Importance of having a good wheel base and rim

The depth of concept "turning left - turning right"

Our last blog post was talking about how important having a good set of pedals is and how big a contribution it can have to both enjoyment and sheer performance.

So it’s not just the pedals that matter?

Wheel bases and wheel rims have been for a long time an input device first and foremost but that has been changing over the years and the last couple of them brought extremely big changes to perception regarding the device that allows you to steer your virtual car.

I remember the days when we had some plastic wheels available with absolutely no force feedback and it was just a glorified gamepad thumbstick in the shape of a wheel, which was also smaller than it should be.

You had absolutely no idea on how the car is handling other than visual and audio cues and everything felt very vague because what you thought was a 45 degree angle turn on your wheel could be read as 37 degrees as they were very inaccurate in reading inputs.

Thankfully these days are behind us and even at the lower end we have steering wheels that do more than a good enough job to give you plenty of enjoyment and feeling to improve your driving.

First we had wheels with gears on the market that started offering force feedback on them with belt-driven wheels slowly emerging the market as more premium products due to their usually higher torque values, smoothness and quietness during driving.

We had days when DD wheels were looked upon like having an industrial robot at your home made to be used at a car factory production line with bulky looks, raw materials, thick cables. 

Even in that area we have seen huge progress that created whole families of products at a much affordable price, starting whole families of products.

Thanks to a huge surge of sim racing related topics due to Covid and increased popularity of sim racing activities for those staying at home, plenty of companies made sure they dip their feet in that business and that has created a huge competition in that market, lowering prices and increasing quality thanks to inner battles between competitors.

We had Fanatec coming up with first their big DD1/DD2 wheel bases that were entering their existing ecosystem and that really jump started the whole mainstream DD market which caused plenty of competition to follow suit with their wheelbases. 

You would ask “why is it such a big deal?” and the answer to that is not as one dimensional as you would think.

Having a good wheel instead of just a gamepad or even keyboard as plenty of us probably used in the past to play some arcade racing games like Need For Speed, allows you to enter the world of actually feeling what is going with what you are steering.

Depending on your budget and particular needs you can have a lot of fun with plenty of options on the market because the end goal is to be competitive and feel joy while doing that as it is meant to be our hobby! 

With the recent surge of eSport competitions all over the world and on the internet, many of us have earned the ability to look into what the pros are using, how they are using it and the pros and cons of every solution.

We have seen plenty of world championships being won using some entry level equipment if the driver was that good but with recent times it becomes like an F1 world where to be the best, you need to not only have fantastic skills but also equipment that gives you that competitive edge and right now the highest end for wheels is direct drive technology.

What are those direct drive wheels all about?

The main cause why direct drive (DD for short) is so desired is the overall concept behind it which revolves around not having many moving parts like other solutions do. By having a shaft that isn’t connected to any gears or belts to transmit any forces or amplify them in any way and because of that it creates a very raw experience.

Why is it so important then? 

Modern simulators or sims for short are getting really good at translating the virtual forces that are acting upon virtual cars, tires, suspension, aero load, rubber movement, cracks in tarmac, undulations, levels of grip and slip and because they got so good at it and there is such a wide variety of inputs that are thrown at wheelbases that you need both dynamic range that most DD wheel can provide but also direct correlation between a signal and a response from the motor and the shaft conveying a sensation sent by a software to something us, users, can understand and respond to.

What you want is clear feedback on what is happening with forces acting upon the car which help you determine what you should do to respond to that. 

Imagine you are driving on the limit on a wet track and you suddenly feel an instant dip in resistance which might indicate that your tires have lost contact with the tarmac because of the thick layer of water above it. When you have a DD wheel that can act extremely quickly and accurately to such changes in dynamic range for forces working on a shaft allow you to get the idea that this is what is happening and react to that.

This is what brings this competitive edge to pros and if someone asked me if having a DD wheel gives you an edge several years ago, I would have said “no, but it increases immersion and fun factor”, where nowadays it can be the difference between being 7th or 4th in the competitive environment!

Does it mean that only DD wheelbases should count? Not at all !

Wheelbases come in many flavors and depending on what you want to do with it determines if you should get one to enjoy it.

It’s like many memes on the internet show buying top end CPU, ram, liquid coolers, 4090 GPU just to play Minecraft. You could do that but it will cost you a lot and you don’t necessarily need that to enjoy the game.

Same with sim racing, if you are in it to kill time and enjoy yourself driving by yourself on the mighty Nordschleife then you don’t necessarily need all that and getting a gear driven or belt driven wheel is perfectly fine!

However times show that if you really want to get into competitive environment and get every single opportunity to squeeze last 0.01s out of every lap, then DD wheels are a fantastic way to do that while also increasing your immersion thanks to their sheer power to give you a feeling how it would be to muscle around an Indycar for example at Laguna Seca.

If you are interested to join the enthusiast club and get yourself a wheel that will enable you to get more out of your hobby than just using a gamepad then look no further and check out our stores!


Trak Racer Team

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