For a lot of or even most people, the idea of a kayak is likely to be that of a traditional one – a one-seater slim boat with a paddle and small storage area. Today, kayaks continue to advance and to cater to more and more areas of the market.
The pedal kayak is a fine example of one of these advancements. Using a pedal system that’s attached to a small propeller system on the underside of the kayak, the kayaker can move his boat through the water completely handsfree.
You might be wondering what the point in this is. Well, there are in fact more uses for a pedal-powered kayak than you might think. Most, however, have been designed with fishing in mind. A pedal kayak is a great invention for fishing since anglers regularly need both of their hands-free – whether they’re landing a fish, tying knots or setting up their rig, two hands is an awful lot better than one.
There are of course pedal kayaks that are targeted at other types of user too, which we’ll explore in this guide.
Give this guide a read to discover what to look out for in pedal kayaks, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of a pedal kayak when compared to a conventional kayak. Towards the end of the guide, we’ll include a series of short pedal kayak reviews on some of our favorite pedal-powered kayaks.
Why Might A Pedal-Powered Kayak Work For You?
Pedal-powered kayaks come in a number of different variations, each type catering to a different type of user. As we have previously mentioned, the main reason for buying a pedal kayak is to keep your hands free.
We think that the best and most common uses for pedal kayaks are for anglers that need to keep both of their hands-free for most of the time, and for those people that may not have an able-enough upper body to operate a paddle for an extended period of time. They’re great as they allow people that might never have been able to use a conventionally styled kayak to get out on the water!
If you’re a fisherman
A pedal kayak, however, allows you to get the full kayaking experience whilst being able to fish at the same time. In the kayak, all you need to do is rotate the pedals with your feet, and you can continue fishing whilst moving along. This is great particularly if you’re a fly fisherman that needs to move around to where fish are surfacing in the water.
If you have limited upper body abilities
A lot of people may not give a kayak much thought if they have limited upper body abilities. But, it’s important that you don’t rule out kayaking as a fantastic sport that you can participate in, even if your upper body abilities are limited.
If your bones and joints are not quite as strong as they once were in your upper body, a pedal kayak can save you from having to strain these overly and allow you to still enjoy kayaking as much as you would like.
You might be thinking that you’ll still have to use traditional paddles to steer the kayak. However, this isn’t the case since pedal kayaks are fitted with a rudder that can be very easily operated from directly in front of the kayak’s seat. The steering access comes fitted in a number of different places – it’s important to find one that caters well to your abilities.
If you’d like a kayak that you can both paddle and pedal
Some kayaks come with pedals that can be removed entirely, and used in exactly this way. It’s not very easy to paddle a kayak that has a pedal system still fitted, and is not advisable at all. However, if you choose a kayak that has a removable pedal system you can get the best of both worlds.
Another point to consider about pedal systems is that they can make moving the boat around when it’s out of the water a bit more difficult. A removal pedal system will ensure that this is not quite so much of a difficulty.
For anyone that’s looking to purchase a pedal kayak, we’d recommend looking for a boat that specifies a removable pedal system for a number of reasons. Even if you’re not planning on using the boat without the pedal system, it makes transporting the boat much more possible as it can be laid flat. It also means, should the situation arise, that someone else can use your boat as a regular kayak should they wish.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Pedal Kayaks
You can cruise on the water without the use of your upper body
This advantage is arguably one of the more obvious ones. It’s a benefit that is especially applicable to people such as fisherman, and those that would like to use both of their hands at the same time. It even allows you to move along whilst having your lunch at the same time!
Faster and More Efficient
The legs have much larger reserves of power than the arms do. Therefore, using your legs to rotate the pedals on a kayak will allow the boat to move more quickly than it would if you were using a paddle. It’s also less strenuous on your body as a whole. You’ll be able to move along at the same speed for a longer period of time without feeling as tired.
A More Refined Experience
With a pedal kayak, the boat’s propellers are in the water at all times. This means that you’re not making any noise or disturbing the water as much as you would be with paddles.
Allows You To Have The Full Kayak Experience As A Beginner
As you can probably imagine, it’s far easier to pedal a kayak than it is to move one along with a paddle. This advantage is even more prominent in tandem kayaks – there is no need for you and your partner to have the same paddle strokes. It’s a much easier way of moving a kayak along the water and is in many cases quicker too.
Pedal-powered kayaks are considerably more expensive than traditional paddle powered boats. This is due to the fact that there is a pedal system and steering rack fitted into the boat. In our opinion though, the extra cost is worth it because you can have either a pedal-powered kayak or a paddle-powered kayak, should you choose one with a removable mechanism. You should also factor in the cost of parts, should something break and the kayak is outwith its warranty period.
Due to the fact that the boat’s fitted with a pedal and steering system, the weight is inevitably higher than one without.
More Cleaning/Maintenance Time
This is another unfortunate disadvantage that comes with pedal-powered kayaks. Due to there being a pedaling mechanism installed in the boat, more time will be required to keep this in good check. It should be regularly oiled, checked for debris, and also cleaned after being used in saltwater to avoid rusting.
Additional Points on Pedal Kayaks To Note
Before we jump into recommending a list of some of our favorite pedal kayaks, we’ll have a look at some other points to consider, other than the advantages and disadvantages that surround pedal kayaks. We’ll include the various differences that exist between models, as well as some maintenance tips for your new pedal kayak.
Steering a pedal kayak is done just as steering would be on a small motorboat – a rudder is used in order to guide the boat in the right direction. The steering system of the boat is usually operated by a small hand control. More expensive kayaks have steering racks that are extremely easy to use – similar to how power steering in a car might feel. Cheaper boats, however, can suffer from very heavy steering.
It’s a good idea too, when choosing a pedal kayak, to ensure that you choose a boat that will allow you to steer with the hand that you use the least. This means that you can use your stronger hand for doing something else, such as fishing or eating.
Keeping Your Kayak’s Pedal System In Good Check
Even if you don’t notice it whilst you’re out using your kayak, weeds and debris can often become stuck or lodged into the propeller system. It’s important that these are removed, to ensure that the propeller of the boat can move as freely and as smoothly as possible. An even better idea is to avoid areas that are clearly heavily populated with weeds, but this is obviously easier said than done!
Another point to consider for the welfare of your propeller is the depth of the water that you’re paddling through. If your boat is fitted with a longer propeller, ensure that you either adjust it so it does not collide with the bed of the water or avoid this area entirely. Having your propeller collide with a sea or river bed can cause it some expensive damage if it happens at enough speed.
As with the rest of your boat, it’s important that you ensure your kayak’s propeller system is cleaned and dried thoroughly before storing it away for any period of time. This rule is particularly important if you’re traveling in saltwater – the propeller of your kayak can become adversely affected by oxidation due to the salt in seawater, should it not be rinsed off.
What Pedal-Powered Kayaks Do We Recommend?
Ocean Kayak Malibu – The Popular Pedal Kayak
The Malibu Kayak from Ocean Kayak has been designed to make the paddling experience as easy as it possibly can be. Ocean also claims that the pedal system they have designed does not require any major maintenance whatsoever – what could be more ideal?
To make the kayaking experience as comfortable as possible, the Ocean Kayak Malibu has 3 different cupholders positioned around its seat. This allows you to rest whatever beverage you would so like, whilst moving along with your legs and doing whatever you would like to with your hands. It’s a kayak that truly allows you to redefine multitasking.
The kayak is designed to carry one person as the peddler and has another space for a smaller passenger, such as a child or dog. The pedal system fitted into the boat can easily reach a speed of 5mph, and with ease.
Ocean has installed its “Element Beach Seat” into this boat – it’s comfortable, padded, and adjustable. It’s also got a mesh pocket that allows you to have storage that’s easily within a hands reach of your seating position. There’s no need to worry about your more important possessions getting damp either – there’s a water-tight pocket that will ensure these stay dry.
The Ocean Malibu Kayak has a rated carrying capacity of 450 pounds and is an average length at 12 feet. It’s easy to move around, and not too big to store without a problem either.
BKC PK11 – Single Propeller Pedal Drive
The BKC PK11 from the Brooklyn Kayak Company is a very advanced pedal kayak. It is one of Brooklyn’s fastest pedal kayaks, due to the fact that it’s got a pedal system that’s very easy to use as well as a trolling motor. The trolling motor adds more power to your pedals, meaning that it’s much easier to move along at speed than it otherwise would be.
For maximum comfort and experience, the BKC PK11 has a fully adjustable padded seat. It’s fitted with a sturdy backrest too, that can be repositioned into whichever way will give you maximum comfort.
This kayak was designed to be taken on long-distance cruises. It’s comfortable, easy to pedal, and the trolling motor is very assisting in that even if your legs get tired, you can still keep moving along at a very respectable speed without too much effort.
All round, we absolutely love the PK11 from the Brooklyn Kayak Company. It’s quick, very easy to pedal, and extremely comfortable. Whilst it’s been primarily designed for longer-distance cruising, it’s just as suitable for short-distance choppy-water voyages as it is for relaxed long-distance cruising.
Perception Pescador Pilot – The Best For Fishing
You’ll remember that we mentioned retractable pedal systems earlier on in our guide. The Perception Pescador Pilot features exactly this! This makes the kayak extremely versatile indeed – it can be used as either a normal paddle kayak or as a pedal kayak.
The kayak features an ample amount of storage, with the main amount available being positioned towards the front of the boat.
In terms of fishing, the kayak is very advanced and features everything that any angler could possibly need. It’s fitted with four rod rests, as well as a fish finder console.
In terms of versatility, the Perception Pescador Pilot is extremely so. It’s ideal for the most common fishing waters such as calm lakes, but it is also great for the sea. It’s extremely light and easy to get to any of these locations too – it weighs only 95 pounds, but can support weights of up to 475 pounds.
What we love most about this kayak is that it is as good a boat as can be found for fishing kayakers. It provides the necessary comfort, support, and storage for all of your equipment. It truly is the ultimate fishing kayak.
Whilst pedal kayaks are a fantastic choice for fisherman, they also make a great choice for anyone that would like a more relaxing boating experience. Not only this, they are great for allowing those with more limited upper body strength to get out on the water.
Whilst pedal kayaks come with some additional maintenance requirements compared to their traditional paddle counterparts, we believe that they are more than worth it. If you can find a kayak with a removable pedal system such as the BKC PK11, you have the best of both worlds!