One of the most crucial pieces of equipment you’ll need on your journey to becoming a pro eSports sim racer is a solid sim steering wheel on a direct drive 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) as a separate purchase.
And even if you don’t need a new wheel at the moment, that can’t stop us from taking a look, right?
A note on price vs build quality
At first glance, the assortment of sim steering wheels offered by sim racing equipment manufacturers may leave you somewhat overwhelmed 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. My best advice is, if you’re not sure, read the reviews and pay attention to the close up images before you buy.
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
- Funky switch – useful for controlling aspects of the simulation software such as iRacing’s “black box”
- 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 you 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 that offers 70mm and 50.8mm PCDs on a ring mounted directly on the wheelbase hub (or an adapter for one) so you 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 GT Alcantara V2
- Carbon Formula Clubsport
- Ascher Racing F28-SC
- Cube Controls Formula Sport (Wireless)
- ClubSport Steering Wheel Formula V2.5 X
- 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 GT Alcantara
This GT style rim from Fanatec 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!
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, but quickly running out of stock in Europe. They still seem to be available in the USA though.
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 V2.5 X
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 (V2.5 X) 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 acquiring 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 set up 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 your 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-colour 4.3″ LCD screen. The front chassis is manufactured from 100% pure carbon fibre. The rear is Cube’s CNC aluminium 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 fibre 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 recommendations useful!