Heusinkveld Handbrake v2 | Long Term Review
Handbrakes are pretty simple, right? They need to do a hell of a lot to justify a $300/€300 price tag. This is the most expensive sim handbrake I’ve ever used. Over the past few months I’ve put this handbrake through countless hours of testing and compared it to my real life drifting experience.
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I hear it all the time, people asking “do I need a handbrake?”. To those people, I say “no”. If you don’t know if you need a handbrake, then you don’t. I use a handbrake for rally and drifting and my rig and sim racing experience would not be complete without one. This is the Heusinkveld Handbrake V2 and I’ve been using it for the past couple of months for all my competitive rally events and casual drifting. I’m Laurence, welcome to the channel.
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The main goal of a handbrake is to lock the rear wheels so that you introduce rotation to your vehicle in order to point it in the right direction. A secondary application of a handbrake is to induce wash into your car’s trajectory. What I mean by this is that when you pull the handbrake while already sliding, you can widen the circumference of your slide by removing grip from your rear wheels. The third and final purpose of a handbrake is to independently control the speed of the rear wheels without needing to slow down the front wheels. Some of these concepts may be alien to some of you and that’s fine. I’m just painting the scene for the type of intensive review process this handbrake has been through.
All of the products in this review were sent to me free of charge for the purposes of this review and nobody other than me has had any say in the content of this video. The links to this product and its competitors in the description are affiliate links and if used will earn this channel some money.
- First Impressions
The Heusinkveld packaging fills me with a sense of joy and almost nostalgia. I don’t quite know why, but the colours, the quotes and the sheer credibility that they bring to the table makes them one of the most prolific brands in sim racing. They don’t beat their chest about how great they are or how they are better than their competitors. They let the product owners do the talking and if you ask anyone for recommendations on pedals or handbrakes, Heusinkveld is sure to get a mention.
The packaging is simple with lots of cardboard to secure the product. I’m very happy that they don’t use foam or other non recyclable materials in their packaging. The handbrake comes assembled and in its vertical orientation. This is probably the most common configuration and the one that takes up least space in a box.
The design and colors are instantly recognisable as Heusinkveld, even if there wasn’t a giant logo on the side. I must say though that out of the box, I preferred the handle shape of the V1 handbrake, even if it wasn’t as impressive visually. I’d love for them to do a black version of this handbrake. I think they would sell a lot more of them.
People regard this as one of the more high end handbrakes, not only because of the Heusinkveld brand, but also because of its almost €300 or $300 price tag. This is a lot of money for a piece of equipment you might pull once on a rally stage and try to avoid using while drifting competitively. But when you need it, you want to rely on it. Heusinkveld’s customer service is not something people often need but when they do, the stories I hear are amazing. They really look after their customers. This price includes 2 extra elastomers and several spacers to set this unit up exactly as you like it.
- Installation – Hardware
Installing handbrakes is never fun. It’s pretty horrible really. Everyone wants them in a different position. Some want them between the steering wheel and the shifter. Some want the handbrake on the opposite side of the shifter. Some want it high, some want it low. It’s a complete minefield and probably the most difficult thing to mount on any rig.
When I do these reviews, I don’t watch any other reviews beforehand. I want my experience to be fresh and uninfluenced. So much so that I spent a good 2 hours trying to mount this handbrake before one of the guys in my discord mentioned that there’s a mounting plate included. Honestly, if he hadn’t mentioned it I wouldn’t have removed it from the box. It’s a little hidden and in the excitement of installing the product, it can be missed. I’d like if the mounting plate was more visible in the packaging.
I still had to install an upright piece of spare profile in front of my shifter and I mounted it to that with the aforementioned base plate. The tolerance on the 4 bolt holes to attach the handbrake to the base plate was minimal so those bolts were actually a bit difficult to screw in while also holding the handbrake in position.
The mounting plate also allows for an angled installation of the handbrake which is quite common when the handbrake is mounted horizontally. The supplied USB-B cable plugs in exactly where you would want it to to keep the cable out of sight and out of mind.
- Installation – Software
The Smartcontrol software is great. It’s a familiar experience if you’re used to Heusinkveld’s other products. Other than calibration, you can set curves to directly impact how your handbrake behaves. Even in real life, depending on the car, the point at which the rear wheels lock up could be different depending on the discipline, chassis or the way the brakes are set up. You can save multiple profiles and even share them quite easily with other users. The calibration wizard is intuitive and very visual. You can also adjust your maximum force quite easily which means that you don’t have to fiddle about with calibration to get the perfect feel.
To be honest, I initially ran the handbrake without calibrating it and it was already set up quite well from the factory. When you swap out elastomers or change the preload, you’ll need to recalibrate each time.
- How it feels
Within a few minutes of using it, my worries of the handle shape proved to be real. This handle is very hard and has a bit of an odd shape to it. It doesn’t really fit my hand very well. All of the force to pull it concentrates on a small part of my fingers rather than my whole hand. There are no imprints or recesses for my fingers and especially with the heavier shore elastomers, I found it a bit unnatural to grip. The holes in the handle look great but serve no real purpose. And yes, you CAN get your fingers stuck in there.
I also have a slight concern about the angle that the handle travels at. It’s more of a J shape than a straight bar. The elastomer is subjected to a pull movement rather than a push movement but I don’t think that makes a difference. But the J shape means that when you pull the handle it also travels downwards a bit. This is unlike the movement in any real life vertical handbrake I’ve ever used. The fulcrum just feels like it’s in the wrong place. I didn’t have this issue with the V1 handbrake although I didn’t spend as much time with it as I have with this one.
All criticisms aside, I still think this is a good handbrake. I think that my real life handbrake experience has played a big factor in my opinions here. Let me put it this way: I can’t imagine a handle exactly like this ever making it into a real drift or rally car. I can’t imagine the travel of the handle to be like this in a real car setup.
I’m being very critical but I’m trying to put this product in the hands of a real driver who is trying to replicate what they feel in their real rally or drift car. On the other hand, I might be overthinking it. Handbrakes just have a very limited scope of what they need to achieve and this one didn’t quite hit the mark in some areas for me. If we leave aside the two issues that I have and focus on the rest, this is an excellent bit of kit. The quality is incredible and the forces you can exert on it should satisfy even the most heavy handed drivers.
The default form of this handbrake will be more than good enough for most casual users. It comes fitted with a spring and the soft 28mm elastomer. Personally, I found the spring a little too soft. Some real life hydraulic handbrakes do have a lot of movement before they have any effect but I prefer it to be a little more instant so I tightened the preload within a few hours of initial use. This again is just a personal preference.
You can adjust the preload on the handbrake without the need for any tools as shown. You also get an elastomer kit somewhat similar to the kit which is available for the Heusinkveld Sprint pedals. There is one soft 28mm elastomer pre-installed and in the upgrade kit, which is included, you get another 28mm hard elastomer and a 19mm hard elastomer. Altogether you have 3 elastomers to choose from. I ultimately settled on this 2 elastomer setup which gives a reasonable progression and offers precision and instant bite. It consists of the hard 28mm elastomer and the hard 19mm elastomer. I did find that with most configurations, unless I set the handbrake up extremely hard, I ended up hitting the hard metal stop under enthusiastic use which felt a bit odd. There are also seven hard plastic spacers which you can use to separate the elastomers and spring or even completely replace an elastomer.
Finally, you can also adjust the angle of the handle itself inde pendently of the handbrake itself. Personally, I can only see someone doing this if they don’t mount the handbrake on a flat horizontal or a 90 degree vertical. It’s good to have the adjustment even though most (including me) will never use it.
- Final Thought
This is a very good handbrake. Sure, I’m quite critical in my reviews but it goes without saying that Heusinkveld products are always high quality and very functional. I enjoyed my time with this handbrake despite some minor imperfections, namely the movement of the handle during the throw and the shape of the hand grip which is the product’s biggest weakness. There’s a lot of adjustment and you can get every setup from soft to super hard thanks to a super sensitive 120kg load cell. There’s not a huge amount of progression available in the force required before you hit the hard metal bump stop which feels a bit odd, especially in softer configurations.
Mounting the handbrake was no more difficult than any other handbrake. They do provide a base plate adapter which makes things easier, just make sure you take everything out of the box before trying to mount it.
While this isn’t my favourite sim handbrake, it is still a very good product and I am just one opinion and I highly recommend watching several other reviews before making any decisions. Heusinkveld is renowned for customer satisfaction and their support network is out of this world.
Should you decide to buy this product, I have included links in the description which when used earn some money for this channel. There’s no obligation to do so but your support is appreciated immensely. Details about other companies with similar benefits are also listed. I’m Laurence, I stream every Tuesday and Thursday at 9pm UK/Irish time. Thanks again to Heusinkveld for making this review possible and to you for taking the time to watch, hit the thumbs up or comment with your experiences or opinions. I’m Laurence, and I’ll chat to ye later.