Last updated: January 21st, 2023
If you’ve been following some of our recent posts, you’ll be up to speed with our view on the best sim steering wheels, wheelbases and frames available on the consumer market. We’ve also gone over how to assemble a rig from scratch, which we covered with a broader look at some of the vital information you need to understand before spending a penny.
Of course, a sim rig isn’t complete without a set of racing pedals, so here I’m going to give a detailed breakdown of what pedal features you need to know about, and what the best pedal choices out there might be when it comes to performance, feeling, and overall quality and design.
Our best sim racing pedal recommendations:
Check out our recommended sim pedals with the links below or read on for more details:
- Fanatec CSL V2
- Fanatec ClubSport V3
- Heusinkveld Sprint
- Heusinkveld Ultimate+
- SimTrecs ProPedal GT
- AseTek Invicta / Pagani Huayra R Edition
- Meca Cup1
- Meca EVO 1
- Cube Controls SP01 *coming soon
- Frex Sim3PEDAL Sim Pedals V5
- SimGrade Thera 2-Pedal Set
- VENYM 3 pedals Black Widow Carbon
- Simagic P2000 Pedals
- Augury Simulations AP-121
How spending a bit more budget on your pedals can yield big benefits
Pedals are, as you might expect, a crucial interface between you and your car’s attitude on the track. Trail braking and good throttle control are the name of the game when it comes to faster lap times. That’s certainly the experience I’ve had over the years; and, with every pedal upgrade I’ve had, I’ve found two main issues tend to surface:
- That I have better brake control and can trail into a corner more precisely
- That I can control the car with the throttle more accurately
Generally speaking, you’ll find in “high-end” sim racing pedals that the components (and the mechanical design of the units) tend to handle the kind of brake forces you’d expect in a real racing car. They also, critically, have the electronics onboard to measure the input on the throttle, brake and clutch with load cells (check out how excited these guys get about the quality of the load cells they use in their STR Pro pedals). The electronics get quite sensitive the further up the development (and cost!) spectrum you travel, but the benefit of this is that you can notice just how fine your control is over the simulated environment.
PSA: If you’re upgrading for the first time: go for the pedals first
I always advise a sim racer looking to start upgrading their rig: go for the pedals first. In my humble opinion, a pedal upgrade can be the most significant update you can make on your racing rig. Better control and easier manipulation of the car is all done through the pedals, and in such a competitive environment, it’s OK to want to exploit every potential advantage there is.
What are load cells, and how are they used in pedals?
A load cell is also known as a “force transducer”. Unlike, say, a potentiometer you can put very high loads through a load cell, measuring the force as an electrical signal that is then amplified in the pedal electronics. The benefit aside from dealing with very high forces associated with the brake pedal is the mechanical aspect of the overall pedal design can be simpler. A potentiometer would need some sort of leverage reduction to remove the forces (50kg would physically crush a potentiometer!). The drawback is that the electronics required are arguably more complicated; although of course in an engineering sense, the work required to build a good load cell amplifier with a USB adapter is pretty trivial stuff.
None of this says that “potentiometer-based pedals are bad” because they aren’t. You can do a very nice job of dealing with the pedal signal by using potentiometers, too; in fact, the Vishay potentiometers mentioned in the diagram above are considered to be very high quality indeed.
Adjustability to suit your style (or real-world race car!)
Something that I really value in a sim pedal set is having adjustability; my Heusinkveld Sprints (below) are separate units, so you can control the spacing from side to side and forwards to backwards. This allows me to set up my pedals in a similar way to the pedals in my race car:
If you use the heel and toe technique in your driving, this adjustability issue, in particular, can be very important. Most cheaper pedal sets don’t allow for any adjustment of the spacing between the pedals, whereas higher-end 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 and adjust the pedal angle.
Regarding entry-level pedals, I’ve decided to no longer cover the beginner-level Logitech G29 and Thrustmaster TCLM pedals. If you’re a beginner and you just want to test the water, or you’re looking for a good starting point, these potentiometer-based pedals are OK. You can gather what you need to know by checking out our beginner’s guide to sim racing here.
But if you’re ready to start taking sim racing seriously, read on:
At the very top of the budget range, you tend to find pedals with hydraulic dampers installed. I’ve tested the Heusinkveld Ultimate and Ultimate+ pedals on several occasions, and as we speak, I have a pair of SimTrecs GT Pros fitted to my cockpit.
What I’ll say about hydraulic damping is this: When it’s done well, it feels awesome. Go and sit in your road car outside and compress the brake pedal. That hydraulic compression is something that elastomer/rubber dampers simply can’t emulate. As you release the pedal, you might find the pedal return is smooth and consistent.
That’s a feature of a two-way damper; compression – when you press the pedal down and rebound when you release. A good two-way damper on a brake pedal is unbeatable for control, provided it’s a good quality item. For what it’s worth, Heusinkveld does this very well, although I’ve never personally felt the need to upgrade from my Sprints.
Pedal base mounting and flex
For a long time, I ran with an RSEAT RS1 which, was great with Fanatec pedals, but the base started to flex under the sort of 25-30kg brake forces I was using with Sprints.
But check out this video and watch for the pedal base moving:
If you think about it, a mount that flexes even a few degrees only introduces an inconsistency in your brake technique by making the pedal response different every time you brake. This is far from ideal when you’re trying to be a competitive sim racer, where ultra-consistent driving is the key to any kind of result.
Eventually, I upgraded to a nice 8020-style rig, which is completely solid. You’re looking for almost no (preferably none!) chassis flex under braking from your sim rig.
One last thing I’ll mention is my love affair with Heusinkveld Smartcontrol:
Having a nice graphical user interface for pedal calibration and response curve management is nice. I’ve written about a technique I use to set up my pedals for improved threshold braking (where you set the maximum pedal force at just under the wheel lock limit or threshold) – having the ability to set this is a must-have for me. Notably, the Heusinkveld Ultimate pedals are not SmartControl compatible (yet).
With all of that out of the way, here are some recommendations for you to take a look at:
Fanatec CSL V2
The V1 version of these pedals were my first sim racing pedals, and I loved them. So, great news that this popular pedal set from Fanatec returns in V2 form with an overhauled load cell brake, brand new Hall sensors on both the throttle and the clutch, and as you would expect, many refinements to the original design.
These pedals are a fantastic way to learn the art of sim racing. We’ve covered budget, and higher-end sim builds before. I would be very pleased to add these V2 CSL pedals to the budget build to save on cost without compromising quality.
The V2 is priced around the 299EUR mark, making them (in cost terms) around half of the price of a pair of Heusinkveld Sprints. But (as my experience tells me) when you put these on eBay, provided you’ve looked after them, you’ll be surprised how little they depreciate. What a great sim pedals kit from Fanatec.
Fanatec ClubSport V3
If you’re on a tighter budget and therefore need to stay on the lower end of the market, the bigger brother pedal set from Fanatec, the ClubSport V3, is currently one of the most popular. They have all of the full metal pedigree as the earlier Clubsport pedals, but they also have a nice adjustable load cell feature behind the brake pedal.
You can also upgrade these with hydraulic dampers, and there are several mods available for them on the market.
For value for money (normally being sold for £330 new), I think these are a really good starting point too. The V3’s offer enough feel and sensitivity to see you through many years of sim racing.
It’s a difficult choice between these V3 pedals and the CSL V2’s mentioned previously. I’d say that the build quality and durability is actually higher on the CSL V2’s. But if you want to upgrade with hydraulic dampers and aftermarket brake modifications, the Clubsport V3 might be the better choice.
With that said, in my opinion, it’s worth stumping up the (small) extra fee for the Heusinkveld Sprints.
Heusinkveld Sprint Sim Pedals
On the next rung of the ladder in the sim pedal market, coming in at a considerable £/$520, the Heusinkveld Sprint Sim Pedals are a perfect choice for the serious hobbyist and eSports professional aspirant.
Whichever version you choose (they are technically identical), these pedals have a strong, compact, and highly adjustable design with custom electronics and, they’re compatible with SmartControl. If you’re looking for pedals that help you to be both quick and consistent in GT or F1 style racing, these are a great choice. I’ve had mine for coming up to two years. I’ve tried modifying them with hydraulic dampers and really can’t see that this mod improves them.
I think they’re so good they’re just pretty impossible to improve upon, and in my humble opinion, are among the best sim racing pedals you can own.
One modification I have enjoyed (and stuck with) is a rumble kit mod that uses Simhub’s wheel slip and lock filters to give me more information on the grip levels underneath me. You can read the how-to on that kit installation here.
Heusinkveld Ultimate+ Pedals
At the top end of the market, the Heusinkveld Ultimate+ Pedals have historically been the go-to for commercial simulators, enthusiasts and Pro drivers.
These pedals from Heusinkveld Engineering are suitable for high-end professional Motorsport simulators, and their strong, stiff, compact, and durable design allows for an instant and accurate response.
They can be used in the most demanding environments, and they’re capable of simulating the pedal forces experienced in F1 and LMP cars. The two-way hydraulic damper in the brake is, in my opinion, delivering the best sim pedal feel you can get in the market at the moment.
We’ve recently reviewed Heusinkveld’s latest update to their flagship pedal set: the Ultimate+. You can read all about them here.
Simtrecs ProPedal GT
This is the pedal set I have installed on my rig. They’re wonderful things: careful CNC machining throughout, Vishay potentiometers and 200kg load cells with custom-made electronics and dampers. Most of the manufacturing takes place in-house at Simtrecs in Budapest, Hungary. Their RC car roots allowed them to make their own dampers and created a Smartcontrol-Esque calibration software package called SmartDrive.
Aside from the presentation (which is detailed and beautiful throughout), the pedal feel is also really good. The throttle is smooth and it feels very easy to control oversteer and rear traction. The brakes benefit from a nice and highly adjustable elastomer set and a 1-way hydraulic damper.
Asetek SimSports™ Pedal Sets: Invicta and SimSports™ Pedal Set Pagani Huayra R Edition
Oh boy, did I enjoy reviewing the Asetek SimSports™ Pedal Set Pagani Huayra R Edition pedal set. Asetek is a relative newcomer into the sim racing space but is a very well-known data and gaming systems cooling manufacturer. Their turnover is in the region of twice that of Fanatec, so we expect their pace of development to begin leading the sim racing industry in 2023.
These are the Pagani Huayra R Edition pedals with their T.H.O.R.P dual hydraulic system on the brake pedal. With pedals available from their growing stable
If the Huarya R Edition pedal set is a bit too pricey for you, I recommend the Invicta variant, which uses the same T.H.O.R.P hydraulic system and hall effect sensor in the throttle. The only difference is the pedal plates and the Pagani branding.
If you’re really into a stiff pedal feel for Formula and sports prototype racing, these pedals are for you. Not only do they have a realistic feel (from the perspective of a driver), but they’re a single unit and very, very easy to fit. There’s a clutch option which, again, is as simple as adding two threaded pins and tightening with a grubscrew to add the third pedal to the unit. Since reviewing these pedals, I’ve kept them on my rig. I like them a lot, as do many other influential sim racers!
Meca CUP1 pedals
Meca’s CUP1 sim racing pedals are a somewhat new entry in the sim racing universe – but the product attracts a lot of positive feedback in the forums and groups. These are load cell-based pedals, and, as you can see, are machined from stainless steel. These pedals ought to look brand new for years:
Meca uses the tried and tested Leo Bodnar electronics Load Cell Amplifier, and all moving parts are very carefully chosen, including bronze swivel and sliding bearings.
Meca EVO 1 Pedal Set
The all-new EVO1 hydraulic pedals from Meca, a manufacturer of first-class sim racing hardware from the Czech Republic, are the latest example of the brand’s exceptional craftsmanship. With an increased focus on reliability, robustness, and adjustability, the EVO1 pedals aim to improve on all areas of use from their predecessors and deliver more consistency and feedback, improving your racing results.
As the newest iteration in a line of top-notch sim racing pedals, the EVO1s have been redesigned from the ground up with the help of the sim racing community, who supplied Meca with valuable feedback on how the pedals could be improved to feel more realistic. As a result, the new pedals feature redesigned load cell sensors and new power transmission but retain a rock-solid build quality and an ergonomic stance.
Furthermore, it was noted by sim racers that the brake pedal is one of the most important pieces of equipment in the cockpit. Accordingly, Meca has placed the most emphasis on creating an ultra-realistic brake pedal and has attached a Willwood brand master cylinder plus a slave cylinder to the pedal, which simulates the brake system pressure in a real car.
Coming soon: SP10 pedals from Cube Controls
One more thing to note; of all the components you can buy for a simulator, at the moment, it’s pedals that seem to be coming onto the market most frequently. A good example of this is the recent announcement about the new SP10 pedals from Cube Controls:
Currently, no launch date is set for the Cube Controls pedals. I suspect they’ll be priced in the €1300 region to compete with the SimTrecs pedals. Clearly, the design is very nice, and even in real life, they look exquisite, with CNC machined aluminum bodies and adjustably hydraulic damping:
Frex Sim3PEDAL Sim Pedals V5
“FREX Sim3PEDAL V5 is a pedal of carbon everywhere”. Just look at these things:
Frex is perhaps lesser known in the sim racing mainstream but, to the high-end specialist, this company, based in Japan, is one of the best manufacturers in the business. Perhaps better known for their beautifully machined shifters, they actually offer a very complete range of gear, including the latest revision of their sim pedals, the carbon V5’s.
I don’t think I’ve come across carbon in the construction of sim pedals so far, until now. Made with CFRP real carbon plates, the 10kg Sim3PEDAL unit v5 has a novel approach to simulating “real” pedal feel using adjustable hydraulic damping.
The unit comes as a 3-pedal unit with hydraulic brakes, a hall-sensing throttle, a clutch, and a carbon footrest! Priced at ¥145,000 / $1,259.91 USD / €1,113.30, these are among the higher-priced sim pedals you can buy. But – they are seriously cool!
In terms of cost, the thing to remember is if you’ve looked after your equipment, then selling on eBay should be very easy and will minimize losses. There are, for example, very few Heusinkveld Sim Pedals Sprint on eBay, despite their huge popularity. So any used sim gear you list will sell quickly, letting you upgrade to your next set of sim racing pedals. Whatever you choose to do, always remember to enjoy the process of improving your driving and always race clean!
SimGrade Thera 2-Pedal Set
The Thera 2-pedal set is a premium piece of sim racing kit made from billet aluminium with a black anodized finish and, according to its Finish manufacturer, SimGrade, is the most rigid pedal set on the market with zero play between any of the components.
One thing’s for sure; the pedals are incredibly robust, with a 200 kg load cell brake pedal that realistically replicates the stiffness of racecar brakes and also features a custom elastomer that provides a highly progressive feel and a long life span.
The set also boasts a super-narrow design allowing you to adjust the pedal-to-pedal distance to your preference, and thanks to the fact there is no metal-to-metal contact on the end stoppers, they offer silent operation.
Furthermore, with guided springs, stainless steel ball bearings in all major pivot points, and a software package that allows you to calibrate dead zones and offers non-linear response curves, the pedals are ultra-smooth and require no lubrication.
The pedals are easily mounted to your racing cockpit with four M6 bolts, and fine-tuning options allow you to tweak the pedals’ position to find the optimum setup.
VENYM 3 pedals Black Widow Carbon
With optional carbon covers, RGB lighting, baseplate, and heel wedges, there aren’t any features Venym have forgotten on their VENYM 3 pedals Black Widow Carbon set. While Venym offers a range of cheaper pedals, the Black Widow set is definitely their flagship.
The pedals feature fully custom-designed and built electronics, with a dedicated analog-digital converter (ADC) chip that allows a 20bit sample rate on each pedal. The electronics are driven by a 48mhz microcontroller with a response time of <1ms (which you would never notice!). The pedals come with Venym’s “Pitstop” application which, as you would expect, allows you to fine-tune these incredible sim racing pedals.
There’s an aluminum base; however, the pedal levers and plates are carbon, as are the heel rests and the carbon covers. They would look very much at home in a proper F1 cockpit!
Simagic P2000 Pedals
Available in a range of long and short pedal options with different strength load cell sensors, this is the only sim pedal set I can think of that gives you the option for a 100KG or 200KG loadcell! My maximum braking pressure is somewhere around 55KG, so, for me, the 100KG option would be fine. My pedal plate is mounted about 40mm to the mounting plate for my pedals, too – so I would be inclined to take the “short” pedal option. But get the measuring tape out and measure what you’re comfortable with already.
The pedals themselves are very nicely made from “high-end” CNC machined aluminum, clearly some of which has been anodized black. The pedal set itself is supplied with a range of different strength elastomers, with adjustable dampers on both the brake and clutch and adjustable pre-load (stiffness) on the throttle. This gives you a fully adjustable pedal set that really looks the part.
In terms of mounting, these are intended for 8020-style aluminum profile sim rigs. Clearly, Simagic has quietly been amassing an ecosystem, with shifters, handbrakes and DD wheelbases available from them too.
Augury Simulations AP-121
The AP-121 pedals, designed and built meticulously by the Spanish sim racing company, Augury Simulations, are highly versatile and crafted from a collection of top-notch components that deliver a fluid and realistic driving experience.
The pedals also pack a heap of technology features and come with a highly sophisticated software package that makes customizing the feel and response of the throttle, brake, and clutch very intuitive.
The main body of each pedal is made from ultra-precise CNC-machined hard anodized aluminum, which guarantees no flexing or unwanted movement, which can often lead to racing distractions. Plus, the pedals have an extremely smooth action thanks to the load cells and strategically placed springs, bearings, and absorption rubbers.
One of the most notable features that sets this pedal set apart from others on the market is the Augury Software which is integrated into the brake pedal. A PCB (Printed Circuit Board) is attached to the base of the brake and stores data from racing simulators to self-calibrate the pedal and produce the most realistic driving sensations.
Furthermore, the AP-121 pedals provide plenty of angle and placement adjustments to let you find the most comfortable position.