Few things are as engrossing as the adrenaline rush from a last corner overtake. Whether it be F1 or Rally, we all love to feel like professional drivers. That’s the reason why building your own racing simulator setup is something we’d recommend to anyone. In this guide, we’ll look at what you need for your first rig, when you should buy it, and what options to choose.
What Do You Need for a Racing Simulator?
Every sim racing rig should consist of three things: a steering wheel, pedals, and some kind of display. There are plenty of optional extras to choose from, but it’s the steering wheel and pedals that’ll make the biggest difference to how immersive your sim racing experience is — assuming you already have some kind of monitor.
Steering Wheel and Pedals
The first big step into the world of racing sims has to be the steering wheel. It’s an obvious stepping stone, but one which is absolutely essential. It’s still a lot of fun to play with a joystick, but you won’t be simulating what it really feels like to drive, nor will you feel that immersed. The most essential things for you to look for in wheels are force-feedback and rotation range. We have a great guide on steering wheels that goes into more depth on what you should look for, as well as a round-up of some of the best cheap sim racing wheels on the market.
Although wheels will be the biggest quality of life improvement, it’s essentially unworkable to have a wheel and no pedals. Thankfully, a lot of wheels come pre-bundled with pedals, so you likely won’t have to make two different purchases. That being said, higher quality pedals are something you should think about investing in. Not only will you stress your feet less, but you’ll be able to adjust them. Moreover, they have incredibly high precision levels, so when you become quite good at racing games you should consider arming yourself with peripherals which grant you accuracy, and translate your every move into an input for the game.
Monitor, TV, or VR Headset
In order to play a racing sim the most basic thing you need is some kind of display. Whether it be a single or triple monitor, VR headset, or even a projector, you have to be able to interact with the game. We suggest you start with what you already have before making any new purchases. Chances are it will work well for now. In the future we recommend either investing in a VR headset or into ultrawide or triple monitors to give you a wider view angle and truly feel as though you’re inside the car.
We’ll spare you an extra purchase and say that your current seat is probably fine for sim racing. The exception is if it has wheels. In that case, either remove them or grab another chair from elsewhere in the house. In the future you may be interesting in buying a dedicated seat, but we’ve found normal chairs to work just fine. Speaking of which, we recommend looking at our guide to finding the perfect sim racing seating position.
We cannot stress enough that the wheels and pedals have to be your starting point, but once you have your basic setup you might find the need to grab extra peripherals. These will allow you to feel much more like a real life pilot. It’s a lot of fun to drive using a wheel and pedals, but true talent is having to deal with all the things a real driver would have to consider, including a shifter and a handbrake. Here we’ll cover the basics of what you can expect from these.
There are two basic types of shifters that you can purchase as peripherals: an H-shifter and a sequential shifter. The first is the typical shifter you would find in a manual transmission car. The gears are set-up following an H pattern, increasing from left to right. A sequential shifter is a shifter that is pushed forwards to increase gears, and backwards to decrease them. All players will have their personal preference after they use both for a while. Thankfully certain models have the ability to change between H-shifters and sequential shifters, meaning you get both off of a single purchase.
Obviously if you are only interested in F1 racing, a handbrake will be of very limited use to you. If, however, you are considering other racing sims (especially rally sims) handbrakes will add a whole new dimension to the game. It takes considerable skill to use handbrakes effectively, but they are truly the proverbial cherry on top once you manage to master their use. Tighter turns, expert manoeuvres, and the feeling of satisfaction are all things you can expect after some time with handbrakes. This should, however, be the final purchase you make. Be sure to get a shifter first, as they are more versatile (some even can function as handbrakes) and will add more to your game.
Recommended Sim Racing Setup for Beginners
For beginners, we recommend the Logitech G29/G920 wheel for your first sim racing rig. This high quality wheel is coupled with a decent set of pedals, so you’re bound to be satisfied given the low price.
Bear in mind that the G29 is for PlayStation, while the G920 is for Xbox (both support PC racing).
A wonderful force-feedback wheel coupled with reasonable pedals, all at a beginner-friendly price
Moving on, we’d suggest you stick with your current display and chair. There’s always room to purchase newer and better displays or seats later, but they can be unreasonably expensive if you’re just starting off.
Finally, we suggest foregoing any optional extras until you’ve spent a week or two playing with a wheel and pedals. If you’re loving the experience, then picking up a shifter (and maybe even a handbrake) will be a no-brainer.