Ever since owning a wheel for my PS2, PC and now PS3 I have always had to make do with a makeshift array of coffee tables, easy chairs and wooden stools to clamp my steering wheels on to. Fast forward to today and I am still clamping my Logitech Driving Force GT Wheel onto a rickety old wooden stool, with my legs straddle either side, and the pedals off to the right side of the stool. For some time I have had this obscure driving position, and although it may have been comfortable for the wheel, the pedal location has always been ridiculous and unnaturally placed. So it’s about time for a change!
Flicking through Google results and endless forum threads for wheel stand system advice I soon came to a simple conclusion – It’s damn hard to find one these days! Small start-up companies have been and gone by the time I had found their presence online, which left only a handful of manufacturers remaining, most of them being overseas. After checking in with some e-tailers online I came across a nice looking stand system from SpeedBlack.
The SpeedBlack is a seat-less wheel stand system, made for people, like me, who wish to replace that dodgy stool and use an everyday chair instead of a full-blown racing seat. The system can be purchased in a range of colours, I chose red and black, though you also have the choice of silver, black and yellow. If you are based in the UK you can purchase this stand in the UK from Scan.com for a welcoming price of £80, which isn’t too bad considering the competition. Now although this may seem steep for a wheel stand system consisting of bolted together bits of riveted metal, you’ll find you will be spending far more for an alternative, and possibly more bulky solution, that will set you back from around £150 up to £450! So is the SpeedBlack a consumer and wallet friendly solution for the virtual petrol-head? Lets find out.
Arriving in a fair-sized box, I soon unpacked its contents. The box contained six main parts – the H base frame, stand column, the adjustable inner-leg that goes inside the stand column, the main tabletop, peddle arm and main pedal base. Add the simple screwdriver-less screws and bolts and you have a package laying in front of you that really didn’t need any instructions for putting it together. Although just to be safe, a simple guide is at hand to help you slot and screw the right part together.
Setting up the SpeedBlack was a breeze. In less than 10 minutes I had everything positioned just how I wanted it. Whilst setting up, I noticed something that was not covered in the assembly manual and is a great addition for anyone purchasing this stand system – You can insert the inner-leg in two ways, by doing this the scoop-plate that holds the tabletop (that the wheel clamps on to) is angled differently. So if you are sitting high in a chair you’ll want the inner-leg angled down and away from you, resulting in a flat tabletop. This will make the wheel, once clamped onto the table base, point up and towards you. For me, I am sitting in an IKEA Poang armchair, which sits pretty low – racing style – so I had to have this adjustment leg around the other way, with the angle sloping down towards me. This made the tabletop angle down; so that when the wheel is clamped onto it the wheel is at a vertical angle that is more comfortable for lower seating positions. There is also a thumbscrew at each side of the tabletop that, when loosened, allows you to slide the top forward and back should you have log or short arms.
The pedal base is just a little less adjustable than the tabletop, in the arm that is attached to the base is a long screw bolt that rests on the leg, once turned (raising or lowering the thread of the bolt) it will raise and lower the base for high and low seating positions. The base has a generous width, enough to cope with even three pedal systems and still have room to rest a foot to the side. Side arms help stop any stray sliding of the pedals, though it would have been nice to have been able to clamp them down or secure them with screws in the back. Overall, you will find it more than adequate to get the right position to suit your seating position and driving style.
Firing up my driving game of choice – Codemasters’ Race Driver: GRID – it was time to see if the SpeedBlack could take the punishment of heavy braking, fast turning and arm-shattering force-feedback movement that I was about to lay onto it.
The first niggle I noticed was with the single leg column, which when forced, gave around an inch of horizontal movement to the tabletop. Though this may feel awkward It didn’t phase me much as it helped with fine-tuning the positioning of the wheel without getting up and moving the whole stand.
The base of the stand that the whole system sits on is fairly narrow, which keeps the overall footprint of the stand fairly small – less than a set of Guitar Hero/RockBand drums. This is great for someone looking for a more discrete racing system that doesn’t take up much floorspace. Unfortunitely, being a small system with a single column it does bring with itself the risk of feeling less solid, making it easy to sway the wheel from side to side. But don’t let this put you off as it has had no impact on me whilst in-game.
Although there is no way to clamp the pedals to the base I never had the pedals slide away from me. If you wanted to, you could drill holes into the base to secure the pedals to the base more permanently. Also, if you were to sit any lower, I think the pedals would be angled a little too low to feel comfortable, even at its highest setting. Again, you could modify this by using a longer bolt or by padding the gap between the bolt and the leg it rests on; doing this would raise the pedal base and tilt the pedals that little bit higher. I found the SpeedBlack is best suited for higher seating positions, such as a dining table or office chair; anything lower than my IKEA chair could bring some problems. With that said, the IKEA Poang chair and SpeedBlack is a great combination! Overall, there is enough customisation in the leg height, table position, table depth and pedal base angle to reach a comfortable driving position, no matter what your chair type maybe, as long as it’s not a tiny footstool or an infant’s chair the SpeedBlack will adapt and accommodate.
For the small premium, the SpeedBlack is a worthy solution for virtual racers to clamp their wheels on to. Should a future revision be released, I would like to see better pedal-base adjustment. Also perhaps fix the leg to the base with a hinge system that could be unlocked and enable the whole system to be folded down, with the wheels and pedals still attached, for easy storage. If you are on a budget though, and are tired of that worn coffee table you’re still using, then the SpeedBlack is one solution that is worthy for your consideration. Matched with the right chair and you have something you can easily slide out and put yourself onto the virtual tarmac within a few minutes.
For measurements, details and images, check out the official website for the SpeedBlack at www.speedblack.com