The History of the Craft:
Pedal powered kayaks were first created in the United States. You have the iconic Hobie brand to thank for your sore legs. When Hobie Kayaks first introduced the Mirage Drive, a pedal-powered device, in 1997. Before the Mirage Drive, a few predecessor watercraft used pedal-drive. But, Hobie made it popular among kayakers and recreational paddlers. In 2008, Native Watercraft introduced their own version called the Propel. And nowadays more manufacturers are bringing new foot propulsion technology. That is less costly and more efficient: like the Perception Kayaks and Feel Free Kayaks.
A kayak with foot propulsion has many benefits… and a few drawbacks. The primary advantage to the pedal powered kayak is the hands free enjoyment. Cast at will, and never worry about losing a paddle to the deep again. Paddlers can enjoy fishing, photography, bird watching and much more. But each pedal powered craft requires the driver to steer, but it is much less cumbersome than navigating via paddle. Also, watch out for any shallow areas! Also… for turning the craft you might need that paddle after all! One thing we can agree on is that you should be kayak fishing
A huge advantage is the speed. Once you get your legs going these bad boys take off quickly. This is naturally because your legs have much more muscle mass than your arms. In a pedal powered kayak you can start cruising with ease. Most kayaks use either a rotational pedal or a push pedal system. Kayak engineers have worked hard on designing these bad boys to be very efficient. Little momentum is lost when you stop pedaling. So, maintaining cruising speed for longer distances and durations requires far less energy. The entire concept behind a pedal-driven kayak, is that it lets you use the larger leg muscles rather than the arms and torso. (Whether the foot pedalled kayak is truly faster than a paddle propelled craft is a more complex issue and discussion for a later post.
An important functionality feature is seats with superior back support. We have all felt the ache of a sore back. So avoiding that feeling at all costs counts as a major advantage here. Adjustable seat heights and a moveable seat location in the craft is a huge plus. Although Paddle kayaks come with these features there aren’t ever as many options.
Another great bonus is that your kayak is going to feel smooth. Like a stealthy predator. With no more paddling and bumbling about in the kayak, you are going to be cruising in style! But the kayak still provides you with the ability to explore the areas that bigger boats couldn’t. So you get the smooth style of a kayak without the splashy splashy.
Compared to a traditional sit on top kayak, these kayaks have less storage space. And the foot area is not as open with the drive system taking up a lot of space. Also depending on the brand, navigating shallow waters means you have to remove the pedal drive. There is much more interaction and maintenance required with the foot propulsion mechanism than a traditional kayak. Pedal powered kayaks are more expensive and much heavier than a sit on top kayak of similar length.
Knowing what you want to use the craft for and what will suit your budget and needs are the most important considerations for any paddler. As your favorite Kayaking Blog, email us and we will be happy to discuss with you which type of kayak will be the best for you. For help regarding gear choices, read our reviews. And check out the gear page and get yourself one of these bad boys: gear page