Best Pedal Kayak to Buy in 2021: Reviews and Buying Guide
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Pedalling kayaks are an amazing innovation in small watercraft. As a smaller subset of recreational kayaking, it’s no secret that they switch things up. By combining thrilling technology that falls between a bicycle and a boat, you move faster and easier through the water.
And not only are you positioned comfortably, but you also get to keep your hands free. It, therefore, comes as no surprise then that a plethora of paddlers delight in the perks of pedal kayaks over conventional boats.
With a manually-powered propulsion system, pedal kayaks are packed with righteous features that are perfect for all anglers. Their inherent stability sets them apart from the pack.
With the wealth of options that are seemingly the same, selecting the best pedal kayak that’ll perfectly meet your needs can be an uphill battle. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. So, read on to discover the best pedal kayaks in the market and a few tips to steer you in the right path towards choosing your ideal product.
Buying Guide: Tips for Choosing the Best Pedal Kayak
It’s no secret that pedal kayaks are a relatively new technology innovation that leaves a multitude of people engulfed in a wave of confusion, wondering which model to select. So, we’ve rounded up a few factors that will help you narrow down your search.
Shape and Hull Size
A myriad of kayakers that are new to this pastime activity is uncertain on the water. And they usually fail to grasp an important concept. A kayak that doesn’t have a broad and flat bottom that comes in handy in leaning from side to side is a major perk. It elevates its stability in rough water rather than lower it.
So, you should select a hull size based on the type of waters on which you intend to use the kayak. A round and flat-shaped hull is typically used in agile kayaks for small rivers to enhance maneuverability with reduced tracking.
Type: Rotational vs. Push Pedal
Pedal kayaks fall into two categories: push and rotational.
By simply pushing the foot pedals, the motion is as straightforward as it gets. But remember, pushing pedals is detrimental to your back in the long run because your legs aren’t entirely extended.
Some of the most common repercussions of pushing forward foot pedals are back pain, foot and leg cramps, early fatigue at the leg joints, and muscle injuries.
With push pedal kayaks, most of the body’s produced energy is lost.
So, you lose immense energy upon accelerating. Continuous energy loss with each pedal typically ushers in a less efficient system and fatigue from the onset.
The movement of the feet and legs has a striking resemblance to walking. In turn, this results in reduced stress on your joints, legs, and feet. Rotational pedals allow users to engage in continuous motion, which means the produced energy is preserved, rather than lost. With the efficient pedals, your body can channel power to the propeller with little to no energy loss.
Given that these two pedal systems are human-driven, they’re meant to lose the least amount of energy during exertion. The average person can deliver about 0.25 horsepower, unsustainably.
Overall, the variation between the two types of pedal kayaks is profound. The rotational-driven counterparts entail an uninterrupted rotational propeller, thereby wasting minimal body energy.
Contrarily, push-pedal kayaks combine two side-moving flaps with push pedals to diminish the mechanical efficiency. There’s a myriad of professionals who claim that this system is just as efficient as the rotational counterpart. A mechanical comparison between the two reveals that rotational pedal kayaks take the cake when it comes to efficiency.
The size of a kayak varies greatly depending on the manufacturer’s intentions. Pedal kayaks can be as light as 25 lbs and as small as 9 feet long. They can also weigh more than 100 pounds with a length of up to 14 feet. But keep in mind that the larger and heavier models are more difficult to haul and store.
A multitude of kayaks, specifically the more lightweight and compact models, can only accommodate one person. They’re built to be operated by one person using an oar and pedals, thus making it essentially impossible for two people to ride in them.
Amongst the longer ones, an array of tandem models can be operated and enjoyed by two people simultaneously. So, it’s, therefore, no surprise that tandem pedal kayaks are soaring in popularity.
Some pedal kayaks are armed with useful accessories ranging from tackle storage and a fishing rod holder to fish finding transducers. These make them a selling point for fishermen but are unnecessary for casual enthusiasts and non-fishers.
Fishing in pedal kayaks is becoming increasingly popular as anglers discover the perks it brings compared to fishing in the regular counterparts.
Factoring in the design and size, there’s no doubt that storage capacity can greatly vary from one pedal kayak to another. If you’re planning to embark on a casual jaunt, you only need cargo space that can fit a few life jackets and a cooler. Avid fishermen or those who embark on long excursions on the water may require more extensive cargo space.
Some pedal kayaks have more padded seating with enhanced back support and an ergonomic design compared to other rivals. But remember, this is essential for those that spend hours on end on the water.
So, it’s not a necessity to have the best seating if you only spend 2 hours or less on the water. If you want to embark on longer on-board trips, then you’ll need more supportive and comfortable seating that’s found in pricier and larger pedal kayaks. In addition, make sure you prepare the proper gear and equipment for all types of weather conditions.
For a multitude of people, specifically fishermen, and those embarking on long excursions, stability is a key buying factor to consider. Excellent pedal kayaks should always provide much-needed stability when the user is sitting.
Most of the pricier and larger models are marketed as delivering unmatched stability in fairly peaceful waters when the operator is fishing while standing, for instance.
So, before hastily buying the first peal kayak that catches your eye, consider the two types of stability. Firstly, primary stability that entails reverse and forward motion and the secondary counterpart that relates to how easily a vessel capsizes or flips. After all, the last thing you need is to end your excursion, immersed in the water.
Granted, it’s one of the least essential buying factors to consider. Some people gravitate more towards the aesthetic aspect of a pedal kayak. Most models are available in the generic primary colors, such as yellow, red, and blue, whereas others come in black or camo. So, if you prefer a unique, custom finishing on your pedal kayak, then you should keep your eyes peeled for the pricier models.
A pedal kayak’s speed is based on the operator. So, whether they have a stronger lower or upper body can make all the difference. There are instances of paddlers leaving the peddle drive in the dust and vice versa.
Observing from a mechanical and design standpoint, keep in mind that pedal kayaks have less stability in the water and must be broader. And, for enhanced stability, they must be broader, which ultimately means they’re slower.
Moreover, they contain rudders for improved steering, which boosts their friction within the water. In turn, this lower’s a kayak’s speed by about 10%. And the increased width makes the vessel heavier, which slows it down in the water.
As a result, this puts immense pressure on the operator, which ushers in fatigue. It’s for this reason that pedal kayaks are typically used for recreational activities such as touring and fishing, as opposed to racing.
Longer kayaks make it a breeze to get from one point to another due to their longer hulls. As a rule of thumb, the broader a kayak’s hull is, the slower the speed. Other factors that impact a kayak’s speed are fiberglass, the material of the hull, and thermoformed plastic, which make it faster. Make sure you understand the benefits for the type of kayak you’re using before you purchase it.
Turning and Tracking
It’s no secret that a pedal-driven kayak feels more unstable than the paddle-driven counterpart. It, therefore, comes as no surprise, then, that a pedal kayak must be built a bit wider for better stability as it cruises on the water.
You’ll typically see pedal kayaks being slightly bulkier and wider than the paddle-driven options. While your legs are propelling pedal kayaks, the steering ability ushers in more restrictions compared to paddle-driven models.
Paddles give users the ample ability to properly control the turning and tracking as they propel the kayak. Granted, pedal kayaks are armed with hand-activated rudder steer sticks, their operation when it comes to turning and tracking is less handy than the paddle options.
Upon comparing paddle and pedal kayaks, the former provides superior turning efficiency. For instance, if you’re using a pedal-driven kayak, you’ll need to cling to its sides to maintain the balance, unlike the paddle-driven models that only require paddles on each side.
The difficulty in steering pedal kayaks compared to the paddle options is debatable. Rudders can only be large up to a certain point, at the bottom of kayaks. And users can only put in so much effort in its adjustment.
A paddle’s effect on the kayak’s far side is more pronounced when it comes to turning compared to the boat’s middle bottom. Paddles allow you to make sharp turns. But a rudder and pedal kayak require you to make a few adjustments that are strikingly similar to those you’d see on boats.
Granted, it’s not like the titanic attempting to steer clear of icebergs. But the difference is noticeable. Operators’ hands control the steering rudders found in pedal kayaks via a lever that sits in the cockpit.
More often than not, pedal kayaks are perceived to be the best when it comes to fishing because they utilize your legs for motion, thus freeing your hands to fish. Furthermore, they allow users to fish while pedaling.
Granted, both hands are free. But there are times when you may have one hand free as the other holds onto the deck of the kayak, leaning on it to maintain the balance.
Fishing with a pedal kayak is more exhilarating compared to paddle models because you have free rein to move along as you fish in comfort.
The only limitation of pedal kayaks is that they typically lack the reverse capability, which makes moving backward a tad bit cumbersome. Nonetheless, the viable solution to this problem is selecting a rotational pedal kayak.
Vegetation-rich and Shallow Water areas
A kayak can take you anywhere you, please. However, for the pedal-driven options, visiting areas with shallow waters or seaweeds can be restricting. So, consider the environment you intend to use it before investing in the best pedal kayak.
The reason behind this restriction is that shallow waters make the kayak’s propellers susceptible to obstruction from obstacles and mud underwater. Upon getting to the shallow waters, it’s recommended that you use a paddle instead of a pedal to ensure that the mechanisms underneath don’t get clogged or face damage.
So, this makes pedal kayaks unusable for fishing in vegetation-rich and shallow water areas.
Consider the type of water on which you’ll use your pedal kayak before hastily buying one. It’s not suitable for fast running or whitewater navigation. Pedal kayaks have limited freeboard, thus making them prone to quickly filling up from streams of running water.
Moreover, they’re nearly impossible to navigate in moving water because the re-positioned user’s feet from the hull’s foot deters the ability to properly control and balance the boat.
To Wrap It Up
Purchasing a pedal fishing kayak is a matter you shouldn’t take lightly. Perhaps you’re on the quest for a compact and lightweight product that you can easily tuck away in your garage. Or a large-sized vessel for fishing and exploring the waters, there’s no shortage of options available.
So, it always pays off to take the time and patience to learn about the different models in the market and the essential factors to consider, as discussed in this guide.