Mad River - Freedom Solo rx

I’m considering a Freedom Solo rx - formerly Guide. I’m also giving consideration to a Nova Craft Supernova, but I’ll save questions on that canoe for later.

I’ve heard it said that Mad River’s quality has suffered in recent years.

Anyone care to comment on the quality of the MR FS rx?

Any comments on the standard vinyl gunnels & web seat?

The IQ system looks like an interesting concept, but sure costs a bundle… Any comments on the IQ set-up?

Thanks, -Randall

mad river freedom
i have a mr freedom tandom with the iq system [aluminum gunnels] the great thing about it is being able to move the seats to trim the boat the new vinly guns donot allow the seats to move,they wont support the wieght. buying the boat and dealing with mr was not fun but the quality of the boat is good bob

MR Guide / Freedom Solo
Wha Ho, Pilgrim;

Ah’ have had a Guide fer 8 years now an’ out of de 7 canoes ah’ have that be de boat ah’ use de most. It’s a very good all around solo. Ok in flatwater an’ up to Class 2+. Great river trippin’ boat. One of de few canoes ah’ have wit vinyl gunnels.

As far as de MR IQ system, it be an’interestin’ concept, but ah’s be a bitleary of potential malfunction due to de inevitable denting of de channels de accessories ride in. My opinion…

Fat Elmo

My Guide is too old to let me comment
on current MR quality. My MR Synergy was also made in NE, before they moved south. I will say that if you are using the Guide/Freedom as it SHOULD be used, the “quality” should not be a problem. If you insist on hammering it in class 3 whitewater, then Royalex quality might be an issue.

Rx Quality?
This is an interesting thread. I am not very experienced on royalex and rock gardens (if that’s the white water problem). Does the Rx delaminate on MR’s? Are they getting sub-standard material do you suppose? What have you guys seen?

I appreciate the input folks.
Mike’s description of the source & specifications for Royalex lines up with what I’ve heard. It makes sense to me that if there is a quality control problem with this component it would be industry wide – not restricted to MR. It’s good to hear that in your opinion MR has not changed their specs for this boat.

Has anyone seen a recently produced FS with the standard vinyl gunnels and web seat? Are they nicely done? Decks, grabs, thwarts… are they sturdy and applied straight? Seats well made? Is the over-all quality suffering or has it remained the same since the company’s move south? -Randall

overall quality product depreciation
It is disturbing to see & it’s happening with many products today, not just canoes. Too many corners being cut to keep cost down= an inferior product. A sign of the times.

My two cents
I bought a Freedom Solo about a year ago. I really like it. It has vinyl gunwales but cane seats. I would have preferred a web seat but cane is what the dealer had. After one season the cane is already wearing out and I am not a super heavy (185 lbs). It seems well made but nothing exceptional. I have not found any real flaws, but it just doesn’t have that something extra I’ve seen on some other boats. I agree with the comment about the seat hangers. I would also add that the washers on the seat hangers seem awful small for their job. I am replacing the seat hangers with Wenonah’s new adjustable height seat hangers. Once they are installed and I put some river miles on I’ll be able to render a judgement.

Regarding the SuperNova. Our local canoe shop has just added Nova Craft Canoes. He’s been having trouble getting service from the Mad River reps since a new Scheels big box store opened in Central Iowa and started carrying Mad River. Two local friends have just bought SuperNovas and while I have not had a chance to paddle them yet, I did give them a good lookover. I am impressed with the workmanship. Everything is done well, but with that almost hard to pin point “something” that takes its quality up a notch above the rest. Fit and finish? I especially like their lace seats. It feels very comfortable to me, but we’ll see how it rates on the test of time.

When he gets back from the Ozark Rendezvous you might want to touch base with thebob on the Guide vs. Mad River question. He loves his Guide and has close up experience with the Freedom Solo as a comparison. Regarding the SuperNova, you might want to check with sloopsailor when he too returns from the Ozark Rendezvous. He’s had his SuperNova a few years now and is a fan.

MR Royalex
I have a MR FR Rx, with vinyl guns and cane seats, about 4 years old. Great boat, good handling on both rivers and lake, and looks good. I have had some problems with the rock gardens, but corrected that with the optional add-on MR kevlar pads mounted on the front keel. I have had no quality problems at all, including the rivets on the guns: I have kept it in an unheated shed (against MR advice) in winter in Garrett County, Maryland where it really gets COLD.

One issue with the cane: real cane quality is degrading because of environmental / air pollution. When mine gets to the replacement point, I will consider vinyl depending on the quality of cane that is available.

Happy boating! JRS

good boat
a buddy of mine has the tandom MR freedom Rx and loves it…

tacoed the canoe in accident replaced the gunals, heated the RX and still as good as the day he got it… now that is durability!! i have paddled it in class II-III WW and did great!!

Mad River Explorer TT
Any of you guys use either the 14 foot or 16 foot explorer canoe made with Mad Rivers TT? I know its heavy, but it seems to be the same thing as Old Town’s Polylink.

Is that good? A heavy material less
repairable than Royalex, and posing problems for attaching equipment to the poly surface?

Mad River Canoe ; Triple Tough
Hello JTN

I have had the Mad River Explorer 14 TT only since February but I think it is very good for either solo or tandem. I have paddled it quite a few miles on my own and also with my wife and two dogs; Dalmatian and Cross Breed.

A few people on P-Net say that it is heavy, but I don’t have too much trouble lifting it onto the roof rack on our Landcruiser. In my opinion the quality of the workmanship is very good; the only thing I could pick on is a few very light scuff marks on the hull where it has been released from the mould.

My canoe has webbing seats and the IQ2 gunwale system; which I think is quite a good idea although I don’t have any of the IQ accessories as yet.

I am sure the Triple Tough material is very strong but if I ever punch a hole through it you will probably hear me crying all the way across the Pacific.

Happy paddling


North Queensland, Australia

James… when your cane seat punches
through, check out this site:

They offer web and even laced rawhide seats at very reasonable prices.

Supernova and Guides
I can attest to the quality construction of the NovaCraft. They are well made boats. I have had mine heavily loaded and run a good solid class II rapid with it. I have also paddled it on flatwater. So far it is a lot better boat than I am paddler.

Brian, at the rendezvous, had a Guide with new gunnel system. It was very nice, although I did not like the seat(molded). I think both boats are good boats and you would probably be fine with either.

I can’t follow instructions
Even though Arkay specifically said he is NOT looking feedback on the Supernova right now, I can’t resist chiming in a little.

I bought a used Supernova from c2g a couple three years ago and have slowly become a more “worthy” of the boat. As sloop said, it’s still more boat than I am paddler. Recently I did a couple of days of class III on the Catskill Creek in NY and felt very confident and secure in the Super.

I would love to do an extensive comparison of the Freedom Solo and Supernova in a variety of conditions. I too wonder which one is the “better” boat for my use. All I can say at this point though is that I really enjoy the Supernova. It is an extremely tough and well built boat, some might say “overbuilt” but I guess that depends on your paddling conditions. I can’t prove it at this point but I believe it is probably faster and more efficient than the Freedom Solo. However, the Freedom Solo will get through extremely shallow water better due to its “flatter” bottom. For my taste, I prefer the aesthetics of the Supernova better over the FS.

Hopefully Arkay will test paddle both these boats and let us know what HE thinks. Since I doubt he’ll be test paddling in a lot of WW, I’d be curious which boat he believes is more efficient.

Hey, we might as well…
get into it Brian. It probably will come down to one or the other for me (FS or SN) so it’s okay by me to go ahead and talk it out.

I most likely won’t test paddle either before I buy. Yeah, I realize that’s against conventional logic, but I live in the boonies of SE Ohio. Which is to say there are no dealers for Nova Craft in my area (or in my state for that matter) and the one MR dealer near me doesn’t stock a FS. So, if I want either of these boats I’ll just need to place an order and buy it sight unseen – based on conversations with other paddlers here.

That being said it seems to me that there has been a lot of comparisons between these two boats in previous posts – and I’d welcome more. Most seem to agree that either boat is a good choice for rough and tumble creek bashing - through Class II – which is what I’m after. Many also agree that both are heavy duty boats and a hassle to portage long distances… but this canoe will not be used as my long distance tripper (I have other canoes).

FWIW, I currently paddle a Bell Wildfire rx (now Yellowstone Solo) while I’m paddling my typical local streams (up to Class II). Though I do still enjoy this canoe and plan to keep it I’ve outgrown its differential rocker (sticky stern) and I’ve felt for some time that at my size 6’2”X195/200 lbs I’m a bit large for it. I’m looking for a slightly larger Royalex canoe with more volume and most importantly equal rocker fore and aft. From what’s available today it comes down to the FS or the SN (if I’ve missed another choice in this size and design range please inform me).

So… anybody else care to compare and contrast the Freedom Solo and the Supernova? I’m all ears. Thanks folks. -Randall

try mine

– Last Updated: Apr-30-05 7:03 PM EST –

Here's an idea, pick some water between Wexford, PA and your place and my boys and I will come paddle with you. I'd happily paddle your Wildfire or Odyssey. Or, if the water is more class II, the young 'uns and I will all paddle in our Spirit II. Since we are the same height and weight, you'd probably find the placement of my knee pads plenty comfy.

Hey Brian
Thanks for your kind offer – most generous my friend. I’m still hoping to make the West Branch Susquehanna trip coming up. Perhaps we could swap canoes for a while on that one. Now if I can just get organized with my business concerns to break away for a few days… Thanks! -Randall