If you enjoy spending time in a kayak but feel like all the paddling is draining too much energy, perhaps it’s time to get a pedal kayak. By allowing you to use your feet, the best pedal kayak will give your arms a rest and keep them free for other things like taking photos or holding fishing rods.
In this article, we’ll review the absolute best pedal kayaks on the market, perfect for any activity from fishing to exploring the seashore. Getting one of these will change the way you look at kayaking, making you fall in love with the water even more.
How To Choose A Pedal Kayak – Buying Guide
All pedal kayak reviews agree that you should consider a few important things before getting your kayak. These include understanding the different types of pedal kayaks, considering how and where you’ll be using it, and weighing all the pros and cons of having pedals.
What Is A Pedal Drive Kayak, And Why Would I Buy One?
Pedal drive kayaks are a variation of the traditional model, with the biggest difference being that you use your legs to move around. This leaves your hands free for other things like taking photos or holding a fishing rod, and saves you a lot of energy.
If you have any upper body problems, a pedal-driven kayak may be perfect for you. These rigs only use your lower body and put zero strain on your arms, shoulders, or neck, so you can get on the water without aggravating an injury.
People who like to fish know the importance of keeping their hands free. With this type of kayak, you’ll be able to set up your line while pedaling to your favorite spot. You can even pedal while the line is in the water to simulate trolling.
When talking about storage, this can vary significantly between the pedal and traditional kayaks. Even though pedal-powered kayaks require deck space for the pedal drive system, they usually offer the same (or even more) storage than regular options – plenty for your dry bags and backpacks.
As you’ve had the chance to see, most pedal kayaks are quite luxurious and have an abundance of extra features. These are generally designed for fishing and include rod holders, slots for tackle boxes, and mounting points for fish finders. However, they also usually include dry storage hatches and highly-adjustable seats.
Another benefit is the added stability because they are usually wider than regular kayaks. Some of these vessels are so stable that you can get up off your seat and move around on the deck.
With pedal kayaks, maneuverability is on-point too. Most come with a built-in rudder system that allows you to steer easily by using a simple lever. This way, you can keep a straight line even in rougher waters.
Types of Pedal Kayaks
Just like regular kayaks, pedal-driven kayaks have many different variations. With that said, there are two main types of pedal drive kayaks: push and rotational. Even though they look quite similar, they use a different system that moves them.
1. Push Pedals
Instead of pedaling like a bicycle, a push pedal system requires that you push the pedals with your legs, activating the blades underneath. This type of pedal drive kayak is pleasant to use and gives you good exercise, but the boat stops moving immediately after you stop pressing.
2. Rotational Pedals
This system is what you typically think of when picturing a pedal-powered kayak. Similar to bicycling, rotational pedals move one after the other causing the propellers to move you through the water.
This requires much less effort and slows down much slower than the other propulsion system. If you’re just starting with pedal kayaks, this is perhaps a better fit.
Features Of A Pedal Powered Kayak
The best pedal kayaks set themself apart from others with their exceptional features. We mentioned many of these when discussing why a kayak with foot paddles is a good idea. Still, pedal drive kayak reviews agree that three parameters are most important when buying – size, weight, and price.
Size And Weight
Even though a longer kayak is easier to control, it can make pedaling harder (adds weight that needs to be propelled). The key is finding a balance that allows good control without overloading it with unnecessary weight.
The length of pedal kayaks usually starts at 10 feet and goes up to over 16. As for the weight, it ranges from 45 to upwards of 100 pounds.
Since there are many moving parts and technology that goes into them, pedal-powered kayaks generally cost a lot more than a typical kayak. This pushes the introductory price to around $1000, while a well-equipped option often nears the $3000 mark.
What Are The Pros and Cons Of Using Pedals?
A pedal-driven kayak is a costly investment, so it’s important to consider the different pros and cons of choosing this version over a traditional one. To help you, we will go over all the possible advantages and disadvantages.
There are many advantages to this untraditional style of kayak. We highly recommend trying it as that is the best way to get a feel for whether you like the style or not.
In most cases, you have a lot more natural strength in your lower body than you do in your upper body. As you push the pedals, this strength transfers into speed on the water. This is especially good for beginners who have trouble with long-distance paddling.
2. Quieter (No Splashing)
Paddles often produce large splashes that not only get you wet but also create a fair amount of noise. With a kayak with foot pedals, this is avoided (the propeller work under the water with no sound). This is ideal for fishing because you won’t be scaring off your catch. It will also make your time on the water more peaceful and enjoyable.
3. Hands-Free Operation
A very enticing benefit of pedal drive kayaks is that your hands remain free throughout your trip. This allows you to enjoy a drink or eat a snack as you glide atop the water’s surface. You can even take awesome photos with your waterproof camera.
4. Less Energy Required
Standard kayaks use your arm strength to move the kayak. However, this requires a lot of energy and effort to perform. Leg muscles, for most people, are stronger and more developed than those of your upper body.
If you choose to switch from a traditional boat, you’ll find that a similar distance in your pedal-powered kayak will require much less energy than if you were to paddle the same route.
5. Stay Drier
Instead of having wet paddles come over the top of your boat, the propulsion happens under the water. This will keep you and your gear dry even in the roughest of conditions. There is almost no way that water can enter your boat in normal conditions.
6. Fewer Skills Needed
You won’t have to learn new skills and master paddling techniques like you would on a traditional kayak. Instead, using a pedal-powered kayak is easy and straightforward. It’s literally like pedaling a bike, a skill most people already have.
With all the benefits you get, there are still a few disadvantages to pedal kayaks that are worth paying attention to.
Since pedal-driven kayaks come with a propeller (or blades) under the hull, they require deeper water (larger clearance) compared to a traditional kayak. It also means that you won’t necessarily be able to go to grassy areas. If you are an avid fisherman, this may be a dealbreaker for you.
It is also more difficult to turn and stop in this type of kayak. Instead of using your paddle to stop your momentum, you will have to rely on the prop or blades to slow you down. However, some pedal-powered kayaks can raise the blades and also come with standard paddles to compensate for all this.
Weight is another area where pedal drive kayaks often struggle. Since the pedal mechanism is an extra piece on the kayak, it adds a lot of extra weight. This can make it more difficult to lift onto your vehicle and transport to the beach. On the plus side, these boats often have more storage space for your gear.
Pedal-driven kayaks are a relatively new option and have complex features, so they cost more than a traditional rig. And, in the long run, they will also require more money to maintain and keep running at their best.
Maintaining your kayak will vary depending on where you use it. For example, if you’re using it in salt water, you’ll need to rinse it because it can be hard on the moving parts in the pedal system.
This can simply be hosing it off when you get home, but it’s best to ensure that all the corrosive saltwater is removed from your boat. While it’s not complicated, it requires more time than a regular kayak.
5. Stability and Control
Pedal powered kayaks can be less stable in rougher or moving waters. On a standard kayak, you can use the paddle to keep balance and improve stability. On a pedal powered kayak, you may find yourself gripping to the side of your boat, in the beginning, to help get your balance.
6. Tracking and Turning
Most pedal kayaks are equipped with a hand-activated rudder system. While it’s convenient for turning, the radius is often much larger compared to classic models so you won’t have good maneuverability in tight spaces.
Also, many paddlers claim that tracking is not as good as when using paddles. In addition, a large rudder can reduce the speed of your vessel (some people say up to 10%), which can be frustrating if you’re on the water with paddlers. Lastly, a large rudder can cause problems in shallow water (it can get stuck).
7. Launching and Beaching
Putting a kayak with foot paddles in the water will be much like that of a more traditional boat. Some rudder systems will have to be lowered once you get to a deeper depth, but for the most part, it’s the same. We recommend bringing along a paddle to help you navigate shallow water, or in case the pedal mechanism stops working.
8. Avoid Shallow Waters
Pedal-powered kayaks like to be in deeper water than flat bottomed boats. Going over branches and weeds can cause the propeller to get stuck. If this happens, it’s nearly impossible to remove it without getting into the water.
If water is on the low side, we highly advise that you use a paddle – it’s not worth risking the propulsion system. Keep this in mind when you’re on your next fishing trip.
Lots of fishermen prefer a pedal-driven fishing kayak to a standard one. This is primarily because it allows a hands-free experience so you can hold a rod instead of a paddle. Also, this style of boat far less noise. There’s no disturbance in the water to scare the fish, increasing your chances of having a great catch.
How To Use A Kayak With Pedals
Getting used to moving a kayak with pedals can be weird at first. Luckily, you’ll catch on much faster than you think. Here are a few simple steps that can help make things faster.
- Launch point: Plan where you’ll launch your boat more carefully, as they are heavier and have propellers and rudders.
- Setup: It takes a few extra steps because you’ll have to attach the propeller (or blades) and the seat once you get to the beach.
- Seat position: Finding the most comfortable position will save your body from incorrect posture as well as strain and possible injuries. If you’re comfortable, you’ll cover large distances more easily.
- Stability: The motion of moving your feet will feel weird at first, but this unstable feeling will turn into more control over time. You’ll find that shifting your weight can actually make more power through your legs.
- Rudder control: This is another aspect you will have to become comfortable with. You won’t use paddles to steer, but rather use the lever next to your seat to turn the rudder.
- Tracking: Figuring out how to get your kayak in a straight line can be a little tricky, but with some trial and error you will get it down in no time. The handle will be everything you need to steer you in the right direction.
Q: How Fast Can A Pedal Kayak Go?
For the most part, pedal kayaks are as fact (and sometimes even faster) than a paddle version. If you organize a race between the two, you’ll hardly notice much difference. While legs do create more thrust, pedal kayaks often have more drag so it evens out.
Q: How Does A Pedal Kayak Work?
When you push on the pedals, the drive system uses the force to activate the propeller (or blades) underneath the kayak. This action moves you forward, much like if you were using a paddle. The mechanism is similar to what a bicycle uses, and you won’t have trouble getting used to it.
Q: How Do You Steer A Pedal Kayak?
A pedal-powered kayak is equipped with a rudder system that you use for steering and maneuvering. You’ll usually get a lever next to your seat that you push and pull to change the direction. Other more sophisticated kayaks allow you to move your feet independently so you can push on one side to steer (much like paddling more on one side).
Q: Does Height Make a Difference?
Height does make a difference. The higher a kayak sits in the water the less stable it’ll be. If you are looking for a fishing pedal kayak, you want a model that doesn’t ride too high in the water, as this can affect how you throw casts.
Q: Can Pedal Powered Kayaks Go Backwards?
This depends on the model, but most can’t go backwards. If you’ll be navigating around obstacles a lot, this is worth considering when buying. As a backup, you can bring a paddle just in case you need to get out of a tricky situation.
Globo Surf Overview
The best pedal kayaks are perfect for people who want to keep their hands free while on the water. It’s much easier to do than paddling and gives your legs a great exercise. Hopefully, our product reviews helped you pick out a great kayak with foot pedals that will allow you to fish while moving, snap photos, and enjoy the water even more.
More Kayak Reviews:
- Recreational Kayak
- Lightweight Kayak
- Tandem Fishing Kayak
- Beginner Kayak
- Kayak Seat
- Motorized Kayak
- Fishing Canoe
- Ocean Kayak
- Folding Kayak
- Kayak Anchor
Enjoy kayaking on a pedal powered kayak? Tried on our list? Let us know how you liked it in the comment section below.