Last month, I released a video asking the question if a high end wheel can make you a better driver. The TL:DR version of that is “A good wheel can augment good driving habits, but it won’t really transform you into a better driver”.
One of the more popular comments I got on the video was “The part about the wheel is understandable, but how would a high end set of pedals work?” So, I wanted to make a “Part Two”, talking about that.
One of the first things I wanted to say was that pedals play just as much, if not more, of a role in getting a car around a track. Steering is fine and all, but if you can’t slow down for the corners, you’re gonna end up in the walls.
With that being said, I believe that a higher end set of pedals CAN make you a better driver, and it largely comes down to how the brake pedal is simulated:
In a standard/lower end set of pedals, the brake pedal is counter-intuitive to what drivers are accustomed with in real life. The brake pedal is paired to a potentiometer, which measures distance. Er go, the further you press the brake pedal, the more brake is applied.
The problem with a potentiometer is that the force is quite linear. However, with a real world brake pedal, the force required for a brake pedal is exponential. A real world brake pedal doesn’t use distance to measure braking force, it measures pressure. There are modifications that can be done to replicate an exponential braking force with a potentiometer based brake, but when it’s all said and done, it still comes down to a distance based brake.
Now, with a higher end brake pedal, they do a far superior job simulating the brake pedal of a real car, because they utilize a pressure based measuring system. The most commonly used system is a Load Cell. It will measure the amount of pressure put onto the load cell, and convert it into braking force. The great thing with that is the fact that it goes from a linear based system, to an exponential force based system. The force required to increase the braking force increases as you are braking harder.
With some of the “Extreme-End” racing pedals, the load cell is replaced with a hydraulic pressure-sensing system. This could be one of the closest systems we get to real life racing, and it shows. I got to test out one of these sets when I got to visit CXC Simulations last year, and it truly did feel authentic.
In some contexts, a load cell may fit better than hydraulic pedals. In some cars, with a high pressure hydraulic system (for example, an open wheel car), it may feel more realistic with a load cell, as opposed to a hydraulic system.
However, the bottom line is that I would, hands down, recommend a load cell or hydraulic based system over a potentiometer based brake, any day of the week.
There is one other thing I would like to mention that can sometimes be often overlooked. Higher end racing pedals allow for more finesse in car control. Take the Thrustmaster pedals, for example. Even if they are modded, the pedals are only going to have this much throw. However, if you move up to a higher end set, you have a wider range of motion, allowing you to modulate the gas THAT much better; to also be able to manage the threshold braking better. A longer throw can allow you to have more control, and be able to eek out that much more out of the car.
If you were looking to upgrade your sim racing setup, and you were torn between wheels and pedals, I would highly recommend you look into the pedals first. I think that there are far more gains to be achieved by improving your footwork as a driver.
So these are my thoughts, I’d like to hear yours! Do you think that a good set of pedals outweighs a good wheel? Let us know in the comments!