When you’ve got your sim racing rig, equipment and a platform of choice, you can begin to think about the accessories such as a sequential shifter, or handbrake.
Amongst the various Sim Racing titles you may have experienced, have you found yourself in need of a handbrake that isn’t just an awkwardly placed button you bound on your wheel? Today we will answer the age-old question of is a handbrake is really needed, and which handbrakes are there on the market.
If you are still looking to tie your set-up together though, and you don’t have a rig yet, we’ve curated a guide to the best Sim Racing Rigs in 2023 so you don’t have to.
Do you need a handbrake for sim racing?
To put it simply, in a rally or drift game they are not a necessity, but they are certainly extremely helpful if that’s what you are interested in. If you want to have the motion and connection to the car as you would in real life, then we would certainly recommend a handbrake.
It gives more feedback than pressing a button on the wheel and it is also a lot more fun!
There are a lot of different handbrakes on the market, all with differences in quality and price class. So, we’ve made a list of ten different handbrakes from all kinds of different Sim Racing equipment providers from various price ranges, whilst also delving into features, build quality, and how to use the handbrake for you.
|Fanatec Clubsport Handbrake V1.5||Budget||– Easy set up if in the Fanatec ecosystem|
– Good value for money
|– Extras are needed if you don’t have a Fanatec base|
|Aiologs Hydro Handbrake||Budget||– Strong middle-ground option|
– Lots of customisation options
|Thrustmaster TH8A||Mid-Range||– Also dual-use|
– Perfect for a first handbrake
|– Lacking some high-end features|
|Simagic TB-1 Handbrake||Mid-Range||– Strong loadcell|
– Easy to setup and adjust
|VNM Handbrake V1||Mid-Range||– Powerful loadcell|
– Easy to set up
|Heusinkveld Handbrake V2||Mid-Range||– Great value for what you get|
– Packed with features
|Thrustmaster TSS Sparco mod||Top-End||– Easy to adjust|
– Great quality for the price
– Dual use as a shifter
|DSD Hydraulic Handbrake||Top-End||– Hydraulic system is very advanced|
– Excellent build
|– Very pricey compared to other options|
|Simtag Hydraulic Simulator Handbrake||Top-End||– Also uses a fantastic hydraulic system|
– Great for an experienced Sim Racer
|– Most expensive option on our list|
The Fanatec Clubsport Handbrake V1.5 is made from steel with a foam handgrip, making it aesthetically pleasing from the start. However, not only does it look good, but it of course functions just as well.
Firstly, you can adjust the angle and the pressure of the handbrake, which is a great feature to have. The settings are not as adjustable as some of the high-end handbrakes, but it is a good and solid handbrake for under $150.
With the Fanatec Clubsport Handbrake V1.5 also comes a cable that goes directly into a Fanatec base, making it pretty easy to set up if you are already within their ecosystem. If you don’t have a Fanatec base, you can use a Clubsport USB Adaptor, and then you can use this handbrake with every wheel and base on the market.
Overall, this handbrake is of great quality and if you have a Fanatec base – or any other Fanatec products such as the Fanatec Clubsport V3 pedals – and we would highly recommend it, especially if you use your rig also for Xbox or Playstation games.
The Aiologs Handbrake is built from clean-cut aluminium, with quality internals. There are a few customizable options, which include an extension rod to increase the travel length of the handle to give more precise inputs.
There are also two different lengths of the handle and the option of the standard polished aluminium or matt black adonized handle, culminating in a lot of possible personalisation to best suit your comfort and needs.
To mount the handbrake, there is the option to use a clamp instead of mounting it directly on the rig too, giving further flexibility. The handbrake comes with a clamp, USB cable, and it works entirely plug and play. For under $200, it’s a solid mid-range contender.
What a lot of people don’t know is that you can use the Thrustmaster TH8A as an analogue handbrake. To convert the TH8A into a handbrake, all you need to do is turn the metal plate 90 degrees, and then you can move the stick up and down.
If you don’t already have the Thrustmaster TH8A driver installed, you need to install the software on your PC, and when the driver is installed, you need to change the software to be able to assign the handbrake in the game. Then, it’s ready to use as a handbrake!
Although not the most premium handbrake on the market, its dual capabilities are of course a plus, and for the price, it’s not a bad beginner’s handbrake. As per all other Thrustmaster accessories, you can use this with anything from their ecosystem, meaning it’s flexible and can work no matter your setup.
Simagic’s TB-1 Handbrake is astounding for what it costs. A load-cell handbrake that increases with resistance the more pressure is applied, its design means that it can attach to any conventional rig both in a standard road handbrake position and in an inverted position like you would expect from a race car.
Using the SimPro Manager software, you will be able to adjust the dead zones and calibrate your handbrake to suit your driving style. With the handbrake itself rated up to a whopping 100kg, it is something that you’re probably going to need to do if you’re not a regular down at the gym.
VNM Handbrake V1
The VNM Handbrake V1 is made from CNC aluminium and carbon steel, meaning it is strong and durable. The handbrake comes with a standard option, but you can also upgrade it with the VNM handbrake V1 pro kit. The pro kit has a variety of springs, and with the different springs, you can adjust damping from the handbrake.
Impressively, the VNM Handbrake V1’s loadcell is already capable of withstanding 100 kg of force, making it one of the strongest handbrakes on this list. Meanwhile, it also delivers precise inputs and a great feel during drifting or rally driving.
It comes with a USB cable, and there is the software required, which you can download from the VNM website.
The Heusinkveld Handbrake V2 is built with high quality and lots of adjustment options. The handbrake is not only good looking, but for its sub-$300 price tag, you get a pressure-sensitive USB handbrake with load cell technology (yes, the same thing you may see in brake sets!).
With the three different rubbers included, you can adjust the feel and pressure of the handbrake too.
Find the USB cable, and you connect the handbrake straight to your PC. With the Heusinkveld SmartControl software, you can adjust the weight (to 22 KG), and the travel too, meaning you can set it up exactly how you’d like per game. This is a high-end handbrake, and we would definitely recommend it, especially when you driving on a higher level in drift or rally racing.
Heuskinkvled is also well-regarded for the quality of its pedal sets, some of which are included in our 2023 Sim Racing Pedals Buyer’s Guide, which could help you decide where you want to upgrade to next.
Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod
The Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod is a handbrake that also can be used as a sequential shifter. The handbrake is easy to adjust in height and angle, whilst the grip can also be adjusted to the height that you find preferential.
The TSS comes with a USB cable, and you can plug this straight into your PC – it’s really easy to do. When you plug the USB in you can calibrate the handbrake or shifter with the drivers found on the Thrustmaster website, which will allow you to really enhance your experience.
If you want to have a handbrake and a shifter, and you’re not using it at the same time, we would highly recommend the Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod. But, if you are also looking to pair it with a brand new wheel, why don’t you check out our guide to the best Sim Racing wheels for PC in 2023?
DSD Hydraulic Handbrake
Derek Speare Designs (DSD) have two types of hydraulic handbrakes. The DSD Type 3 handbrake, which is an upgraded version of Type 2, is bigger, more robust, and has the DSD 12-bit controller included.
It’s built from high-end aluminium and has a further adjustable hydraulic kit, meaning it provides more precision than the DSD Type 2. Both are delivered with a USB cable and work directly plug and play. The DSD Hydraulic Handbrake Type 3 will be stretching your budget though. The price might be high, but the quality is very high, and it looks extremely impressive.
If you are really serious about your handbrakes and are looking for one of the best options on the market, the DSD Hydraulic Handbrake will certainly be worth it.
Simtag Hydraulic Simulator Handbrake
The Simtag Hydraulic Handbrake is made from aluminium and stainless steel. The handbrake is fully adjustable between 30 and 90 degrees, and an additional 20cm extension is available if you want a little more height and precision with adjusting the angle.
With the use of Wilwood Master and Slave cylinders from real-life motorsport, it gives you the best feeling when in the simulator. A USB cable comes with the handbrake, and it works directly in-game totally plug and play.
This high-end handbrake does come with a hefty price tag, though. However, just like the DSD option, the hydraulic system will make a huge difference and is definitely a solid option for the more serious racers.
If you are a more serious Sim Racer and are into the likes of iRacing, have a look at what the best wheel options are for iRacing right now.
As you can see, there are a lot of different handbrakes that you can use for sim racing. They may not make you quicker, but the feeling and immersion that comes as a product of using a handbrake is amazing.