How To Adjust Your Pedal-Drive Kayak For A Perfect Fit | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
Skills
A woman pedaling a jackson coosa FD Photo by Eric Atkins

Use these tips for maximum comfort and performance

The only guys who look cool riding low are at the car show. For kayak anglers, slouching, stretching and scrunching are not cool. Proper fit and posture is especially important in a pedal kayak. If the seat and pedals are out of whack, repeating the same pedal stroke thousands of times per day can cause discomfort, pain and injury. Not to mention, you look goofy.

Mike Morales, a shop pro at Fin Factory Kayaks in Corpus Christi, has put many anglers in all makes of pedal kayaks. He walks us through the steps he takes to properly fit kayaks to the kayakers.

To start, spend a day adjusting the seat and pedals to find the perfect settings. “At the end of the pedal stroke, your leg should be slightly bent at the knee,” Morales says. When the knee is straight, the operator loses speed as the leg pauses on each stroke. “Pedaling with deeply bent knees isn’t good either,” Mike adds. He looks for a smooth stroke with the ball of the foot planted solidly on the pedal. Improper fit is an easy way to injure hamstrings and the lower back.

Adjusting the seat angle is the second stop to proper fit. Mike suggests sitting perfectly upright. Leaning the seat too far back or forward will strain the lower back and shoulders. Add lumbar support to further ease pressure on your lower back. A pool noodle or closed-cell foam cushion can be carved and cut to any shape for proper lower back support. For boats with a high-low seat, Mike suggests changing pedal and seat settings after raising or lowering the seat.

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To adjust the fit of a Hobie kayak, pull a lever and move the pedals forward or back. Mike points out, “The angler can change the leg position without affecting the boat’s trim.” He adds that he uses different pedal settings in different Hobie models. “In a Hobie Outback I set my pedals at the five position, but on a Pro Angler model I put the pedals on four.

Bicycle-style boats use a circular pedal stroke to turn a propeller. To change the distance to the pedals, move the seat forward or back. This set-up offers infinite adjustment, but moving the angler's weight can push the bow down or lift it up. In other words, a big guy with long legs might ride around with the bow in the air. To counter any change in trim, just add a couple water bottles to the bow or stern.

With all the focus on pedal fit, don’t forget the paddle. Even pedal kayaks need a paddle to squeeze into tight spots or control the kayak while standup fishing. Using the correct size and shape paddle will increase power and efficiency and reduce pain and discomfort. Choose a paddle shaft that allows the blade to catch the water without leaning or reaching. A larger, wider high-angle blade provides more power to move a heavy pedal boat. Avoid the long, skinny touring style blade. Look for a light paddle with a strong shaft to push, pull and spin the kayak. Every ounce counts and a strong, stiff shaft will transfer energy from the paddler to the water.

For anglers who fish out of a kayak with a high/low seat, Mike recommends an adjustable paddle shaft that extends over 250 centimeters. “As your seat position changes, so does the paddle stroke,” he points out. A rule of thumb to find the proper shaft length for the high seat position is add 10 centimeters to the comfortable length of the paddle shaft in the low position. Slapping the water or banging the kayak hull is a good sign the shaft length is incorrect. 

If your pedals, paddle and seat aren’t adjusted properly, you’ll know quickly when your legs, butt, back and shoulders start to complain. Continue to adjust the fit until your body is humming along happily.

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