Do You Need a Tandem Pedal Kayak?

Kayaks came into existence with the ancient civilizations, but we associate their historic origins with Inuits. Around the 1800s, they reached Europe, and by the 1930s, kayaking became an Olympic sport.‘Kayak’ can be translated into ‘hunter’s boat’. The Inuits often used a kayak for hunting as it was the perfect quiet vehicle to approach prey without startling it. Fishing kayaks are used in the exact same manner today, and for the same reasoning: kayaks are stealthy.

But, that was it. Kayaks were kayaks, and that was that.

Only recently have pedal kayaks came into the scene and many kayakers caught on with the new design. Tandem models are currently a new favorite as well.

Would you like to know why? And do you need a tandem pedal kayak? Read on and let’s see!

What are the different types of kayaks?

There are several kinds of kayaks classified according to usage and structure. Here are the most popular kinds:

  • Recreational kayaks
  • Sea Kayaks
  • Fishing Kayaks
  • Whitewater Kayaks
  • Inflatable Kayaks
  • Pedal Kayaks
  • Paddle Kayaks
  • Solo Kayaks
  • Tandem Kayaks

What Are the Benefits of Tandem Pedal Kayaking?

two dogs riding a kayak
Photo by Patrick Carr on Unsplash

With your feet doing all the pedaling, you’ll have both your hands-free for other activities. Furthermore, going tandem offers more opportunities for socializing and group sports.

Here are some of the fun things you can do you in a tandem pedal kayak:

Fishing

This is one of the ancient uses of kayaks, and keeping the propulsion away from the hands allows for more efficient angling. We love some of the pedal kayaks built specifically for fishing, such as the BKC Pedal Drive Fishing Kayak.

Photography

Taking stills and footage of natural scenes is a timeless pleasure, and you can do it as a hobby or for a professional assignment. In both cases, you need to stealthily approach your subject.

You also need to proceed in the water and use your camera while doing so. Pedaling is the perfect solution for this arrangement, and the Hobie Pedal Kayak is perfect for it.

Exploring

Narrow canals lead to some wonderful destinations, and motorized boats aren’t the best vehicles to use. If you’ve ever tried to take a Lund, Alumacraft, or Boston Whaler down a narrow canal, you know that it’s a recipe for disaster. You just won’t be able to get into the shallow water or narrow inlet/outlets without a pedal kayak or canoe.

A tandem pedal kayak adds to the group spirit to these adventures, without the bustle that comes with transporting a large number of people.

Family Outing

Tandem kayaks are automatically associated with being out in the water with others. Taking a family member on board is a lovely way to bond.

Sharing your hobby with someone close to you is a rare pleasure, but if it’s easy and fun, then the chances are much higher that it’ll become a domestic favorite.

You can also take a friend or a work colleague on an occasional trip. Pedal kayaking is easy to pick up, so you’re likely to spend some quality time there.

Racing

The exact speed of pedal kayaks is still under debate. Some claim that they can reach 6 mph on a sprint, while others limit that to around 5 mph. Either way, they are much faster than a standard kayak and much faster than a canoe.

Kayakers are keen to find out the limits of their gear and their physical capabilities, and brand loyalty is a big factor in this regard!

There’s also the constant sibling rivalry between pedal and paddle models, so there’s a lot to prove! Moreover, there’s the newly found arena of tandem vs. solo kayaking. There’s so much to anticipate!

Sea Kayaking

Braving the waves is much easier with the powerful drive of the pedals. You get more speed and momentum with the Hobie ‘MirageDrive’ than you’d ever get with paddling. Even when you stop pedaling; the kayak keeps going aided by the dynamics of the flippers and rudder.

The stability, build, and storage space of sea kayaks are also significant motivators to take this kayak offshore. You can cover a large distance at a good speed and when you get there you wouldn’t be too drained.

What are the Best Waters for Tandem Pedal Kayaks?

Pedal kayaks are best for large bodies of water like the ocean, a lake, or large rivers. The speed of a pedal kayak means a small pond isn’t really a great fit as you could cover the entire length of the pond in just a few pedals.

On a larger body of water, you can spend the day enjoying nature, fishing, and taking photographs. The speed of the kayak will allow you to cover a significant distance. The more water, the better-matched to the capabilities of the kayak, so you wouldn’t be spent with the physical effort by the end of the day.

Wind power is notorious in destabilizing kayaks, but a pedal kayak is typically much wider and more stable than a standard kayak. Even better, a tandem pedal kayak will be even bigger and will allow you to brave larger waves and enjoy more stability than a standard kayak would.

You need some depth for the pedals to do their job, so steer clear from shallow water. You also need to go where you wouldn’t wade through seaweeds. (If there is a lot of weeds in your ideal location, then check out our article on how to avoid weeds on a pedal kayak. These plants can wrap themselves around the pedals and give you a hard time disentangling your gear.

You should have access to more water than you would have with a normal kayak or a single person tandem kayak with larger bodies of water and choppier water both possibilities. The only thing you need to keep an eye on is how the pedals can get stuck in weeds or in more shallow water.

How Much Does a Tandem Pedal Kayak Cost?

To get the feel of how much a tandem pedal kayak costs; let’s compare it to other kayaks.

The small inflatables are the most affordable category of all Kayaks. They generally cost around $100, and some nice models even less.

Recreational and touring Kayaks are pretty much in the mid-range. These are the standard paddle kayaks you know about. You can get a reliable kayak for around $500.

Pedal drive kayaks have more sophisticated designs and structures. We’ve reviewed plenty of pedal kayaks and most of their prices are around $1,000. The tandem models are naturally double that figure.

Tandem Pedal Kayak vs. Regular Kayak

Why would you choose one model or the other? An informed decision is always the best way to go, so here are the performance highlights for both tandem pedal kayak and a regular kayak.

Propulsion

Think of these kayaks as a cross between a kayak and a bike. They are powered by a motion very similar to riding a bike. The faster you can pedal, the faster your kayak will go. And when you’re exhausted, the kayak stops. It’s as simple as that.

A tandem pedal kayak depends on the strength of the lower body muscles, while the paddle kayak works on the output from the arms and torso. Biologically speaking, the lower extremities have a much higher strength than the upper extremities. This helps contribute to speed.

This simple fact of nature puts the pedal kayak in an automatic advantage. The intuitive controls and easy movement of pedaling is also a contributor to its ease of propulsion, even for a complete bigger.

Size and Weight

The length of pedal and paddle tandem kayaks is often the same and hovers around the 13-ft range. And by the way, this isn’t too far from the solo kayaks, which average 12 ft.

The width of the pedal models is usually larger than paddle ones, but this isn’t a general rule. A 35-in wide pedal kayak is pretty much the norm, with paddle kayaks going a bit below that.

Pedal kayaks tend to be heavier than paddle kayaks with 120 lbs for the former and about 80 lbs for the latter. This makes carrying tandem pedal kayaks a bit harder, but it’s not a big issue overall, especially if you can park your car close to the waterfront. If it’s helpful, we wrote a whole article on how to transport a pedal kayak.

Now let’s consider another important weight factor, which is the weight capacity. With two people on board and both of them moving in different ways, this is a critical feature in a kayak. This becomes even more important if you plan to fish and need the extra weight to carry your fishing gear.

A solo kayak can carry loads of around 300 lbs. Tandem pedal kayaks are high strength structures, so it’s not surprising to see their weight capacities reaching 500 lbs and up. This compares to tandem paddle kayaks, which sustain about 400 lbs. Some have higher capacities though.

Storage Space

Storage space is always good. If you’re going on a picnic, then you’ll need refreshments. Photography requires plenty of gear, and you’ll need them to stay dry.

Fishing has even higher storage needs, with the rods, bait, a gaff hook or net, and hopefully fish.

The seat placement of the pedal kayaks and the design of its hull leave plenty of room for storage. This is always a plus.

In paddle kayaks, the sit-in arrangement forces the kayak designer to work around the rider’s form. It still gives acceptable storage space, but typically not as much as you’ll see with a pedal kayak.

Ease of Use

Seasoned kayakers who know how to paddle wouldn’t feel like it has any difficulty at all. And the same goes for pedaling; if you’ve been doing it for a while, it feels as natural as walking.

Ease of use is quite obvious with beginners.

How difficult is it to learn the rules of propulsion, steering, and maneuvrability with a paddle? It takes a bit of explaining, and more than a little getting used to.

This isn’t the case for pedaling, which is an intuitive action. The Hobie ‘MirageDrive’ mechanism is carried out in the same manner of walking. The reverse and steering functions are hand-controlled, and all they take is just moving a little lever.

Versatility

Having your hands free from the burden of propelling the kayak, you now have an open-buffet of possible activities.

There’s, of course, the occasional steering or direction control you might use your hands for, but mostly, you can get your camera out and start shooting videos, or have some quality fishing time with friends.

Pedal kayaks are a little easier to steer, maneuver, and pick up speeds. The legs are biologically stronger than the arms, so you can go faster for longer. This is helpful in offshore expeditions and long explorations in rivers and canals.

Paddle kayaks do a little bit better in shallow waters, around seaweeds, and through rocky waterbeds. With pedal kayaks, you often need to lift up the pedal drive mechanism or proceed without pedaling until you cross the hurdle.

Tandem pedal kayaks are getting more traction a new group sport. Their usage is still in the innovative stage, where you see races, brand comparisons, marathons, and basically plenty of fun with a new concept.

Stability

The extra width of recreational and fishing pedal kayaks gives them more stability in quiet waters.

This feature wouldn’t give the same performance at rougher waters though, where a slim body is better suited to take on the waves frontally and laterally.  That’s why sea kayaks and whitewater kayaks have different designs.

In both cases, pedaling is a force that goes along the line of movement of the kayak, whereas paddling is a sideways alternating force. In simpler terms; pedaling keeps the kayak steady while paddling shifts it sideways.

Price

Pedal kayaks are generally pricier than paddle kayaks, except if you compare them to sea kayaks or with whitewater kayaks, in that case, the price gap diminishes.

Pedal kayaks are built differently, and overall have a premium air to their performance. You’d feel it in the way pedal kayaks are more stable, and the wide variety of useful features in each model.

Looking holistically at pedal kayaks shows that they pack plenty of value per paid dollar, and that’s worth always pondering as you make the purchase.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are a recreational rider, or you’re taking your kayak on a more specialized purpose; a tandem pedal kayak is certainly worth consideration.

It’s easy to use, so you wouldn’t need a specialist kayaker for a partner. It’s also stable, and that is a primary concern when there are two people on board.

When you’re going offshore or on exploration tours, it’s good to have some speed. You can gain pretty good rates while maintaining a steady breath, as pedaling is easier on the body than paddling. Pure biology!

See you on the water!

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