Mad River canoe flexing

I just bought a new Mad River Explorer. It’s the 16 foot version in Royalex with vinyl rails. I’ve used the boat twice. The boat seems to have alot of flex in the bottom. When I get in the boat it creaks and the floor seems to flatten out and rise. I weigh about 210lbs. With two people in the boat it’s as if the boat is sagging at both ends. I own other Royalex canoes and haven’t noticed any significant flexing. Is this flexing normal for this boat? Do Explorers with wood gunnels flex?

My MRE in Royalex w/ash gunwales (circa 1981) flexed from the get-go. This is called “oil canning”. A foam pillar can be installed to eliminate this, and I installed a foam pedestal for solo paddling that did the trick. I believe that most ABS laminates flex in a similar manner.


I have always paddled composite canoes but my uncle has a royalex wenonah saranac. It will oil can when paddling. I guess the flex of royalex is what makes it so good for rivers and so poor for flat water.

My Explorer has had the sh*t kicked out of it. Don’t worry about the oil canning.

I agree with jsaults’ pedestal trick.
Smaller ABS boats may not do this. My MR Guide and Synergy never did. My “Oltonar” Old Town Tripper had only mild flex, corrected with a pedestal. I would bet that a narrower, rounder boat like an ABS MR Horizon would show minimal oil canning.

So it is,
most Royalex bottoms will oil can or flex some, unless they are very

cleverly designed but perhaps a little less strong? Or when they are

very narrow or round bottomed – my Dagger Interlude sure did not

flex. Or they would have to be made a lot heavier then they are are

now. Since what we want and expect from Royalex is a very strong

canoe with a reasonable weight for a reasonable price (compared to

other materials), we (have to) put up with it, cause flex does

hamper performance – both speed AND maneuverability will suffer.

Whether this hampers your paddling pleasures, depends a lot on your

performance needs and what kind of paddling you do.

I’m surprised to hear that your Explorer has “that much” flex since it’s a shallow V design.

This hull shape should have reduced any flex to a minimum.

Does the centre of the bottom flex or is it the two areas on either side of the V that’s doing this?


More Mad River Problems
Just noticed someone having problems in another thread with a Mad River I reccomended, now notice this thread. I owned a Revelation, friend owned a 16’ Explorer I used to paddle and only minimal oilcanning. And, only when the boats were empty. Hmmmm, I’d heard the quality of Mad River had declined. WW

Terry, you can add another older MR to the list that didn’t {doesn’t} oil can, the 1993 Freedom I had down there this past April.

I have had a few Royalex hulls that oil canned, especially my 1995 Dagger Venture17.

It never really bothered me as I haven’t been in much of a hurry when it comes to paddling, but it did take some getting used to.


Add another…
I own a 2001 MRC Revelation, and I never noticed any oilcanning when the boat was on the water. I will watch more carefully when I have it out tomorrow.


I paddled a MR Explorer a few weeks ago
for the first time and I was shocked at the amount of oil canning in class II and light Class III water. I never felt that the boat was unsafe, but I found that it grated on my nerves after a while. While I’ve experienced the oilcanning in less expensive/lower quality boats I was shocked to see this on a Mad River. Never once have experienced oil canning in my Esquif Canyon.

I own 2 royalex boats
The Old Town Pack oil cans quite noticably. The Bell Wildfire RX appears to have no oil canning at all. Some of it is due to shape of the bottoms but the Bell boat is much stiffer all around. The Pack is a 2000 and the Bell is 2003. Both are a lot more sensative to bumps and bruises than some of the older royalex boats in the group I padle with.

My 2 cents
I own a Dagger Legend 16. It oil cans quite a bit. Like mentioned above,it really does it when riding classII wave trains. Also on flat water as well. My Wildfire does’nt oil can at all. I agree with the other posters. The shape probably has a lot to do with it(dagger flat bottom,wildfire rounded)and the thickness as well. The creaking that goes on when your in the boat,well,I think both of mine do that at least a little. I don’t believe you have anything to worry about. It must be the nature of the material on some boat models. I just keep on paddling,oil canning away or not.

Have Fun,


My Venture with vinyl rails “creaked” quite a bit, even after I tightened everything up as much as I dared without damaging the gunwales.

I contacted Dagger about this, probably around 1997, a couple of years after I had the canoe and had “fixed” the problem.

The rep I talked to at the time said that they had noticed this same issue and that other customers also mentioned it.

He added that it was just the way the vinyl acted with the varnish on the thwarts, something I already figured out.

What I did to pretty much eliminate this “creaking” was to remove the thwarts & carry handles and put duct tape on them where they came in contact with the underside of the rails.

When I told the fellow from Dagger this he said, “Hey, that should work, I may give it a try.” I don’t know if he ever did, but it worked for me.


Other Royalex Boats
Used to have a Wenonah Adirondack, relatively flat shallow arch, no oilcanning. And sold my Dagger Suwanne few months ago, again, no problem. Seemingly the royalex can vary from boat to boat even with the same manufacturer. I bet I test paddle the next royalex boat BEFORE I buy! WW


– Last Updated: Jul-11-04 2:44 PM EST –

Welcome to the club!;-) Sorry to hear of this, but now you know what oil canning does to a canoe's efficiency. Those of us who haven't experienced this during our formative first year or so...please raise your hand!....;-)

I was out on a paddle last week in an explorer, wood gunwales. I did not notice any oilcanning. I have seen oil canning in other boats, both Royalex and composite. I suspect that you just have gotten a taste of the paddle net pick a problem to bits. A little flex is good in a royalex boat. it has to slide over rocks. If it gets to be a problem just wedge a cooler between the yolk and the floor.

Thanks Jack…
the creaking nor the oil canning really bother me that much. I’m surprised that’s all my old Dagger does. It’s been wrapped around a rock or something during it’s life. It has all kinds of scars from use and abuse from the previous owner. The duct tape sounds like a easy fix. Thank you again for sharing your tip.


Dagger Venture 17.5
I have noticed this too compared to my Old Town discovery 17.5 which is solid like a rock but heavy. It seems a center seat in the dagger would resolve the issue and stiffen it up. But what the hey! I purchased the canoe as a pack canoe and appreciate those high sides and carry capacity I never thought I would win a race in the Dagger any how. you can never fine a boat that does it all

ribs work
I fashioned a northern white cedar rib for the middle of my old explorer and will probably make two more for it. They are very light, are easy to soak in hot water and bend into the boat. Cut the ends off to length and wedge them under the gunnels. I was amazed that they stayed put so well. You can get pre milled rib stock from any wood canvas canoe builder.