If you’ve been in the sim racing scene for any length of time then you’ve probably heard or read about load cell pedals and how they’re some magical cure for sub-optimal lap times. Whilst that isn’t always the case, they are definitely one of the single biggest upgrades that a sim racer can make to their sim racing setup, but they do come with a learning curve to get the most out of them.
Load cell pedals may increase your lap times, but where lead cell pedals will make you faster is through lap consistency, which is arguably the most important factor of racing. Unlike a potentiometer pedal, a load cell pedal works on pressure, which means that it is much less likely to cause accidental lock-ups and make more advanced techniques like trail-braking much easier.
How Do Load Cell Pedals Make You Faster
Unlike “normal” brake pedals that measure braking inputs via distance, a load cell pedal measures braking inputs via force, or how much load you put on the pedal. Instead of having your muscle memory trained so that you have to move the brake pedal a certain distance to slow the car, using a load cell brake pedal will mean that you now have to learn how much force to put on the pedal to get the car to stop. Load cell pedals are usually very stiff which means they don’t travel very far.
But how exactly does this make you a faster racer? Consistency. Whilst brakes that use a potentiometer to measure distance are fine to start, you will have undoubtedly experienced accidental lock-ups by pushing the brake pedal a little bit too far. Load cell pedals minimise this for two reasons.
- A properly calibrated load-cell pedal will make it much easier to find the limit of threshold braking and lock-up
- Training your muscle memory to use force instead of distance is a lot more reliable
Being able to brake to the threshold on every corner reliably means that you are able to brake later than you were before with more confidence. Braking less than the threshold means you take longer to slow down, braking above the threshold means that you will be locking your wheels which may result in losing control of the car. There is a very fine line between the two, and load cell brakes assist in hitting that target consistently.
With increased consistency comes an increased learning curve and it is often why people feel like they’re missing something when they get their first load cell pedals. You will need to spend some time to adjust to the new experience of braking using force and it will take time to train your muscle memory to realise how much pressure is needed to hit that sweet spot of braking. Once you’ve got it down, optimal braking becomes trivial.
Much like you will be able to hit the threshold braking point much more consistently, you will also be able to use the brakes for much more advanced techniques such as trail braking with more precision. Techniques like trail braking will become easier to pull off without accidentally applying too much or too little brake through the corner and in turn, will allow you to maintain more speed.
Who would have though that a brake was probably the most important thing to helping us go fast!
Are Load Cell Pedals Worth It
Load cell pedals are worth it if you’re wanting to take your sim racing up a notch and are ready to start investing in your sim racing setup. If you are a casual sim racer that isn’t fussed with online races, being competitive or increasing immersion, then I would argue that you probably don’t need to go out and spend a few hundred dollars minimum on load cell pedals as you aren’t going to be able to get the most out of what they have to offer.
If you are looking at becoming a more competitive sim racer, then yes, load cell pedals are worth it. In fact, I would argue that they are probably the single best upgrade to a sim racing setup when it comes to value for money.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, they won’t make your lap times instantly faster, but they will make you a more consistent racer which in turn will mean that you will be finishing better in races.
A word of caution, there is a learning curve to load cell pedals. When you first get them you will spend anywhere from a few days to a few weeks learning how to use them properly and how to brake properly. You will probably feel like you’ve wasted your money and that load cell pedals are all just hype and nothing more.
Give it time and trust the process. Think back when you first started racing with a wheel and pedals, you were probably locking up all over the place and missing corners but after a while, you were able to get better and keep the car on the track.
It’s a learning experience but load cell pedals are definitely worth it for anyone that is serious about sim racing.
What Is The Downside Of Load Cell Pedals
The main issue with load cell pedals is that they will be more expensive than normal sim racing pedals. The cheapest reliable load cell pedal set currently on the market is the Fanatec CSL Elite Pedal LC which comes in at about $120.00 above its potentiometer counterpart.
The other important factor to remember before you rush out and purchase a load cell pedal set is how you are going to mount them. Using a load cell pedal requires substantial force to hit maximum braking and if you are just planning on putting them on your floor and using them as you did with your current pedal set, then you might need to reconsider your options.
Load cell pedals benefit greatly from a dedicated sim racing rig that reduces flex and movement, but that isn’t an option for many people. You might have to get crafty with how you are able to mount them in place without a rig but having them unmounted is not going to work out well.
Load cell pedals may or may not directly increase your lap times but what they will do is make you more consistent and allow you to hit those personal best lap times more frequently. Load cell brakes minimize the chances of accidentally locking the brakes in comparison to “normal” brake pedals and will allow you to control more advanced techniques like trail braking with much more precision.
There is a learning curve that comes with load cell pedals and it will require some patients as you retrain your muscle memory on how to brake using force, instead of how to brake by the distance the pedal moves.
If you don’t have load cell pedals at the moment but are trying to decide if they are the right option for you then I would highly encourage you to make the switch. It won’t be an easy transition as there will be a learning curve to rebuild your muscle memory, but after some adjustment period, you will notice drastic changes to your racing ability and your control over the car.