Wilderness Systems Radar 135 Pedal Drive Review | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
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A man standing and fishing on the wilderness systems radar kayak. Photos by Roberto Westbrook

The Wilderness Systems Radar packs A LOT OF SMARTS IN ITS HELIX PD SYSTEM

Two years ago at the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow, I had to sign a legal paper swearing me to secrecy before I was led into a small windowless room. Once the door was closed tightly, I was shown a video of a kayak that paddled, pedalled and motored. It was Wilderness Systems’ concept for an all-power, all-purpose fishing kayak.

Last summer, the Helix MD motor hit the water dropping into into all Wilderness Systems’ FlexPod OS boats like the ATAK and Thresher. But we had to wait until this spring to get our hands on a preproduction version of the new Helix PD pedal system. The Wildy designers and test team were working overtime to build a boat that performed well under any power option. It’s often the case that pedal or motor-powered kayaks are too big and heavy to paddle well. Wilderness Systems was committed to designing a boat that does it all.

The result is the Radar 135. A mid-size, multi-use boat that reminds me of the Wilderness Systems’ top-seller, the Tarpon. Wilderness went all-in on their new system, even cooking up a new acronym: S.M.A.R.T., which stands for stability, maneuverability, acceleration, responsiveness and tracking.

The hull features a sharp entry and exit for efficient paddling with a wider beam to improve stability. The angled chines provide solid secondary stability while maintaining enough roll to ride through rough seas.

The Helix MD motor drive and lithium-ion battery easily fit in the FlexPod OS. The FlexPod OS is a large scupper in the cockpit. The motor’s lower unit drops into the scupper. The battery fits on top of the motor so battery, lower unit and propeller are one unit.

wildy radar 1
Control the rudder with a unique joystick that folds flat and out of the way for paddling the Radar 135.

Adding the Helix PD pedal unit is a little more involved. Six screws hold the mounting base to a long scupper hole through the hull in the cockpit. Drop the pedal unit into the scupper and secure it to the base with a heavy-duty pin and two metal latches.

The most important qualities of any pedal system are efficiency and speed. The Radar 135 with Helix PD accelerates quickly and is easy to maintain cruising speed. Turn the pedals backwards and the boat snaps into reverse. Steer the boat with a rudder than is controlled with a lever on the left gunwale; push it forward to turn right and pull it back to make a left.

So, the Helix PD works, but how does it fish? A paddle angler will tell you the downside to any pedal system is reduced draft. In deep water, the 14-inch prop works great. Venture into the shallows, where a kayak really shines, and the lower unit raises up to reduce draft. Wilderness Systems developed a unique solution to this problem. Kick a latch at the base and the spring-loaded lower unit and propeller pop up through the scupper. You go from two-feet draft to only two inches in the up position. To return to pedal power, push the unit back down through the scupper. To reduce turbulence and noise Wilderness Systems has lined the through-hull scupper with a plastic fringy material.

Wildy rader 2
The PD can be positioned for pedalling, shallow water or transport. Adjust the AirPro Max seat forward or back so you can perfectly reach the pedals.

The pedal unit has three stages: down for pedaling, up for shallow water, and forward for transport. To put the unit in the forward position, lift the pedals into shallow-water mode, unhook two latches on the base and lean the pedals forward to pull the lower unit out of the water into the through hull scupper. This is really handy for launching and recovering the boat without removing the pedals.

What I like most about the new Radar 135 is it paddles just as effectively as it pedals or motors. Remove the pedals and the mounting bracket and cover the through-hull scupper with a fitted plate. At 13-feet, six-inches long and 34-inches wide, the boat fits perfectly between stable backwater platform and long-distance, offshore vessel. Wilderness added all the nifty fishing features including my favorite bow Paddle Park. They also installed SlideTrax gear tracks, a center and bow hatch and Wilderness’ super comfy AirPro Max seat that can be adjusted forward and back for the perfect pedalling position.

Wildy Radar 3
Plenty of room in the stern well for a crate and more gear. The Radar 135 goes anywhere under any power.

I took the Radar 135 and Helix PD system to my favorite local fishing hole. The pedals moved the boat quietly and quickly. The fixed position prop moved the boat forward and backward easily. My pre-production tester has been making its rounds to journalists and dealers for months. By the time I got it, there was a little play in the pedal and mounting bracket, but it didn’t seem to adversely affect performance in any way. The boat covered the flat water and moved into the shallows with little effort.

The RADAR’s sporty design gave me the confidence to pedal out from the inlet into the ocean. I covered miles of open water. Turning the 13-and-a-half foot Radar with a narrow rudder is slow and wide; I dipped my paddle blade into the water when I needed to make tighter loops.

Overall, Wilderness Systems did a fine job balancing stability, maneuverability, acceleration, responsiveness and tracking. The Radar 135 combines a sporty hull design with enough volume and beam to easily stand and fish. The boat works well under paddle, pedal or motor power, giving anglers the opportunity to choose the option that best fits wherever they’re fishing on any given day. That is pretty S.M.A.R.T.

 

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