Pedal kayaks revolutionized the kayak industry with the debut of Hobie’s mirage drive in 1997. Different variations and mechanisms have evolved over time, but one thing remains common among all pedal drive systems; they’re not cheap. Pedal drive kayaks cost $2,750 on average and the least expensive options come in right around $1,400. Luckily though, numerous companies are moving to make pedal kayaks more affordable through decoupling the kayak and the drive – allowing consumers to upgrade their yaks later.
Convertible kayaks make a lot of sense, especially if it’s your first yak or you’re on a budget. It takes time out on the water to learn what works for you and what features you wish you had. A paddle kayak built to accommodate a pedal drive will save you money up-front and let you spread out your boating investment. If, however, you find that you’re not in love with your paddle kayak after a season you can still trade up for a new one and won’t be out a mint.
The convertible kayak market is rather small: there are only 13 fishing kayaks that can be upgraded to take a pedal drive. We think that this category of fishing kayaks is primed for expansion. So keep an eye out for more convertible yaks in the next few years.
Click on the kayak picture to learn more about a specific model.
Most Expensive Convertible Kayak
Jackson Big Rig HD
The Jackson Big Rig HD/FD certainly lives up to its name; it’s a big big yak.The HD weighs in at 118 lbs (without the seat) and tips the scales at 145 lbs when it’s been fully outfitted with the Jackson Flex Drive 3D System. 13’3″ long, 40″ at the beam, and a total capacity of 550 lbs the Big Rig is a robust and hearty fishing machine. The Big Rig has some pretty cool features that are unique in kayaks of this size. It has both a bow and stern hatch (most yaks only have one in the bow) and a large tank-well for extra storage. Two flushmount rod holders near the stern and double tiered horizontal rod holders on each side provide plenty of accessible storage for your arsenal. Molded in fly reel pockets on each side also make storing 9′ fly rods a breeze.
Pedal and Power
The Jackson Flex Drive 3D System differs from other kayak pedal systems in some interesting ways. Foremost the Flex Drive has an easy to use height adjuster. Just the push or pull of the lever on the deck will move your prop close to the hull for storage, halfway down for shallow water, or fully deployed for deeper seas. Secondly the the upper pedal system and lower prop separate which is great for keeping your drive safe while you’re away. This decoupled approach makes motorizing the Big Rig a cinch. The new Jackson Flex Drive E Module is a self contained electric motor that replaces the pedals easily.
All of these great features don’t come free and Jackson’s Flex Drive pedal system is the most expensive on the market. It will cost you approximately $1,500 to upgrade the Big Rig HD. The electric motor upgrade costs $799 and doesn’t include a battery nor connection cables. So all in for a pedal and power upgraded Big Rig you’re looking at $4,500. That’s expensive, but the features and versatility of the Big Rig HD/FD can definitely make it worth your while. If you’re in the market for a Big Rig HD and you know you want the pedal drive (and can afford it upfront) then it makes a lot of sense to spring for the FD version. Its more expensive to purchase yak and drive separately. We’ve also seen the Big Rig sold for far less than the MSRP, so be sure to shop around.
Most Affordable Convertible Kayak
Vibe Shearwater 125
Vibe kayaks have long been renown for their high value at affordable prices. Their kayaks often offer more at their price point then many of the competitors and they’re set to continue the trend with their latest debut. The Vibe Shearwater 125 is a versatile upgradable kayak and hits the market will hit the market Spring of 2020. There’s been a lot of buzz about the Shearwater and for good reason: it looks amazing. The aggressive styling and sharp bow make for a boat that looks like it go toe to toe with a hammerhead shark. Seriously though, this yak looks awesome and is sure to turn some heads at the launch.
Shearwaters are a genera of sea faring birds that prey on fish; and we think that might be the inspiration for Vibe’s latest creation. The Shearwater measures 12’6″ long, weighs 92 pounds fully rigged, and has a slew of features too long to list here (instead go here). Most notably included is hand steerable rudder system, ample storage options, and the innovative elevated standing platform.
One of our favorite elements of Vibe’s Shearwater 125 is its flexibility. Much like the BigRig this yak can be easily converted to a fin-driven pedal drive, or easily equipped with an electric Bixby motor. Vibe offers its own fin-driven pedal system, the Vibe X Drive, for only $500. What really sets the Shearwater apart though is that it can third-party fin drives. As a result Hobie Mirage drives, Lightning Freedom Drive, or Pelican HyDryve should be usable (this hasn’t been tested yet), just advertised). With a base price of $1,300 the total upgraded cost will run around $1,800, which is extremely affordable for a pedal drive kayak.
Our Pick for the Best Value Convertible Kayak
Feelfree Lure 13.5
Feel Free has been making quality kayaks for over thirty years and is one of the mainstay’s of the industry. Like Vibe they’ve placed a focus on delivering high-end fishing performance in an affordable package. The Feelfree Lure 13.5 embodies both their experience and design philosophy to provide a highly capable upgradable kayak. 13’5″ long and 34″ wide the longer Lure version is well proportioned for paddling and pedaling.
The Lure 13.5 offers numerous advantages. Feelfree’s gravity seat is one of the most comfortable seats offered by any kayak. It utilizes a scissor lift system to easily adjust height with one simple motion up or down. The Lure 13.5 is also one of the few kayaks, if not the only, to come with a built in insulated cooler. Rotomolded plastic is the same technology that companies like Yeti use to manufacture world class chest coolers. It makes a ton of sense to build one into a kayak and provides a great place to keep your fish, or beers.
The feature we believe most earns the mark of best value is Feelfree’s drive system. The Overdrive system is a beast of a pedal drive. Made from cast aluminum and with plastic the Overdrive will last for years to come. It’s height adjustable, which combined with the height adjustable seat, means you can find the perfect position for pedaling. This adjust-ability will allow you to find the settings that maximize your leg strength and minimize fatigue. It also comes with a case which makes protecting your drive a breeze off the water. Finally the Overdrive system has the most simple and compact motor conversion we’ve seen, it’s literally plug and play. Just slide in the battery and your legs can take a rest.
The Lure 13.5 has an MRSP of $1,319 and the Overdrive pedal system can often be found for just $900. For a total of $2,219 the pedal powered Lure 13.5 will put you on some fish in both style and comfort. The motor add-on runs at $1,300. So for a completely suped up 13.5 you’ll need a smidge more than $3,500.
If you’ve got some cash money and are keen on having a pedal drive from the outset then consider scoping our guide to pedal kayaks.