analogue handbrake. The build quality and overall feeling of this piece of equipment are in a much higher class. Working with Sparco, Thrustmaster released the TSS; a close replica of actual Sparco gear you might find in a real race car.
Just like its little brother, this handbrake works with most sim racing titles on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. On a PC it can be used as a standalone product with the correct cable which is included in the box. A switch on the side of the case activates the shifter.
Akina’s 3Drap series handbrake is one of the “must-haves” currently touted in the sim racing community. With some enthusiastic backers, it’d be a shame not to include this one:
The unit, made in Italy, and designed by 3Drap is manufactured in laser-cut brushed steel. It has an “Alcantara-like” stitched seam handle.
There’s a proprietary “DMF system” which allows the user to adjust the feeling of the handbrake, from “hydraulic-like” behaviour to “conventional-like” which they feel makes this handbrake the better choice for drifting in the sim.
VNM Rally Handbrake V1
One of the newer entrants to the sim racing handbrake space is this very tidy offering from VNM:
In terms of a high-end build, the V1 from VNM is definitely up there. With a generous aluminium CNC machined chassis, this handbrake features an adjustable, pre-load sprung elastomer cell and a MAVIN 100kg load cell. These units are designed to feel “like the real thing” and with an STM32 16-bit ADC board to interpret the load cell inputs, you can really finesse your handbrake inputs on the rally stage.