Pedal systems power the future of rowing – Orlando Sentinel

In the long arc of rowing history, with indigenous canoes and kayaks dating back thousands of years, innovative new systems have revolutionized the human-powered small boat market in recent years.

Among the most surprising twists are companies that make kayakers ditch paddling in favor of a leg-powered system. While more manufacturers have jumped on the pedal set in recent years, Hobie introduced the first system 25 years ago and has continued to pave the way ever since.

“They are probably the most unique company; I’ve never seen people keep secrets so well,” said Mike Plante, owner of Travel Country Outfitters in Altamonte Springs. “They always seem to be one step ahead of everyone else.”

Hobie’s system has fins that move back and forth, mimicking the way a penguin swims, while other pedal units rotate like the cranks of a bicycle, spinning a propeller underwater.

I had the opportunity to test four different pedal kayaks with four slightly different systems at Secret Lake Park in Casselberry, thanks to Plante’s help. He found that the appeal of foot-operated systems has grown over time as he converts more shoppers into his store.

“I have fishermen who come in all the time who want to be purists,” Plante said. “You can be rowing to your favorite spot, but you are fishing all the time. People have never thought about that.”

In addition to increasing resistance by using leg power, pedaling frees up your hands for fishing, taking photos, or looking at maps. Here’s how these pedal-powered boats compare.

The Hobie Passport is the company’s entry-level kayak in the Mirage series, which features boats with pedal systems. It would be hard to call something that costs nearly $1,500 “entry level,” but Hobie knows its audience: passionate explorers and anglers who don’t mind spending money on gear that lasts.

Powered by MirageDrive GT, this setup has no reverse gear, but should satisfy the appetite and needs of casual recreational paddlers. As one of Hobie’s lightest and shortest kayaks (10 feet 6 inches long), it picks up speed quickly and maneuvers well through turns.

It should also be stable enough for casual anglers, though anglers who spend a lot of time catching big fish might look for something more specifically designed.

Also, a note on pedal drive systems as a whole: if “driving” a pedal kayak sounds like a strange experience at first, don’t rule it out until you’ve tried it. It is fun

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Advantage: The Passport 10.5 costs less than other pedal kayaks. It’s also the lightest in the Hobie line of boats and could be carried on top of a car, perhaps with some assistance. The kayak is agile and light in the water.

Cons: The entry-level MirageDrive GT doesn’t have a reverse gear, so pack a paddle (as you always should in case of equipment failure). It is more suitable for recreational trips than for fishing expeditions.

Buy this if: You’re a recreational day paddler who wants to try pedal-powered technology without breaking the bank.

Weight: 65lbs, 75lbs Fully Equipped

Price: $1,474

At first glance, the Hobie Lynx looks like a paddle board with a very flat deck and hull. And while it is possible to stand comfortably on this boat, this design is primarily intended to maximize stability and minimize weight.

Considering that some pedal kayaks weigh over 100 pounds fully equipped, the Lynx offers a welcome contrast for paddlers who want to load the boat into their car with relative ease.

In addition, the boat is quiet and maneuvers quickly in the water. In this segment of the lineup, the Lynx comes standard with the MirageDrive 180 and adds a reverse gear to the setup. The pedals also activate upon impact with logs and rocks underwater, a feature that comes with every MirageDrive system.

The only big downside to the Lynx is that a flat deck leaves paddlers feeling particularly exposed to the sun, so perhaps adding the optional Bimini sunshade isn’t such a bad idea.

Advantage: The Lynx weighs less than most pedal kayaks. The flat deck makes it easy to cast in any direction and keeps paddlers in a good vantage point above the surface of the water. There’s a good amount of cargo storage in the front and rear with bungee tie-downs.

Cons: The Lynx needs an umbrella to protect paddlers who are especially exposed to bad weather. In rough or swell waters, water could splash on the cover with its low sides. There may be a label impact factor.

Buy this if: You like the design and portability of stand up paddle boards, but enjoy using the power of the pedal.

Weight: 47lbs, 63lbs Fully Equipped

Price: $2,999

While most kayaks can be used for fishing, the Hobie Pro Angler 360 stands out as a purpose-built machine that might be sought after by anglers who spend every weekend on the water looking for a big catch.

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This boat slides like a Cadillac and is priced similarly at $5,499. But she comes with all the bells and whistles, including a skeg that can be dropped by pulling a rope, and all the controls within easy reach of the captain’s chair.

The highlight of this setup is the MirageDrive 360, which can turn the pedals in any direction. Hook onto a fish and then use the pedals to side-steer towards your catch. Lower tier Pro Angler kayaks come with the 180 system (forward and aft) and are about $1,000 less.

Regardless of the pedal system, the Pro Angler offers a large front hatch for dry storage, plenty of rear cargo space, rod storage, and an H-rail for mounting accessories. This is the kayak for anglers who don’t compromise on any features, many of which are built specifically with fishing charters in mind.

Advantage: Equipped with the 360 ​​system, the Pro Angler is unstoppable when it comes to fishing. At 38 inches wide and nearly 14 feet long, the larger version of this kayak is very stable and suitable for long days and multi-day trips on the water. It has all the bells and whistles.

Cons: Weighing in at over 100 pounds before the pedal drive system and seat are installed, this kayak is incredibly heavy and can only be transported in the back of a truck or on a trailer. Plus, it’s expensive and might make buyers wonder if they should splurge on a motorized watercraft.

Buy this if: You have money to buy a fishing boat, but you like the peace and serenity of a kayak, and if your intended use is primarily fishing.

Weight: 124.5 lbs., 148.5 lbs. fully loaded

Price: $5,499

While Hobie’s MirageDrive is built with fins that sweep and pedals that move back and forth, other pedal systems spin like cranks on a bicycle and power a propeller underwater.

Such is the case with Old Town pedal kayaks, including the Sportsman PDL 106. Unlike Hobie fins, which must include a separate reverse gear, the propeller can be reversed simply by changing the direction of pedaling.

This method of propulsion should feel similar to anyone who has ever ridden a bike. The downside of using a propeller system is that it might be more susceptible to hitting underwater obstacles.

Ultimately, the Old Town model remains a very capable fishing machine with plenty of features and storage, and one that costs significantly less than some of Hobie’s better models.

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Advantage: Coming in 10-foot 6-inch and 12-foot varieties, the Sportsman is comfortable and stable for water adventures. Even the shortest kayak has plenty of storage space and features designed for rod and tackle management. It is less expensive than a Hobie alternative.

Cons: Although this kayak is short, it still weighs 76 pounds. The pedal system shouldn’t need much maintenance, but it could be more complicated to fix than the Hobie MirageDrive.

Buy this if: You want to enjoy fishing expeditions at about half the cost of the Hobie Pro Angler.

Weight: 76lbs, 107lbs Fully Equipped

Price: $2,199

For more information on these ships, visit or in person at 1101 E. Altamonte Drive in Altamonte Springs.

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