Throughout the couple of years that I have raced on the console, I have always had a mixed feeling of admiration and jealousy for the people racing on a wheel. It was clear that racing-games are meant to be raced with a racing wheel, and I felt that racing with the controller, although it felt pretty comfortable, was only a taste of what the games really could do.
What convinced me that spending the money on a wheel was worth it, was a comparison I read about playing Guitar Hero with a controller. It can be done, and you can be good at it, but none the less, using the special Guitar shaped input device, is really how this game was intended to be played.
So I went ahead and jumped in with both legs. I had been looking at a few option, but eventually went with the Logitech G920 and the Wheel Stand Pro. I wanted an entry wheel that was affordable, but had feedback, 3 pedals and also was compatible with both the Xbox One and Windows (mostly in case I might get a computer later on). The Wheel Stand Pro was a necessity, as I use my TV, and don’t have a desk to mount it on.
The start of using a wheel
I had never used a racing wheel before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I had heard people say that they didn’t get faster right away, but the immersion and the fun made it worth it, and that it felt a lot more like sitting in a real car.
I can tell you that it feels nothing like sitting in a real car.
Besides having the wheel, and the pedals at the right place, it really felt very artificial and honestly difficult to understand. After the initial buyer’s remorse, I started realizing, that what this wheel is trying to do is pretty impressive. All the information about grip, surface, bumps, damage etc needs to go through that wheel, but it would usually be something you felt with your entire body. After a few days, I started understanding the wheel and beginning to like it.
Non the less, it was immediately apparent, that you can place the car a whole lot more precise on the track, and your racing lines get very sharp almost instantly. This doesn’t necessarily make you faster. In fact, I am a lot slower now, but as I can understand, it can take quite some time for you to get back to the same level as you were with a controller. For some, this can take up to a few months! I can agree with most other racers, that the pure joy and fun of racing with a wheel, compensates for the bad performance.
What took way longer to like, was the brake pedal.
The pedals were a challenge for me. First of all, using your feet and legs in a game, really felt very strange. I use them every day to drive my real life car, but to sit in front of my TV and use my feet for what I usually would have used my finger to do, really felt awkward. It took me a few weeks to really activate my feet!
Another challenge for me was the hardness of the brake. I know that this is an issue for many, and in reality, it might not have been an issue for me, if I hadn’t heard about it. The brake uses a spring to give a certain resistance, but the problem is, that inside that spring, Logitech has placed a rubber “cuboid“. This rubber stopper is hard enough to stop most of the pedal travel but soft enough to press it even further, using some extra power. You’ll need a lot of extra power to suppress it to 100% though, and some have felt that it might be too much.
I too felt that I could not press it hard enough to stop the car properly. I had a few options to resolve this issue.
Use the clutch pedal
I don’t have the gear switcher, so I don’t use the clutch. A workaround for the hard brake pedal could be to remap the brake to the clutch pedal, that has a more linear resistance.
Remove the rubber stopper
You can take apart the pedal set, and remove the rubber stopper. This leaves the spring in, still giving a more or less linear resistance.
Adjust the calibration
When you calibrate the pedals, you are asked to press them all the way, so that the game knows how far the pedal can go. When calibrating the brake pedal, you can press it to the maximum level that feels comfortable to you. Then the game will distribute the braking range, across that range and you will be getting 100% brake at what you feel comfortable
Adjust brake pressure
Besides adjusting the calibration, you can often change the brake pressure for each car. You can increase the brake pressure to the point that they lock up when you brake the hardest you can. This can vary from car to car, and from track to track (not to mention conditions) so it is not a consistent change.
Mod the pedal
There are endless options to buy aftermarket solutions to this problem. You can buy other springs, or replace the rubber stopper with more flexible stoppers. Ricmotech, even makes a force sensitive upgrade. What this does, it measures the power you put down on the pedal, instead of measuring the travel of the pedal. It even will replace the spring to make the pedal ease back to neutral position, instead of simply snapping back as it does by default. This simulates the hydraulic brakes you’ll find in most modern cars.
Leave it as it is
What I ended doing, was leave it and simply get used to it. This is really not a solution, but a conclusion I realized, once I understood what Logitech really was trying to do with this rubber stopper. In a real car, you have the brake pads closing in on the braking disc. Once they clamp around the disc, you usually can’t suppress the brake pedal anymore, but you can still press harder and get the braking pads to grab harder around the disc.
When racing, you’ll need different levels of braking throughout the track. For light brakings, such as soft corners, or for weight transfer, I’ll press the brake pedal soft enough to reach the rubber stopper. For tight corners, hairpins or close encounters with other cars, I’ll press a lot harder, and go deep into the rubber stopper. I never seem to need 100% braking power so this suits me pretty well. You will need to get used to using your legs a whole lot more and aggressively. Depending on your position, this might be harder than for others. If you sit in a more upright position, it might be easier for you to brake hard, compared to one who races in a more laid back position.
Non the less, it is a matter of getting used to it. The first time I tried Assetto Corsa with the brake pedal, I was pretty sure that I would never be able to press it hard enough, but it turned out to be just perfect for me, once I got used to it.