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Thread: Why not more interest in pedal power?

  1. #1
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    Default Why not more interest in pedal power?

    Hi Everyone,

    I have designed and built several stitch and glue pedal powered kayaks over the years. I love them. I think they are faster than similar sized oar powered kayaks. I get complements and lots of interest from people whenever I bring them out.
    Yet these types of boats have never really become mainstream. The few factory pedal powered boats and drive units out there are very expensive, I assume because the economy of scale just isn't there to drive the prices down.
    Any thoughts about why these types of boats seem to remain specialty niche type things?

    Thanks.








  2. #2
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    there is interest. as you say, very expensive drives holds it back.

    perhaps your design can solve that, if others could manage to make the drive unit

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    my personal opinion - pedal drive (mono hull) boats are so limited in what they can do, they are virtually useless compared to a canoe and paddle.
    can't eddy turn
    can't brace
    can't go in shallow water
    too many moving parts
    need a rudder
    must derive stability from the boat, not the paddler/peddler hence a more inefficient hull design.
    Last edited by openboater; 01-27-2017 at 07:48 AM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    Kayaking has inefficient discontinuous propulsion, that's why a constant moving prop or mirage outdrive can out pull them.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    The chap at Dad's Boats in the UK makes his own beautifull props for his pedal drives...when he lammed up the blank you can even see he figured out the thicknesses to give himself hardwood tips.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    The center of interest is probably with fishermen using kayaks that have hands free operation, there's world wide kayak fishing competitions with pedal kayaks being the vessel of choice.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    Take Open Boater's point about the potential limitations of pedal power. But you could argue the same about sail, useless for breaking out into an eddy on a fast moving river. But sailing seems to have achieved considerable popularity. Same for rowing, not good for white water. Understand the point about not having a paddle, sail or oars to assist in stability. But powerboats don't either, specially open canoes with outboards attached, yet still very popular.

    I've adapted one open kayak to accommodate a Mirage Drive (as well as a small lug sail) and built an 18ft double ender with space and facilities for camping aboard that's also propelled by Mirage Drive. I've never tried to run rapids in them but I've done hundreds of miles on inland rivers, lakes and canals. They are ideally suited to that task. While I do still enjoy kayaking and paddling open canoes it's very hard to take photographs, make sandwiches, take compass bearings and read maps while paddling. These things you can do while pedalling. If your purpose is to travel distances and see things pedal power works. If your aim is to play with the water, then paddles have the edge.

    Remember a canoe with a Mirage Drive can still be paddled and, with the blades flipped flush to the hull, the drive adds only 1/2 an inch or so to the draught of the boat. Yes you do need a rudder. Again it can be flipped up if not needed, but a great many kayaks are sold with rudders already, so not an exclusive feature of pedal power

    As I age, arthritis is taking it's toll. I'm not able to do an 8 hour day swinging a paddle like I used to. I can, however, still put in 8 hours at a Mirage Drive despite a metal knee.

    So I second the question, why so little interest in pedal power?

    Two possible reasons:

    One must be the cost of the pedal units due to low volume production. You can buy whole bicycles for less than the cost of a Mirage Drive. That in turn means there are few role models out pedalling the waterways to attract interest. And those whose interest is sparked (I've heard many people saying 'I want one" after watching me pass) are then put off by the price.

    Second, most people into pedal driven craft have had to build or adapt boats and or pedal systems and generally mess about to get them working. Not everyone wants to do that. A great many boaters just buy a boat and go boating. So with due respect to those who do manufacture complete pedal driven boats, the limited choice available may not be appealing to many potential customers. There are plastic sit on top kayaks from Hobie. Not everyone's cup of tea but at an approachable price point. Then there are offerings like those of Dad's Boats that is a one design, two people facing each other, skiff. I don't know what they cost, but they sell propellors on their own for over 250.

    I've seen an adapted Mirage Drive propel a Welsford Walkabout quite effectively and I know that pedal driven propellors can also deliver a good level of thrust. So there should be scope to sell pedal power as an option alongside electric trolling motors and small gas outboards. Making it available as an option on boats people want to buy might help.

    There again. I quite enjoy the conversations I have with strangers who approach having seen me pedalling by and the admiration they express. If everyone was doing it it wouldn't be quite the same. Maybe it should remain an exclusive club.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    I've got an old air cooled OB sitting in my shop right now that's slated for modification into a pedal drive. I agree it's a pity there isn't a better market for these.
    There's the plan, then there's what actually happens.

    Ben Sebens, RN

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    It's quite a bit more trouble setting up/designing for pedal power, for sure.

    An unmentioned advantage over rowing is that you can see where your going when pedaling.

    Here's a bit more on the subject. Please don't hijack it any more than I already did.

    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...inter-Daydream

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    It's being done in mass production, so SOME body is interested:

    http://www.hobiecat.com/



    I don't think you are going to find a great deal of interest however on a website where people gravitate to an outmoded, difficult to learn, and arcane (not state of the art) material..... WOOD

    A traditional boat needs a good set of traditional oars.... and the crew need to be wearing puffy shirts. There is a very strong aesthetic crash between those pedal powered drive systems and a traditional boat.
    Last edited by BrianM; 01-30-2017 at 12:01 PM.

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    If I were to do a long rowing/paddle trip on non-rapids water I'd definitely consider pedal or Mirage drives. http://www.gartsideboats.com/custom-...design-92.html

    http://www.humanpoweredboats.com/Pho...ditionHPBs.htm

    http://deviantwind.blogspot.com/2011...g-cruiser.html
    "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

    -Mark Twain

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    I'm about to embark on a new build. So this is an intriguing question: "Why not pedal instead of row?"

    Finding the answer (as if there's only one) isn't real easy. My immediate first reaction is that peddling simply doesn't appeal to me. But that's a cop-out, I know.

    I think there's, at least, an element of tradition involved. From early days we've all been exposed to many images of row/paddle boats. A very early memory of mine includes a rowing skiff, fishing tackle, my father and I. But I know that's still not enough.

    The very notion of peddling a boat seems simply "wrong" to me. As if it's not boating.... it's bicycling on the water.

    Perhaps it's more the mechanical linkage that an oar or paddle provide: The connection between me and the water. A peddling mechanism is abstract whereas an oar is fundamental. I want to feel connected. Rowing/paddling is just a step away from swimming. I like the feeling of immersion.

    Jeff

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    too much work
    Motor, sail - so much less effort to move around.

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    I'm an avid whitewater (hence my name) and sea kayaker, and honestly, I think there is a nitch for it for sure. I would rather be in a pedal power kayak than on a SUP for example, but those have taken off like crazy. I think the cost could be a large factor in that one. I do think that a pedal power kayak would be a great option for those people who, like where I live in a protected harbor, just like to putz around on nice days. I think it comes down to cost. The people who do this are getting the $400 kayaks from Costco. Can seaweed get stuck in the prop and linkages? That would be a huge issue around here.

    I haven't been around many pedal power kayaks, but from what I've seen they still don't have the performance as the higher end kayaks. I haven't seen them surfing swells in the Puget Sound, and I question not having a paddle for stability while broadside in white caps; especially in a narrow and fast design.

    I've raced a guy in a pedal powered kayak with me in my surfski, and it's no contest. They may be out there, but I haven't seen a pedal kayak that can hold 7mph in nearly any water condition like I can in my surfski.

    They wouldn't work for whitewater. At all.

    I assume they draft much deeper than a standard paddle kayak, limiting use also, as well as making beach launch more difficult.

    One place where I would like to see someone put some effort- what about a pedal powered hydrofoil kayak? They pedal powered ones are ridiculously difficult to get onto the foil and keep there. I think the larger muscle groups of using legs could be an advantage here.
    Last edited by WhiteH2O; 01-27-2017 at 11:54 AM.

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    I have some thoughts. But first, know that while I own two kayaks and a canoe, I am not a whitewater guy or a tripper. I simply mess about with these boats for an hour or two or a morning.

    Pedal power is noisier than a paddle, and disturbs the water more.

    Pedal boats are ubiquitous ( around here, anyway) and have been for my entire life.


    The perception is of a rickety system with little directional control. They are also viewed as something " grandpa" keeps for when the kids visit. These facts may shine an unfavorable light upon pedal drive kayaks, even if they are vastly different boat.

    The expense. While I see the gorgeous boats in use by members here, for most of the world, the drive system exceeds the cost of the boat.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    bgoldthorpe,

    Good question, interesting responses, thank you.

    I too am confused.
    I like the potential and versatility of a pedal drive kayak where one could still paddle.
    You'd think the fitness freaks would be all over that one.
    A single T-foil to give moderate lift, reducing displacement.
    Not a true foiler, just an aid.

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post





    Kevin
    Big difference between paddle boats, like the one above, and a pedal drive with an efficient propeller.
    There's the plan, then there's what actually happens.

    Ben Sebens, RN

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    Why aren't bicycles really popular?
    Been around for a long time.
    2 small shops locally have folded due to lack of business.

    The Walmart bikes get used for about 3 weeks, sit for 2 years, then they are in the dump.

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    Everyone is entitled to their point of view. At the end of the day our relationship with boats is personal and often more emotional than rational.

    However, I am noticing there are remarks in the thread about pedal propulsion that are being made by people who clearly have no, or very limited, direct experience of them. Pedal systems are as diverse as rowing boats. Rowing enthusiasts would be offended if their sport was criticised by someone who had only experienced a 30 minute session on a small lake in a 6ft tub with 4ft oars. The 'pedaloh' is similarly inadequate as an example of pedal propulsion.

    I can agree with a synthesis of several earlier posts and add prejudice to the list of reasons why there isn't more interest in pedalling for boat propulsion.

    I sail, paddle (double and single blade), skull, pedal (mainly Mirage Drive but also tried a number of other systems) and occasionally row. I have poled and yulohed. I also have gas powered and electric outboards and have used boats with inboard diesel, petrol and steam engines. So I do have direct experience of each of those modes of transport.

    I enjoy using all those modes of propulsion at different times and circumstance so I'm not interested in claiming any approach is 'better' than any other. But I do think those who haven't actually tried a sophisticated (but not necessarily complex) pedal system should do so. You might find some preconceptions ill founded.

    Of all the propulsion systems I have experience of the Mirage Drive is undoubtedly the one that is most silent and disturbs the water least apart from sailing in a gentle breeze. Being able to regularly get within a few feet of herons, kingfishers, otters and even fishermen without them registering my approach is evidence of that.

    But I can see advantages to being allowed to remain in a smug minority, so I'm not going to try and sell pedalling.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    The question was "why not more interest".
    Probably the answer of the uneducated and unwilling to try group will be at least one "valid" response.
    Someone wanting to start an argument from there is on their own as far as I'm concerned.
    Or anyone wanting to slam those not interested in the story being pedalled.

    At work there was a very trusty saying. If you can't stand the answer, don't ask the question.

    What I started to do was to critique the boat the OP design and built. But he wasn't asking for that. And it obviously worked - especially for him.

    Bottom line for me, I just don't find them interesting enough to pay.

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    Quote Originally Posted by Timmo View Post
    Of all the propulsion systems I have experience of the Mirage Drive is undoubtedly the one that is most silent and disturbs the water least apart from sailing in a gentle breeze.
    Thank you Timmo for mythbusting the concerns about pedal power, or at least mature pedal power rather than tourist toys. Imagine if pedal power came first, and then rowing was invented... "What, you have to face backwards?!". Or kayak paddles... "What, you have to use your weaker muscles, and with one blade in the air catching headwinds?!".

    These folks should visit a Hobie dealer for one of their (monthly?) tryouts of pedal boats even if they are sure never to buy one - that extravagant marketing is built in to the painful premiums we customers had to pay for their non-discount policy. All these boats have your beloved primitive paddle within one second reach, even though it will go unused 99% of the time.

    I have concerns about getting caught in my non powered sailboats with an offshore wind (2000mi fetch in every direction) if the rig breaks down - except for my mighty pedal powered sailing kayak with extra large rudder and fins which double as a keel! The wind turned offshore last time I launched my sailing dinghy and I tried rowing as an experiment. I could barely make upwind headway with it's admittedly rickety oars. I also have a catamaran with an emergency paddle that I didn't even launch as the wind turned offshore (again defying wx forecast), and I just now rigged up a swimfin and snorkle kit to always carry for towing or escape tactics. My pedal fins could easily power these bigger craft if they could just be retrofitted.

    Pedal power should be more widely used. I actually made a stitch and glue boat in the 1960's when it was barely heard of in the US (a pilot neighbor carried the thin plywood from Europe in B-52 bomb bay), but now I have no space to make or store noninflatable boats. Bless the O.P. for keeping us in touch with the possibilities. With all that comfortable, hands free, and forward facing power, I would like to see wider sailable pedal craft developed.

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    Timely thread. My wife and I both enjoy canoeing and kayaking. And there's nothing I like more than an early morning row. The idea of a two station row vacation has come up but in a boat of reasonable length unless the two are very compatible and undistracted well, clashes are inevitable. What better than a forward rowing station and an aft pedaller? Has anyone tried this combination?

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    row a kayak?

    blade catching the wind? watch an experienced paddler with a double paddle. you may notice that the blade in the air is flat to the wind (feathered) that is what the "other" holes are in the ferrule joint are for.


    I'm not knocking pedal power I'm sure it's fun! but let's not be so silly to think it's the best way. when there is no excuse to be in a boat that is designed for human power and the human has not taken the time to learn how to paddle (or row)

    If one is busy pedaling do they know how to use a low brace to ride a wake from another boat? a draw? a ferry? sculling stroke?

    I'm just saying.. if you don't know how to paddle and your legs cramp up or get too tired? now what?

    I'm not using anyone's name by the way... so no need to feel defensive.
    Denise, Bristol PA, Oday30, Anchor Yacht Club, On tidal Delaware River. my current project; http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...58#post3996158

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    this is not for the faint hearted flat water paddler.
    Denise, Bristol PA, Oday30, Anchor Yacht Club, On tidal Delaware River. my current project; http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...58#post3996158

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?


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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    3,16 shows Tim
    with hobie drive.

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    Quote Originally Posted by upchurchmr View Post
    Why aren't bicycles really popular?
    Been around for a long time.
    2 small shops locally have folded due to lack of business.

    The Walmart bikes get used for about 3 weeks, sit for 2 years, then they are in the dump.
    I think that is a regional variation, here in the U.K. Cycling is on the rise (probably most of Europe also). When ever the decline of sailing participation is discussed cycling is always pointed as a growth sport. Plenty of shops around here with 2000 + bikes. IMHO cycling is a easy to access sport that is quick to do, what people need with ever increasing demands on their time.

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    A pedal assist sailing canoe would be very appealing to me, hands free for sailing etc. However my issues would be the danger of grounding the prop, a problem the very expensive Hobie product solves. I appreciate that Hobie will have invested a lot in their product but I don't see how they can justify the cost. 13 foot SOT kayak 500, Hobie SOT with Mirarge drive 2400. Replacement mirage drive 700 grrrrrrr. Touring paddle 35.

    I frequently think if you can produce such good 'flapping' drive with a Yuloh making a pedal operated one can't be too difficult.

    There is an interest in the home builder building his own drive, over on the boat design forum there is a thread with 2000+ replies http://www.boatdesign.net/forums/boa...ats-23345.html

    There are some good ideas using flexible drives (built simply from drain clearing rods) to make liftable props.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    Simplicity, weight, cost and most importantly tradition. My kayak weights less than thirty pounds and that is all I want to carry a hundred yards.

    Safety is another concern as I see a lot of videos of sit on foot powered kayaks flipped by small waves. You lose the ability to instantly turn in and out of surf when you give up your paddle. You also raise the center of gravity and the impossibility of swamping a kayak with a cockpit.

    Most fishing kayaks are not kayaks they are small boats. If you want to go pedal power put it in a small catamaran instead of losing all the advantages of a kayak.

    It is a cool toy and impressive. To me it's kind of like pedal powered flight. What's wrong with motors. I feel the same way about commuting by bicycle. Add a few more parts and get there safety.
    Last edited by wolfhnd; 01-28-2017 at 03:16 AM.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    A 'pedal yuloh' exists. Works really well. Watch the Thames Raid video posted by Keyhaven Potterer. Only a couple of shots of my boat but quite a few of Polly Wee, the grey boat with the tan lugsail. Sometimes sailed but also appears with it's happily wagging yuloh operated by Chris sitting, facing forwards, pedalling in a leisurely fashion.

    He and I have tested my Mirage Drive against his 'pedal yuloh' head to head in similar hulls and I say they are very evenly matched. He would say his system actually has the edge.

    The Mirage Drive is eye wateringly expensive, you can get two electric outboards with batteries for the price. Chris's pedal yuloh is made from workshop scraps, some non stretch line and a few pulleys. Doesn't need a rudder or a hole in the hull either.

    I think the honours have to go to the Pedal Yuloh

    A quick Google (other search engines are available) of Pedal Yuloh will kick up other videos.

    Just to add another dimension to the concept of pedalling. For those of us with increasing issues with joint mobility there is noticeable difference between the fixed amplitude rotation of pedals on a crank and the action of foot operated levers. It helps me to be able to vary the amplitude of the stroke to ease knee issues. Most propellor systems are cranked, most fin systems (including Mirage Drives and the Pedal Yuloh) are levers.

    If you can walk five miles you can probably pedal for hours without fear of cramp or significant fatigue. As has been said, even unfit people tend to use their legs so they have better muscle tone there than in their arms and torso (the areas paddling and rowing use more.)

    Re the comment about kayaking skills. I think it's important not to see pedalling as a threat to any particular sets of expertise. As a UK qualified kayak senior instructor (inland and sea) and sailing instructor I fully appreciate the beauty and practicality of paddling and sailing skills. The joy of executing a seamless sequence of paddle strokes is wonderful. Just as smoothly executing a switch from a full spinnaker trapeze reach round a buoy to a beat feels good.

    I would not recommend pedalling for surfing, for white water, for exposed sea situations (personally don't use it at sea at all) etc. etc. I stick to paddles when descending rivers with rapids and weirs to shoot. I now generally prefer sail when on the sea. I even use different boats for those different situations.

    Equally, I've found pedalling to be an excellent mode of propulsion when touring on smooth inland waterways. Having travelled the length of the Thames using paddle and pedal on different occasions pedal definitely won as the mode I choose for that sort of trip. Covering long distances under my own steam in comfort. Occasionally I do use a paddle, it's great to be able to go sideways when in a tight manoeuvring situation.

    I read the original question as being 'why not as much interest in pedalling as there is in as sail, paddle, oar and power', not instead of...

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    Don't limit pedal use to a drop in component for the sleekest kayaks, which after all were designed in such austere minimalism to accommodate weakness of your upper limb muscles. Put your pedal drive in a beefy yard-or-more-wide boat like the Original Poster or me - it's a like a nuclear reactor drive that never gets your legs tired (at least the fin drives which unlike propeller drives, auto adjusts torque thru flexing). Now you have the opportunity to get on a wide and long boat that may be primarily sailable rather than trying to turbo charge some specialized micro boat.

    Pedaling does not imply abandoning a paddle! Hobie pedal craft have a double ended paddle mounted at hand for instant docking aid, backup, or even to use while pedaling.

    Quote Originally Posted by DeniseO30 View Post
    blade catching the wind? watch an experienced paddler with a double paddle. you may notice that the blade in the air is flat to the wind (feathered) that is what the "other" holes are in the ferrule joint are for.

    I'm not knocking pedal power I'm sure it's fun! but let's not be so silly to think it's the best way. when there is no excuse to be in a boat that is designed for human power and the human has not taken the time to learn how to paddle (or row)

    If one is busy pedaling do they know how to use a low brace to ride a wake from another boat? a draw? a ferry? sculling stroke?

    I'm just saying.. if you don't know how to paddle and your legs cramp up or get too tired? now what?
    Why assume ignorance of conventional paddle use?! I have a half century of kayaking and white water canoeing with the legacy kind of paddling, and know a good thing when part-time switching to pedaling. I certainly feel the drag of even a canted paddle aloft in a 35 knot headwind vs. slipping thru in the recumbent arms-down pedaling posture. For riding surf I still use 5 kayak paddles (mostly a yummy carbon fiber one) and 2 SUP paddles, so haven't forgotten their specialty uses. The Hobie fin system seems inherently bad in surf due to the forward fin area serving as a pivot point to your stern whipping around, as a forum moderator confirmed.

    From the Hobie forum, I would say their typical pedal user may be in their autumn years to handle those premium prices, and may have a load of paddle experience on skinny boats when they were half their current weight. By the way folks here may be able to buy their lightly used legacy pedal mirage drives at cut rate because in a couple months they can upgrade to a new reversible model. Get the 2015-6 model year drives, or even earlier if upgraded with a DIY bearing kit. Forum posters seem to agree that you must also upgrade to the largest fin (and rudder) sizes to get full pedal or sailing performance. I don't know about the prop pedal drives, but hope they can offer cheaper go power.
    Last edited by rudderless; 01-28-2017 at 04:50 AM.

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    BIG thank Timmo, I have a new project Pedal Yuloh.
    if you paddle at the same time you would get a great all body work out

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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?


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    Default Re: Why not more interest in pedal power?

    Quote Originally Posted by keyhavenpotterer View Post
    BIG thanks, it all looks relatively simple but I am sure there is a lot of devil in the detail. Will give these links a detailed study tonight - boat varnishing required this afternoon.

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    Default Why not more interest in pedal power?

    My ambition is to build an 18.5' sail and oar and mirage drive boat that could compete well in the Everglades Challenge. No motors allowed in that race and John Welsford's new Long Steps design is long enough to support a rowing station near midship as well as a Mirage drive for the helmsman near the stern. This set up will provide some redundancy for the human powered systems onboard as well as enabling the helms person to see where the heck the boat is going while still contributing to the forward progress of the boat. Having two completely different ways of applying human power to the boat means that a crew of two can switch off between the two different stations in order to extract every last bit of energy two human bodies have to propel the boat forward. Being an avid (more like fanatical) bicyclist all my life, there's plenty of power left in these old legs of mine and my knees are holding up pretty well too. So yes, I have a whole heaping pile of interest in pedal power.


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    Last edited by kenjamin; 01-28-2017 at 08:27 AM.

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