One of the most crucial pieces of equipment you’ll need on your journey to becoming a pro eSports sim racer is a solid wheel and/or wheelbase, but how do you know which one to buy when there are so many choices available on the market?
If you’re just getting started in sim racing, most often you’ll buy a sim racing wheel bundled with the wheelbase. But, if you’re looking to take that next step forward, you might find yourself looking for a sim racing wheel better suited to the type of car you prefer (GT / Touring or Formula).
And even if you don’t need a new wheel at the moment, that can’t stop us from taking a look, right?
Sim racing wheels: A complete buyer’s guide contents:
- Getting Started
- Gear Driven wheels
- Belt Driven wheels
- Direct Drive Wheels
- Sim Racing Wheels
Choosing your first wheel and / or wheelbase combo can be difficult. Do you need a wheel for your PC, PS4, PS5 or XBOX? What’s the price range? Where could I mount it? Do you need a Fanatec wheel or a wheel for a Simucube? These are the questions I hope my guide will seek to answer for you.
Understanding price vs build quality
At first glance, the assortment of wheels offered by sim racing equipment manufacturers may leave you somewhat overhwhelmed and wondering why some pieces of kit are available for as little as £100, while others can cost well over £1,000.
As with all things in life, you generally get what you pay for, and the best way to look at it is like this; as the price goes up, as does the build quality of the wheel and realism of the driving experience. As we discussed in our Fanatec Podium review, jumping straight into high-end equipment might not be a good idea.
Here, I’m going to explain about the different wheelbase categories and give some of my personal recommendations for wheels and wheelbases that cover a range of different budgets. This should help you to choose the right unit for your situation by giving you the essential information about each piece of equipment, and highlighting the key features.
But, before I review any products, it’s important to note that while most wheels and wheelbases are sold together as a unit, it’s also possible to buy each piece individually. Many companies dedicated to selling sim racing hardware offer the choice to build customised packages via their websites. This way, you can choose the best wheel and base to suit your gaming level and budget at the same time. Make sure to check the wheel compatibility depending on whether you’re using PC, Xbox One, or PS4 and PS5.
Getting started: what you need to know
To set up a wheel, you always need to install the software and drivers provided by the manufacturer on your PC, which will detect if you are running the latest firmware and download any required updates. Here’s an example of Fanatec’s “wheel properties” driver dialogue in Windows:
Other functions of the wheel to consider include quick release, which makes changing wheels much more convenient, but might increase the amount of “flex” depending on whether you plan to mount the wheel to a stand or to a racing rig.
Nowadays, there are three forms of force feedback that are used in sim racing wheels; gear drive, belt drive, and direct drive.
Force feedback essentially refers to how the wheel replicates the forces that would be felt in a real-life driving situation. The first two forms of force feedback use what’s often referred to as a ‘middleman’ system, which translates and amplifies the forces from the motor to the wheel shaft. These systems benefit from having a small motor, and can still produce a decent amount of force, but direct drive offers the most realistic driving sensation.
Gear driven wheels
Gear-driven force feedback wheels were among the first consumer-grade force feedback wheels available. They use gears to create a transmission system to amplify the forces from the motor to the wheel. There are however a few drawbacks with these wheels, including a lack of precision, excess noise, and roughness, which are all a result of the way the internal gearbox worked.
With that said, gear-driven force feedback is still a decent option for novice users and the price point of these wheels normally falls somewhere between £150 – £350. The wheels in this category are ideal for beginners as they offer a fairly decent amount of feedback and prepare you for stronger more realistic wheels should you choose to upgrade in the future.
The first wheel I’d like to mention falls into the gear drive category; the Logitech G29/G920. At £250, this gear-driven wheel features an 11-inch steering wheel, wrapped in leather, with plug-and-play installation across multiple platforms.
Logitech has been making gear-based force feedback wheels for over two decades, and over that time has established a reputation for making trustworthy wheels. The G29 and G920 are actually separate models, where the G29 caters to PS4 and PC, and the G920 caters to Xbox One and PC.
Another great thing about this wheel is that it comes complete with pedals, giving you the perfect beginner set-up straight out of the box. The pedals offer an accelerator, brake, and, clutch, so you have the choice of adding a shifter for an extra £50.
These wheels are always in high demand due to their ease of use and compatibility so should you decide further down the line to improve your sim racing wheel set-up you can easily sell your Logitech wheel on eBay and hold relatively good value.
Sometimes you will find great bundle deals in the second-hand marketplace where you can buy the wheel, pedals, and shifter as a complete set for under £200.
Belt driven wheels
Belt-driven wheels offer more smoothness and power over their gear-driven counterparts and have been available to buy since about 2009, making them a relatively new piece of tech.
Fanatec was the first company to sell belt-driven wheels, but since its introduction, many companies now produce wheels in this category. Some belt drive wheels can generate forces up to three times more powerful than gear driven wheels, while at the same time, being smoother and quieter.
Thrustmaster T300 RS/TX
My second pick falls into the belt-driven group which is the Thrustmaster T300 RS/TX which can be purchased for £300. As with the Logitech wheel mentioned above, Thrustmaster also has two models of the wheel available:
The T300 RS, which is compatible with PS4 and PC, and the TX which is Xbox One and PC compatible. Again, this wheel is supplied with pedals and requires little setup, with most settings that require adjusting being available in-game.
The resale value of these wheels also holds strong, but perhaps not as well as the Logitech G29/G920 due to its slightly high price-point, meaning fewer first-time buyers would consider this wheel.
Fanatec CSL Elite
Featured as a recommend wheelbase in our beginner’s guide to sim racing, the Fanatec CSL Elite belt-driven wheelbase is my third recommendation and offers a variety of features such as LED shift lights on the base, as well as a quick adjustment system that can be used to make wheel and force feedback adjustments on the fly.
The CSL Elite is highly flexible, and Fanatec supply a vast amount of options in terms of wheel (rim) choices with different shapes and button configurations, so you can select the one that fits your needs best. You can buy the rim bundled with the wheelbase, add optional pedals, or choose to buy the base alone. Depending on what configuration you decide to buy, you can select compatibility for Xbox One, PC, and PS4, although the latter which requires the purchase of an additional licence.
The wheelbase alone can be purchased new for £320, or you can buy it in combination with a rim for around £400. There’re no extras supplied so you’ll have to source your own pedals, shifters, etc. for all wheels at and above this grade.
The 11-inch base rim that is supplied with the CSL Elite has a nice feel with a mix of leather and suede materials, but you always have the choice to spend a bit more and go for a premium rim. The Fanatec CSL Elite Pro Kit with wheel and Clubsport pedals retails for around £1200.
Due to the brand popularity of Fanatec within the sim community, and the highly flexible nature of this piece of kit, resales value holds very well if you want to sell it on eBay, and many great wheel and wheelbase combos can be found second-hand.
Fanatec Clubsport v2.5
At the top end of the belt-driven wheel class is the Fanatec Clubsport v2.5. This wheelbase would be my suggestion to anyone looking for a top-of-the-line wheel but is not quite ready for a direct drive wheel.
The Clubsport v2.5 base, which is available £440, is one of the, quickest, smoothest, and most powerful belt-driven wheels on the market, and like all Fanatec products, features a lot of modularity while also remaining popular in the second-hand market.
One great thing about Fanatec Clubsport wheel rims is that they are compatible with the CSL Elite, Clubsport, DD1, and DD2 wheelbases. So hypothetically, you could use a Fanatec rim on a CSL Elite wheelbase, then upgrade the base to the Clubsport v2.5 whilst still using the same, and then even continue using the same rim all way up to a direct drive wheel such as the DD2.
All of the same features as the CSL Elite base are present in the Clubsport v2.5, with the one drawback being that this model is not compatible with the PS4.
Direct Drive Wheels
Direct drive (DD) wheelbases give the best driving experience overall and are used by top-level sim racers, but require a level of respect and understanding to be used safely. They have large electric motors, which the wheel mounts onto directly, allowing for lightning-fast force feedback allowing you to feel everything the car is doing on the track.
However, the main downside to DD bases is that they are much more technical to configure and set up than any of the wheels I’ve already mentioned. They’re also extremely powerful and could lead to some serious injuries if mishandled. Still, if you’re planning on being a professional sim racer, you’ll want to get one.
The first DD wheelbase I would like to suggest is a recent contender in the direct drive world; the Simucube 2. There are 3 choices within the Simucube 2 range which are Sport, Pro, and Ultimate, that offer 17, 25, and 32 Newton meters (Nm) of torque respectively.
Prices for the Sport model start at £1,140, and for the Ultimate, you can expect to pay a whopping £2,840. As you can see, this is a considerable hike up from the prices of belt-driven wheels, and remember, that no wheel or accessories are included for these prices, however, there is wide compatibility via the various QR hub options with wheels from many manufacturers so you just need to check before buying to make sure the rim and button boxes will fit.
With these large price tags and top-of-the-range features on these wheelbases, they are often end-game purchases for many people, so if any do become available second-hand on eBay, they are snapped up instantly. While offering premier products, Simucube only caters to PC users, so if you’re a console racer, this won’t be the wheelbase of choice for you.
The new kid on the block, the Fanatec CSL-DD wheelbase is due for launch in late 2021. We’ve written about everything we know so far about the device here.
Fanatec Podium DD1 and DD2
That might not be quite as powerful as the Simucube Ultimate, but what the Fanatec wheels lack in power they make up for in terms of ease of installation, customisability and compatibility. As with all the other Fanatec wheelbases I mentioned, there is a huge choice of wheel rims, pedals, shifters, etc., that are all compatible with these bases.
Also, it’s worth noting that in everyday situations, it’s likely that 32 Newton metres of torque is going to be overkill, and even with 25 Newton metres of torque, you will rarely use 100% of this power, as your arms will simply not be able to handle those kinds of forces for very long. Being the only DD wheelbases on the market that are compatible with both PC and consoles makes these pieces of kit highly sought after for PS4 and Xbox One users who are looking for the ultimate sim experience.
Sim Racing Wheels
What’s the difference between “good” and “best” and which wheel should I buy?
The wheel is your main physical interface with the sim racing environment, so you’ve got to feel comfortable with the device in your hands. Assuming that you already own a good direct drive wheelbase the first and most important thing is the choice between Formula style wheels and GT wheels.
Good to great: What’s best in a sim racing wheel?
The wheel is your main physical interface with the sim racing environment, so you’ve got to feel comfortable with the device in your hands. So, the first and most important thing is the choice between Formula style wheels and GT wheels.
A Formula car doesn’t offer a huge maximum steering angle. You’re probably turning the wheel around 300° at the very most unless in normal racing conditions. You are however, dealing with higher forces than a GT car, so it makes sense that you’re able to grip the wheel in a single place very firmly indeed. Formula wheels tend to have shorter, firmer paddles, possibly a clutch paddle and usually more buttons and rotary encoders. The most expensive ones have a display screen to keep you updated on whatever race information you’ve configured in the wheel setup.
GT wheels are for cars that have a wider maximum steering range. They tend to have longer paddles so you can reach for a gear shift from a number of different positions around the wheel. They tend to have fewer buttons, rotary encoders and rarely have a display screen except at the very high end. Naturally GT wheels are more diverse in their possible uses as you might have a manual shifter setup in your sim, too.
If you’re a VR user, simplicity is key. I like the Cube Controls approach of using little indentations around the buttons so that you can find the button without seeing it. Too much complexity is wasted if you’re VR racer, as is a display screen!
Naturally, build quality is critically important. While all the sim racing wheels I’ll talk about below are built to very high standards of manufacture, some are made very, very nicely indeed.
Things to look out for in a good sim racing wheel:
- A nice ergonomic feel to the wheel when you’re gripping it
- High quality grip material (not necessarily Alcantara!)
- Quality finish to any carbon parts
- Case material machining
- Weighty, sturdy feel and no flex
- An intuitive, tactile feel to the buttons and encoders
- Compatibility with your wheelbase and hub
- You enjoy using it!
What about wheelbase and hub compatibility?
I’ve recently written about the Fanatec Podium Hub, and how to fit it to a Cube Controls wheel to make the wheel compatible with a Fanatec DD2.
Generally, if you buy a Fanatec sim racing wheel, it’s designed to be solely compatible with a Fanatec wheelbase. To make them compatible with any other type of wheelbase takes time, deep expertise, and effort. For example, this PCB from Leo Bodnar will turn your Fanatec wheel into a USB joystick controller. You could send your wheel to SRM to have it converted (electronics to USB and hub to whatever wheelbase hub your want). I’ve not come across a reason to do this yet, but the option is available if you want to change your wheelbase from something like a DD2 to a Simagic, VRS, Simucube or Accuforce wheelbase.
If you wanted to fit a wheel to your Fanatec DD2, that’s easier thanks to the Podium Hub or the slightly shorter Fanatec wheel side QR adapter from SRM.
If you own a wheelbase like the Simucube 2 Pro, then fitting any wheel is comparatively trivial. Most wheelbases have a universal style hub which offer 70mm and 50.8mm PCDs on a ring mounted directly on the wheelbase hub (or an adapter for one) so your can mount a wheel on pretty much any hub including HRS hubs / Fanatec’s Podium Hub / Fanatec hub emulators from SRM, the Tomy Racing QR TRX and many more.
We’ve since written an extensive guide to QR hubs and wheel compatibility here. Essentially you can mount any wheel to any wheelbase with an adapter and hub and a little bit of research. It’s pretty easy, though. Once you get the hang of it!
Our favorite sim racing wheels
I’ve tested quite a few different wheels now, so here’s a collection of the best sim racing wheels (in my humble opinion) on the market today.
Quick links to our favourite sim racing wheels:
- Fanatec Clubsport Formula Carbon
- Fanatec Clubsport GT Alcantara
- Ascher Racing F28-SC
- Cube Controls Formula Sport (Wireless)
- ClubSport Steering Wheel Formula V2
- Cube Controls GT Pro OMP
- VPG Simlabs Elemento and VPG Custom RSR
- Precision Sim Engineering GPX
- Cube Controls GT-X
- Simcore Indy19 Formula
I’ve tried to order these in terms of price:
Fanatec Clubsport Formula Carbon
Fanatec’s Formula Carbon wheel is closely matched to their original Clubsport Formula wheel (which I own) just with a 2mm thick carbon plate to update the looks.
These wheels are sturdy and for the price (half of the Cube Controls entry level pricing), it’s a good deal. Critically this is a wheel I’d only recommend to Fanatec users but, if you are a Fanatec user you’ll know that it doesn’t require any additional USB cables and that it has a tuning menu display and button so you can make changes to the wheelbase via the wheel in the game session.
One of my most tried and tested wheels and a bargain to boot.
Fanatec Clubsport GT Alcantara
OK, it’s another Fanatec wheel, but they’re excellent for this price and this one comes with the powerful and extendable Clubsport Hub for XBOX One hub:
I own one of these wheels and though the hub is a little bulky, it’ll host any standard motorsport wheel and you can do little upgrades like fit the magnetic shifter paddles. This is the wheel I spend the most time on, especially in Mazda racing!
Ascher Racing F28-SC
Honestly, this sim wheel is all anyone can talk about. As soon as you’re outside of the Fanatec ecosystem, your options pop wide open. The F28-SC is the Simucube Wireless compatible wheel (I’ve tested the SC Wireless system, it’s good).
The wheel has a 6x70mm PCD bolt pattern on the back of the unit. That makes attaching the wheel directly onto your direct drive wheelbase pretty easy (see “compatibility” earlier in this article). This is a simple wheel, ideal for VR users like myself, with 12 push buttons that have that nice tactical feel that you’d expect from a higher-end sim racing wheel. There are 2 rotary encoders that are of course assignable for brake bias and so on.
If you’d prefer something USB compatible (because you’re not a Simucube owner) then check out Ascher’s F64-USB sim steering wheel:
The Ascher F64 has 12 Pushbuttons, 2 Multifunction 7-way joysticks, 2 Paddle shifters and 2 Clutch paddles with electronic bite point calibration – quite a serious bit of kit!
Cube Controls Formula Sport (Wireless)
If you can only own one Formula wheel, make it a Cube Controls Formula Sport wheel. We’ve had one in for testing for a few weeks (update – I own one, but my Dad borrowed it several months ago!) and it’s right in so many ways. The build quality and tactile feedback from the buttons (another VR friendly wheel) are great, and the grip material is magic. It’s easy to drive a controlled, smooth sim race with this one. Recommended!
ClubSport Steering Wheel Formula V2
Just a bit less than half the price of the Cube Controls Formula Sport, but with a huge number of buttons, switches and rotary encoders, the ClubSport Steering Wheel Formula V2 is a very nice acquisition:
When we reviewed the now sold out LTD Edition Formula wheel, we loved the wheel and mentioned that it’s basically the same as the Formula V2 above. So, if you want Cube Formula wheel functionality but at almost half the price, and you own a Fanatec wheelbase, this is the wheel for you.
Cube Controls GT Pro OMP
We’re excited by this GT style sim racing wheel at SRC HQ, mostly because we have one of these here, too. The GT Pro comes with all of the refinements and excellent build quality of the Formula Pro wheel making it a VR friendly proposition, and a lot of fun to race with.
A nice selection of tactile rotary encoders and buttons surrounded by Cube’s trademark plastic surrounds make this a joy to interface with. Can’t wait to put it to the long term test!
This wheel is the daily driver on the simulator:
High End / Professional Sim Racing Wheels
Unless you’re a professional simulation outfit or eSports team, there might not be a huge amount of good reason to own some of the wheels below. But then it’s you’re money and more and more high-end hobbyists are migrating out of the Fanatec ecosystem and into sim rig builds that would be just as at home in an F1 team as they would be in your home…
Here are some of the higher end sim racing wheels, suited for monitor use all with outstanding features for the committed sim racer.
VPG Simlabs Elemento and VPG Custom RSR
I’ve recently had the pleasure of acquiting a custom sim racing wheel from the guys at VPG and as you’ll read in my post, I’m delighted with the results:
VPG are hot on customer service and support – they were really happy to spend more than an hour with me in Discord getting setup to maximise my experience. If you don’t want a fully custom designed, then the Elemento is for you:
It’s a 300mm formula-style wheel, with a very generous NEXTION display which makes it customisable through Simhub. There are two analogue clutch pedals alongside the carbon paddle-shift, 4 thumb rotary encoders (2 per side), 3 front rotary encoders and a funky switch, 10 RBG LEDs on top which are customizable and 6 RGB LEDs (3 per side) which allow you to set up flag warnings, ABB or TC intervention alarms and so on. I really rate the guys at VPG, they’re worth considering!
Precision Sim Engineering GPX
This wheel is £2399. This is a state of the art simulation racing wheel intended for professional racing teams, sim outfits and professional F1 / LMP1 drivers. For most of us, using this wheel and driving would be difficult nigh on impossible, but for the F1 drivers of this world, this is one incredible piece of professional sim racing equipment.
The good news is that it can be supplied with a Fanatec or Accuforce adapter, meaning that if you’ve got the budget, you can use this with you Fanatec DD wheelbase. Enjoy!
Cube Controls GT-X
At approximately £1300, this wheel is a little more down to earth than the Precision Sim Engineering wheel. Nevertheless, this really is another professional grade sim racing wheel. The unit features backlit buttons and a full-color 4.3″ LCD screen. The front chassis is manufactured from 100% pure carbon fiber. The rear is Cube’s CNC aluminum main body, with the usual rotary encoder knobs and a joystick. Compatible with Simucube any other wheelbase with the right hub adapter.
Simcore Indy19 Formula style sim racing full carbon wheel
If you’re one of the huge contingent of Indy racers in the sim community, check out this wheel from Australian manufacturer, Simcore. Weighing in at 3kgs, this fully custom designed Indy 2019 model carbon fiber sim racing steering wheel has a 300mm diameter. It has been built to Indy regs, meaning you are driving a perfect simulation of an Indycar wheel in your sim.
There’s an 8 to 10 week order period, in which time your wheel is custom built by Simcore.
I hope you’ve found my recomendations useful!