Reader Submission #41 – Plastic Toys for Pretend Race Car Drivers

Often, the price of upgrading your sim hardware can be expensive and overwhelming – once a sim racer progresses past the entry level Logitech wheels and expresses a desire for a much more consistent build quality, the market is flooded with over-priced peripherals, modifications and fanboys trying to persuade you into and endless brand war. Today’s Reader Submission by Alessandro L chronicles his quest to reverse engineer expensive third party modifications in an effort to upgrade his Logitech G25 pedals at a fraction of the outrageous cost hardcore sim companies would have made him pay for it.


GRAB_042I recently got back into sim racing; I enjoyed it for a number of years, beginning with F1 Challenge 99-02 and GTR (the mod for F1 2002, not the boxed copy), and Grand Prix Legends, for which I borrowed my friend’s Logitech Momo wheel and never returned it. After being invited to the 2014 Belgium Grand Prix and testing the big ass simulator at the Shell Hospitality (set up by the same guys who operate the Ferrari simulator), I was hooked again and the thought of putting together my own, but with an eye on the budget.

I then realized the options we have to put together a decent rig are quite a few, starting from the seat you’ll be sitting in, to the wheel and pedals. Living in Holland, I decided on a used Playseat – sturdy and popular enough to read all sorts of revies on it. I looked for a used Fanatec wheel and got lucky finding a CSR Elite for relatively cheap, but the pedals were too expensive. I ended up getting a broken G25, which I immediately threw away, but kept the pedals and shifter (the G25 shifter is better than the G27 as it allows for the option between sequential and H-Pattern… Good job Logitech!)

The G25/G27 pedalboard are way more common than you realize, because they are cheap as hell – they’ve been on the market for a decade. They’re also relatively sturdy and rely on the good ol’ potentiometer to measure pedal travel. They are so common, there are dozens of mods to make the pedals feel more realistic, most of which usually cost more than getting a set of Wheel+Shifter+Pedals used. Bonkers.

Still, I thought the feel of the brake pedal could be improved, so I started researching my options. The most expensive, but also most “realistic” is the Ricmotech load cell mod, which costs about 130 euros (I paid 50 for the whole wheel set) plus shipping and import if you’re outside the US. Again, bonkers.

The cheapest mod is instead a replacement spring with a rubber in it. It costs around 50 euros for two springs and there are two bonkers companies selling them. They are basically selling the same stuff, just with different packaging, different marketing bullshit, and going head to head in public forums claiming their “engineering” is superior to the others. We are talking about a spring and a rubber, keep in mind. I thought the idea of putting a new spring in the pedal to make it more stiff was actually a good one, that could help moderate the brake better, but was definitely not stupid enough to spend 50 euros for two metal springs, no matter what “engineering” was put in it.

So I did what everyone should do before opening the wallet and handing money to a company whose sole purpose is to get your money in their own wallets. I activated my little brain.

I know nothing about springs, but how hard can it be? So I started researching. In ten minutes, I figured that what I needed was a compression spring, rather than an extension. This helped me find measurements and suppliers. After that, I needed to find how big of a spring to put in the pedal. I didn’t have any caliper at hand, so I googled what the two bonkers companies were selling, and they gave me the answer.

I quickly realised that a simple, harder than stock, spring wasn’t going to give me the best result. These two companies sell two stage springs, which are basically springs made with different thread counts after a specific number of coils. This allows the spring to compress more easily at the beginning, but harder at the end, similarly to what a brake pedal does (at least in regular cars).

Finding two-stages springs is not that easy if you don’t want to make them by yourself or get them custom made, so an alternative is needed. I found I was not the only one who decided to activate my brain cells, and other found similar solutions and posted them on YouTube:

People already figured out different ways of achieving the same result, in different manners:

  • Use two different springs, one inside the other
  • Use a combination of springs and other material to increase resistance

As one of them put it, these are $4 mods, to achieve similar results (if not the same, or better) than the 50 Euro ones you can get from eBay. I realised there must be at least one eBay seller with a selection of different sizes/strengths of compression springs, and I found one close to me.

So with a little ingenuity, I measured the stock spring rate by putting it on a scale and pressing it down to calculate how many kilograms are needed to fully compress it. I figured I needed something stronger, and got a couple of springs with the same diameter from the eBay seller, plus a harder, smaller and shorter spring to put inside the big one, to give the second stage.

Boom, done. I wish I had pictures, but the installation was so easy I don’t think any of you needs guidance doing it.

The brake is far from realistic. The feel is not the same as a real car, of course, but it is much better than before, helping you use muscle memory rather than positional memory to push the pedal. I still have to find a toy pedal that mimics the real behavior of a real brake pedal.

Moral of the Story: When you read the marketing bullshit the companies put out (“GTEYE pedal spring upgrades are a quality engineered replacement of the original Logitech G Racing Wheel springs. Precision designed and tested with over 12 years experience, GTEYE springs are manufactured in Australia using precise CNC controlled coiling equipment.”) just activate your brain cells and question whether or not is it worth paying the premium to achieve the same or better result by doing some research. You could save yourself some big money by questioning what is thrown at you in marketing speech and “engineering” your own solution.

Keep in mind we are playing videogames with plastic toys, this should help put it in perspective. And keep up the good work, guys, I always like when people like you throw shit at those who want to sell us ridiculous stuff like broken videogames.


f1-challenge-99-02-image573980Hey Alessandro, nice to hear from you again!

I really don’t have much to add to what you wrote, other than that I agree completely with you and am happy that you found a relatively easy and cheap way to modify G25/G27 pedals.

A while ago I looked into the different ways I could upgrade my G27 pedals as well, because as you say, they don’t feel anything like pedals do in real life. And just like you, I was put off by the huge cost of these simple mods. I didn’t really mind however, and since I use ABS on all cars anyway (yeah, call me a pleb, I don’t care) I didn’t do any further research. I can understand that some of the mods cost something like $130 because they even come with custom hardware chips like the Ricmotech one, but $50 for a set of springs is going full retard.

I hope that his post will be a help to people who want to upgrade their pedals but are put off by the cost of some of the mods out there, just like I was.

Auf Wiedersehen.

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “Reader Submission #41 – Plastic Toys for Pretend Race Car Drivers

  1. and here I thought James got his special 9 foot purple dildo in the mail.

    Nice to see this – as a simple little rubber stopper can make a decent replication of a load cell.

    Is it required or wanted No
    Does it make you go faster – No

    But guy who dies with the most toys wins.

    Like

  2. Buying the 50 buck springs might be bonkers for YOU. It might not be for someone who doesn’t either have the time / energy / interest to research different springs and measure their tensions, and considers their money more expendable than their time. The latter guy might just as easily call the DIY spring-fiddlers “retard”, from their own perspective outlined above. And that would be wrong too, because it is everyone’s subjective choice what to do with their money and time. This is such an easy concept to grasp that I’m starting to wonder if I’m in candid camera or something. Clearly if someone wants to pay 50 bucks for a pair of springs, then the deal made sense for them. Who else than THAT person is able to judge what is OK for him? No-one. If you liked your spring-fiddling, research and your DIY mod, good, more power to you. And surely your fellow spring-fiddlers appreciate your input on this issue. Now, let’s let everyone decide for themselves what they want to do, perhaps without calling them retards right out of the gate, ok?

    Like

    1. “just activate your brain cells and question whether or not is it worth paying the premium to achieve the same or better result by doing some research”.

      As long as you answer the question before shelling out the dough, you’re good.
      I think the goal of this piece was to make you aware of having more choices, then it’s up to you to make something out of it.

      Like

    2. Did I forbid anyone to pay 50 bucks for a spring mod? No. Do I think it’s retarded to pay $50 for something that is produced for less than $1? Yes. The markup for those things is even more retarded than what Apple charges as premium just because the device has an apple on it. If you read the article, you would’ve noticed that I didn’t call the $130 option retarded because that thing actually had some R&D put into it, plus it’s not just a simple spring.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Honestly, I prefer to do things myself. There’s a reason why I never allow anyone else to work on my vehicles and that reasoning generally extends to most aspects of life.

      If you understand the mechanism, then you can adjust to perform exactly as believe it should.

      Liked by 2 people

Rap battles between users are encouraged; losers will be IP banned for 24 hours.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s