Pedal Kayaks for Those Who Want To Free Their Hands

Pedal Kayaks Driven by Your Legs Explained

Even though the different water sports are on the rise at the moment and we see many various boards and boats and upgraded gear coming on the market, kayaks have always been a thing. They have always been a go-to boat for beginner fishermen or experienced paddlers who like touring on rivers and lakes.

And the reason why kayaks have grown a lot in recent years is that they are getting recognized as a very economical and eco-friendly way to traverse any open body of water.

You can get in a good amount of exercise, and if you are fishing, you don’t have to buy an expensive boat or any other equipment that goes along with it.

However, currently on the market, we see a rise in the pedal kayak. Namely, these pedal-driven kayaks are also very versatile and give you a chance to experience the thrill of whitewater riding, racing, and touring the coast, and so on. Basically, kayaks with pedals are the number one option for many when experiencing the water masses anywhere around the globe.

Even though paddle kayaks are still around and they are optimized too, pedal kayaks are now dominating the scene. But if you are thinking which one is the right for you, apart from reading this article, I suggest reading choosing the right kayak and also read choosing a paddle for your kayak so that you can have a complete picture in your head as to which type of kayak you truly need.

Now, onto the kayak with pedals, there are multiple sizes, shapes, designs, and functional add-ons that may confuse you at first because you wouldn’t know what to buy, BUT, it all comes down to what you need your kayak for. Once you figure that out, getting the right pedal kayak for you will be easy-peasy.

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The types of kayak propulsion

While there are a plethora of kayaks around, those for racing, some more stable, others faster, and so on, when it comes to propulsion, there are two main types of kayaks:

  • The paddling kayaks
    You need a paddle to move further in the water and create stability
  • The pedal-powered kayaks
    You use your feet instead of arms and push the pedals underneath the cockpit to move forward

Why People Prefer Pedal Drive Kayaks?

Probably the most prominent advantage I hear people praise in pedal kayaks is the increased speed and control. No matter how jacked-up arms you have, your legs will always be more robust.

All in all, people kayak when they want to explore, fish, relax on the water, and just get their minds off the mainland. So, when you want to explore further or fish more effectively, then speed is what you need. I mean, after a while, you will find kayaking quite tedious when moving at very slow speeds repeatedly.

These types of kayaks save you a lot of time and energy and enable you to stay in the water for a much longer time. Plus, if you were thinking of buying a boat because your kayak was too slow, you probably realized how expensive they were, so a pedal kayak gives you an increased speed at a much lower price.

Even if some emergency occurs and the user of the kayak with pedals is far in the sea, they can quickly come as opposed to having to paddle, which would take much more time.

Simply put, the speed allows you to plow through weeds and choppy water without the difficulty of having to paddle your way out of there.


Also, when it comes to control and balance over your kayak, those pedal kayaks offer much greater stability on the water than the sit-on-top or sit-in paddle kayaks. This is because when paddling, a person’s hands are entirely out of commission for anything other than the paddle motion.

So, when the kayak loses balance, if you are holding a paddle, you will have a much more difficult time to have to drop the paddle and grab hold of the kayak to rebalance it. Not to even mention the possibility of losing your paddle if you don’t have the proper leash on it.

However, when using a pedal kayak, these problems simply go away. Both of your hands are free to stabilize the kayak and to do everything else that you want to do at that moment without stopping the kayak completely. You can take photos, prepare your fishing gear, and anything else you need to do at that particular moment.

The Benefits of Pedal Kayaks

As I mentioned before, when you start kayaking, speed may not matter to you as much, but as you progress, you will find the lack of speed of the paddle kayaks limiting.

Since people have bigger and stronger muscles on the legs, they are able to push much harder and make the kayak go much further with a single push. You will find yourself getting to where you want to be in three times less the amount of what you would have needed with a paddle kayak.

Also, with the pedal kayaks, you can build a much bigger and better momentum so that when you get tired, you have an advantage, and you can rest for a bit without losing too much speed. This is great when you are in a rush or if you are a racer as well.

When on the water, it’s normal to lose balance from time to time, especially if you are in whitewater or there’s a lot of boat traffic around you.

When you have a paddle kayak, you would need to lay the paddle off somewhere safe and take control of the kayak to stabilize it before you continue paddling once again.

With the pedal kayak, you are able to fish and move about much easier since you don’t need to put your equipment down to paddle. You can also use both of your hands to do anything else instead of paddling.


Pedal kayaks aren’t as intense as paddle kayaks. You aren’t wasting so much energy, and you can stay in the water and explore more.

As you pedal with your legs, you can increase the speed and the distance you travel because of the built-up momentum. So this means that you can relax for longer as the kayak is still traveling through the water.

The pedal kayaks are way quieter than the paddle kayaks and the electric kayaks. This may not be as important to you if you aren’t a fisherman, but for those who fish, they know how important it is to come as quickly and as quietly as you can in order not to spook away any fish. Pedal drive kayaks make this easy.

While paddling takes some learning and mastering overall, pedaling is as straightforward and simple as riding a bike. A bike you cannot fall off in this situation.

Also, if you have never done any upper body exercises when paddling, you will be sore in the next few weeks once you start paddle kayaking. With the pedal kayaks, this isn’t the case.

Namely, when you have a pedal-powered kayak, maneuvering it comes much more naturally than coordinating your arms to move it.

And as I previously said, this makes it all the more relaxing since you don’t have to use complicated moves to orientate yourself.

Paddling can be a messy way to get around in your kayak. It creates big splashes that could be potentially dangerous to your valuables on board. Also, this makes the whole kayaking more unstable and possibly hazardous of flipping over if you don’t have much experience.


The Downsides of Pedal Kayaks

As with any other thing today, they will have many benefits as downsides, and you have to weigh-in before making a decision.

If you ask me what the single biggest problem of pedal kayaks is, I would say it’s the space that it requires for storage.

You see, the pedal system underneath the kayak extends way lower than the surface of the kayak. So how would this affect your sailing? Well, this makes shallow areas of water potentially more dangerous to you and the pedal system because they can irreversibly damage it is you aren’t careful enough. And this damage over time can lead to maintenance issues that simply would not occur with a paddle kayak

This somehow makes the exploration of new places and water more difficult because you have to be a lot more mindful of the kayak too.

Additionally, another downside of these pedal kayaks is their price. They tend to be at least a few hundreds of dollars higher priced than the regular paddle kayaks.

Also, as I mentioned the space, these kayaks require, when you store your kayak, or you transport it, it takes a lot more space than the paddle kayaks, so you can carry less on board than you usually would have been able to.

Are you looking for something that needs less storage space? Check out inflatable kayaks!

So, now that you know both sides of the pedal kayaks, it all comes down to you and what you will be using it for. In my opinion, the kayak with pedals has come a long way since its invention, and it continues to be further improved. So one could say that the advantages of owning a fishing kayak with pedals or just a regular pedal kayak if totally worth the investment.

However, keep in mind that shallow waters and rocky rift riding activities aren’t best suited for pedal drive kayaks. Still, these pedal kayaks are fantastic for oceans, slow-moving rivers, and lakes, and it’s where they absolutely outshine paddling. If you’re a fisherman, especially, then pedal power is the superior option.

The pedal kayaks types

While there are paddle kayaks and pedal kayaks, the second category divides further into two subcategories that have their own unique modes of operation, with benefits and disadvantages.

The Push Pedal Kayaks

The push pedal kayaks work by pushing your feet down on each pedal. It’s in a more “biological” way the traditional boats work without moving your body too much. On the outside, these underwater flaps move the kayak forward, just like how fish fins move fish through the water.

The upside is that they require little space, and they increase stability.

The downside is that they aren’t too fast to move.

Rotational Pedal Kayaks

The rotational pedal kayaks work in a similar operation to riding a bike. As you move your legs, feet, and ankles in a bicycle-style mechanism, there is a propeller beneath the kayak that drives it. This mechanism requires more cockpit space as well on the outside too.

The upside is that this system is much faster than a push pedal kayak. And you can pedal for longer because you use more leg muscles instead of ankle and feet muscles.

The downside is that it takes up more space.

When you get to the right spot you can just get up and start fishing right away if you wish to!

The propulsion system

The propulsion system of a pedal kayak is very much similar to the mechanism of pedaling a bike. The only reason I would say is that on a bike, the force from the legs pushes down, while on a pedal kayak, the power is pushed backward. One of the most significant upsides is that your hands are free, and this gives you a lot more control and balance over the kayak.

The two main types of propulsion technology are Mirage Drive and Propeller-based.

Mirage Drive Technology

In 1997 the first Mirage Drive technology kayak was created that enabled kayakers to pedal with their legs while two identical fins moved forward, backward, and sideways. This made the kayaks move forward or backward more easily.

This type of system is said to give the user less energy to create even more force when pedaling.

Propeller Based Technology

The Propel Drive technology was invented in 2008 as an alternative pedal system to the Mirage Drive technology.

It uses rotational pedals with a rotating propeller instead of push pedals. Similar to the bike riding system, when a pedal is rotated, the propeller rotates too.

In the propelled-based kayak, its propeller is underneath, and it causes the kayak to move in a clockwise motion and a counter-clockwise motion so you can move the kayak forward and backward without much trouble.

This gives you a lot more agility and control over where your kayak is moving. The harder and faster the pedal is rotated, the faster the propeller will move, and the quicker the kayak will go.

So, I would say this propeller based technology is much faster and easily managed than the Mirage fin system.


Basically, with this system, if you are a fisherman, you can get to your fishing holes much faster and simply travel faster no matter where you are going without wasting too much of your energy. You can also move the kayak around as you fish, which just is not possible on a paddle kayak.

Also, you no longer have to worry about losing your pricey paddle or watching out for an accidental capsizing. Your hands are free to balance the kayak at all times. And much less energy is expended due to the utilization of the leg muscles instead of the arms.

So, which type of kayak should you buy?

Practically, as you can see so far in this article, the main difference is between a paddle kayak and a pedal kayak.

If you have a tight budget, you should know that a pedal kayak costs way more than a paddle kayak, and the cost of maintaining a pedal kayak, later on, will be a much larger investment than a paddle kayak.

You also have the issue of the levels on the water on which a pedal kayak can go while a paddle kayak can be placed on even shallow waters, and it is much easier and cheaper to maintain than the pedal kayaks.

With all that said, the pedal system is by far the most significant improvement that kayaks have undergone in the last couple of decades. You can have your hands free and enjoy doing whatever you like while you have optimal stability, increased speed, and efficiency.


Things to Look for in a Pedal Kayak

While the pedal kayaks have their advantages and are great no matter what you buy, you still have to be mindful of some of the basic things mentioned below.

Pedal kayaks usually vary between 8 and 14 feet in length and 13 kilos to 50 kilos in weight depending on your need. Of course, the lighter and shorter the kayak is, the easier it will be store and transport around while the longer and heavier it is, the harder it will be to get it in water, but it will be significantly more stable and easy to control.

Most kayaks are meant for one person to maneuver them, and as they are one-seaters, it is practically impossible for another person to ride in them. However, there are the tandem kayaks that can be operated by two people at once, whether they are paddle or pedal kayaks.

Some kayaks are universal and can be used for whatever you need, but some are specialized for fishing. They come with accessories such as fishing rod holders, fish finding transducers, and tackle storage.

This is very good if you don’t want to buy and install all these things after purchasing the kayak. The reason why some kayaks nowadays have all these installments on them is that fishing in a pedal kayak is growing quickly, and fishermen see it as a much better option than catching fish in a boat or a regular kayak.

The storage capacity of a pedal kayak varies greatly and depends on the size and the manufacturer. If you are someone who fishes on a pedal kayak and brings a lot of equipment on board, then having a larger kayak that can pack more ample cargo space would be a smarter thing to choose. On the other hand, if you are someone who leisurely traverses on water and doesn’t need much cargo space except perhaps for a cooler and life jackets, then you will be much better off with a smaller kayak that will be easier to store too.

If you are spending a whole day in your pedal kayak, then make sure that your seat has more padding, back support, and ergonomic design overall. These things would cost more, so if you aren’t spending that much time kayaking in a single day, then simply omit these as you don’t need to pay for a more expensive model.

The stability and control over your boat is a determining factor whether you buy the kayak or not. No matter what you do in it, fish or kayak leisurely, your kayak should have good stability when you are sitting no matter the type of water.

Indeed, any kayak will feel less stable in whitewater than in flat water. However, still, first and foremost, you should always try to see the primary stability (relates to the back-and-forth motion of your boat) and the secondary stability (relating to how easily a kayak flips or capsizes) when you are buying your kayak.


While this is probably the least important factor in buying a kayak, it is a nice touch in the end. If the visual aspect is important to you, you have kayaks that come in standard camo finishes, black, or basic primary colors such as red, blue, and yellow.

Of course, if you don’t like these, you can always order a custom design finish, although I don’t need even to mention that these will cost more.

All in all, that was it for today’s article on choosing your own pedal kayak. I hope I was able to answer your questions and help with any dilemma that you had. If you have any more questions regarding pedal drive kayaks, feel free to drop me a comment down below, and I will be more than happy to answer.

In the meantime, I’d love to connect with you on my Facebook, and Instagram accounts for more cool tips and recommendations on paddle boards and kayaks.

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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)

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