Whether you play racing sims casually or compete regularly in online events and tournaments, you know the importance of practicing and improving your lap times. While having access to quality equipment matters, another aspect of your sim racing setup is often overlooked, despite its importance to your performance: comfort and ergonomics.
Uncomfortable seating positions, especially over long racing sessions, can result in more than just stiff muscles or discomfort. They can hurt your racing performance. Follow these tips to improve the ergonomics of your racing simulator setup and benefit from better comfort.
What Are the Main Factors Affecting Comfort and Ergonomics?
Finding the right seating position for your racing simulator setup depends on multiple factors. The three most important ones apply to all racing sims, regardless of your equipment: your seating position, wheel angle, and pedal angle.
If your setup includes ancillary accessories like an H-shifter or a handbrake, you will also need to consider their position to maximize your comfort level.
The first and most important aspect to consider is your setup’s seating position. Regardless of your preferences regarding seating style (GT vs. Formula-style), ensure your setup has the following ergonomic fundamentals to eliminate discomfort and avoid pain while racing.
- Seat type: If you don’t have access to a dedicated sim racing cockpit rig with an integrated seat, ensure your seat is stable and securely mounted. Avoid office chairs on wheels, as they provide the least stability. Instead, opt for a comfortable office or gaming chair with lockable casters or no wheels.
- Comfort features: For added comfort, especially during endurance races or long sessions, select a chair with extra padding, a mesh back, and lumbar support. These features help you regulate your body temperature and support your spine for extended periods.
- Seat height: As with standard gaming setups, adjust your seat height so your eyes are naturally level with the center of your primary monitor. Setting the correct seat height helps eliminate neck and eye strain.
GT vs. Formula Seating Angle
Most sim racers fall into two categories: those who prefer GT-style seating and those who prefer Formula-style angles.
The GT-style seating angle is more upright and designed to replicate the feeling of driving a grand touring race car, such as a GT3, GT4, or LM-GTE. The back of your seat should be almost perpendicular to the ground, with angles ranging from about 70° to 90°.
Formula-style seating has a narrower angle and positions your legs at about chest or stomach level. This seating style has a 40° to 50° angle to simulate driving inside a single-seater car like an F1, F2, or Indycar, or some types of endurance cars, such as an LMP2 or LM Hypercar.
Although the best seating angle depends on your preferences, you may find GT-style seating more accessible. This seating position most closely resembles a standard computer seating position, making it easier to adapt.
Wheel Angle and Positioning
While many sim racing wheels have clamps that can be mounted to the edge of your desk, installing your wheel that way doesn’t let you adjust it much for comfort. The best way to modify your wheel’s position and angle is to mount it to a dedicated racing stand.
Position your wheel at a sufficiently comfortable angle so you can turn it 180° in either direction without discomfort or needing to swap hands. Turning the wheel should feel effortless. Ensure the wheel is close enough to avoid overstretching your arms while racing.
The easiest way to determine if your wheel is at the right distance is to stretch your arm forward and check what part of your arms the top of the wheel is touching. The ideal distance should leave the wheel at about wrist level.
Verify your wheel angle and positioning by holding the sides of your wheel (we strongly recommend hands at 9 and 3 on a round wheel). If you’ve correctly configured your wheel position and angle, your arms should form a roughly 90° angle at the elbows.
Pedal Set Angle and Positioning
Like your wheel, correctly positioning your pedal set ensures you can use them easily without exerting unnecessary effort. Not all pedal sets or racing stands offer features to adjust their angle or positioning, but if you can, take advantage of it to achieve the highest comfort level.
The ideal pedal set position should allow you to completely press down the accelerator, brake, and clutch pedals without fully extending your leg. Your knees should maintain a slight bend even when pressing one of the pedals down 100 percent. Note that if you have difficulties pressing a specific pedal but not others, you may need to adjust that pedal’s resistance instead of the set’s position.
The ideal pedal set angle depends on your preferred seating position. If you prefer GT-style seating, the pedals should face slightly up when not pressed down. In Formula-style setups, the pedal set is typically raised, and the pedals should be perpendicular to the ground or slightly downward facing.
Shifter and Handbrake Position
Although you can race in nearly any series and with virtually every simulator on the market with just a wheel and pedal set, many are compatible with additional accessories, such as H-shifters and handbrakes. These accessories enhance the driving realism and create an even more immersive experience.
If you use these accessories and have the opportunity to adjust their position on your rig, follow these recommendations to boost comfort even more.
- H-Shifter position: If you enjoy sim racing in series with manual transmission vehicles, the best position for your H-shifter accessory is where it would be in a real race car: relatively low and close to your wheel. As with the wheel, your shifter should be close enough to avoid overextending your arms and minimize effort. Install it to your right or left, depending on your preferences.
- Handbrake position: These accessories are crucial if you frequently play racing sims featuring rally cars or drift cars. The grip of your handbrake lever accessory should be within reach of the same hand you use to shift gears. Minimize the distance between the lever and wheel as much as possible without interfering with your ability to turn the wheel with both hands.
Race Comfortably, Race More Efficiently
Following these guidelines to configure your setup will provide you with a solid, comfortable base that should keep you comfortable no matter how long your racing sessions last. With a solid foundation, you can adjust every element of your setup as needed to achieve the comfort level that suits you best.