New, technical article that examines pedal drive propulsion for fishing kayaks from several angles: Ergonomics – How does it feel to operate a pedal driven kayak, and what are the potential physiological drawbacks in this type of propulsion. Mechanics -How efficient are pedal drives’ pedaling systems. Hydrodynamics -How efficient are pedal drives’ propellers, and how effective is pedaling kayaks compared to paddling them. Real World Performance – How effective are pedal driven kayaks in applications such as fishing trips, stand up fishing, fishing in moving water, fishing in shallow water, launching, beaching, etc.
This article does not compare the performance of sit-in and SOT kayaks, whether paddled or pedaled, with the performance of W kayaks.
Pedal propulsion for small watercraft has been in use since the 19th century, and it’s still commonly found in small recreational boats, often in a combination of rotating pedals with paddle wheel type propellers. Other types of pedal driven propulsion systems for small craft include rotating propellers, hydraulic pumps, sideways moving flaps, add-on systems, and more. Interestingly, the world speed record for a human powered watercraft is held by a catamaran equipped with a rotational air propeller.
Currently, there are three kayak manufacturers offering pedal driven kayaks. Two of them offer kayaks featuring a combination of rotational pedals with a rotational propeller, and one manufacturer offers a drive featuring push pedals combined with flaps moving from side to side, in a back and forth motion. The latter will be simply called ‘flaps’ in this article.
All three kayak pedal drives are fixed, which means they provide propulsion without steering, and therefore, the kayak operator is required to track and turn using a hand activated rudder.
All three pedal drive systems feature pedals located in proximity to each other, along the kayak’s center line, and at a higher point than the kayak seat. In order to activate the pedals in all three, kayakers have to relocate their feet away from the low footrests situated on both sides of the hull.