No sea/touring pedal kayaks?

I’m an endurance cyclist looking to take my lower body fitness to offshore waters with a touring-oriented pedal kayak. I live in Michigan and would like to build up experience to some day tour many of the islands in the Great Lakes by pedal power.

The problem is, it appears there are no sit-in touring-oriented pedal kayaks on the market. Why is this? Is it not possible to adapt current paddle-specific models by raising the cockpit roof so as to allow a recumbent-style pilot position? Are there issues with stability or safety in such a position? Might there be anything of this type in development?

Part of my motivation for a pedal-drive touring kayak is of course a need to handle potentially challenging waters, but also because I am looking to cover long distances quickly and efficiently. Supposedly, pedaling speed beats paddling speed, but a bit of YouTubing doesn’t seem to strongly confirm that point. Currently we are dealing with sit-on-top pedal kayaks largely intended for fishing (i.e. Hobie), and pitting them against touring kayak speeds, but maybe a touring-specialized pedal-drive kayak would do better?

To flip the question around, would any of you ever take a sit-on-top fishing pedal-drive kayak on a 4-mile offshore excursion into Lake Michigan?

Hopefully someone here has some explanation for the lack of pedal-drive sea kayaks. Are there important design considerations?

Hobie doesn’t have one?

No sit-in kayaks. I’m curious if folks see this as a drawback when going well offshore for long trips? Would anyone take the Mirage Revolution 11/13, for example, on the great lakes? Or would a different design be better for that purpose?

I’ve heard of several fishing events along the Gulf Coast where pedal kayaks venture 6 - 10 miles into the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Panhandle. The only guy I know who goes uses a Hobie. It’s not uncommon for him to go on a total 24 mile pedal while fishing all day - most of the pedal time being transit to/from the fishing areas. PS - He says their safety equipment is checked prior to being allowed to launch. Either an Epirb or PLB is required depending on the individual event.

As a user of sea kayaks for 26+ years, fisherman from SOTs for about 20 years, and motor boats for over 55 years, I do not understand going offshore in pedal kayaks. A boat allows more equipment to be carried, a huge margin for safety due to speed of movement, and more comfort. I love fishing from a SOT (or even occasionally sea kayak), but for me it is a minimalist pursuit especially ideal for waters where a boat cannot (easily) go.

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It would be difficult at best to put a properly fitting spray skirt over a cockpit big enough for the pedal drive and the occupant’s legs. This alone would preclude a sit in pedal kayak from being safe on open water. Touring and sea kayaks are much narrower than the typical pedal drive boat and the reclining position needed to pedal is not a stable one on the water - and with no paddle in your hand there is no way to quickly brace if needed.

The Hobies, by virtue of being sit on tops have some open water capability, but that being said I paddled in the Gulf of Mexico several years ago with someone (also an experienced cyclist) who was in a Revo 11. I was in a 17’ sea kayak. He kept up with me with no issues but admitted afterwards to being a bit uneasy out on the open water. The conditions were mild enough for me that I didn’t give them a second thought. Hobie AIs and TIs routinely finish the Everglades Challenge but have suffered both mechanical and structural failures.


I’ve never used a pedal drive kayak, but my gut reaction is that you probably need a lot of knee space to accommodate pedaling. If so, this would make a sit-inside impractical.

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I’m pretty new to kayaking, so I could easily be very wrong, but generally touring and sea sit inside kayaks are fairly narrow with fairly low decks. It seems to me that if you raised the deck enough to fit a pedal drive and space for your legs, it would become very tall and unstable, unless you made it a lot wider. At that point, it seems you would have lost the benefit of a sit inside, which might be why they seem to just make peddle drives as sit on tops?


Probably not possible to make a touring kayak using pedal drive. Some reasons that come to mind:

  • The pedal drive needs to be removable for landing/etc. Hard to make a hole in the floor inside the kayak for a removable drive waterproof, as would be needed in a sit inside.

  • The recumbent position is a bit higher up than the standard touring seated position, so would require a wider boat than many touring kayaks for the added stability.

  • As mentioned above, the cockpit deck/skirt would also need to be raised to allow for the leg movement.

That said, sit on top kayaks are pretty seaworthy vessels. Here is a summary chart of the ACA skill/condition levels and what vessels can be used - showing sit on tops usable in up to level 4 conditions (if right sit on to and paddler has appropriate skills): Dropbox - ACA-SkillLv&SeaConditions.23.jpg - Simplify your life. So a Hobie sit on top or other pedal sit on top could be used in coastal and open water conditions. (Note - some pedal boats, like the original Nu Canoe, where not sit on tops but more canoe/rec boats, and these didn’t have enough flotation and wouldn’t be appropriate in open water).

On speed - I have found that pedal drive kayaks can hold cruising speed with less energy than paddle kayaks, but the wider, bargeydesigns means that paddle kayaks would have higher maximum through water speed.

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@sissypants One other thing to watch, if you do choose to get a sit on top, is the type of pedal drive. Some pedal in a circular motion like a bike, but not all. Some move in a more straight line, linear pumping motion.

This is a sit inside kayak/boat. The owner designed it him self for offshore paddling/sailing and adventure racing. He has completed multiple Water Tribe races, including the 1200 mile Ultimate Florida. I think he lives on the Chesapeake, in Maryland. Tribe name is Doobird.


With the need for propulsion equipment extending through the hull, instability generated by the act of pedaling, lack of paddles in the hand to stop imminent capsize, and keeping water out of the hull, a catamaran design is probably sensible. Pedal powered catamarans have been around for quite a while, but are not common. Something like these two designs may answer your needs, but their performance on open water would still be an open question:
Seacycle  Water Bike | CastleCraft |  Self powered Sea Cycle and Waterbike.  Shipped direct to you

I wouldn’t start paying money for prototypes without talking to a bona fide naval architect first.

So, I have the Hobie Rev 13 (28"x 13’) which I used for coastal/inshore fishing. Not sure if I would risk going farther out than a mile offshore. I remember confronting a higher than forecasted offshore wind while pedaling back in from the outer fringe of the Boston Harbor Islands, about 2 miles back to the launch. Pedaling against 25 plus knot winds and 1-2’ chops., it was a slog and I almost gave up at the final quarter mile to the launch point (although I was not in danger since there were plenty of bail out points along shores of the mainland and various islands). I would hate to think what it would be like if I were truly out in fully open water… Granted my leg muscles are that of a bike commuter and not that of cycling competitor. I also had way too short of a backup paddle (200 cm) that would work better with the wider beam (28") of the Hobie. I really wanted to use a paddle in that last 1/4-1/2 mile.

I think you can get faster hull speed with the (discontinued) Hobie Rev 16, @ 27.5"x16’. It is probably the closest to a touring kayak dimension, although the hull shape is certainly more geared towards flat rather than rough water stability… Out in the open with 2’ plus chops, I’m not sure how it would handle. If it were me, I would have a paddle in my hands to brace against a possible capsize, even as I try to pedal away with my leg muscles. But, a paddle held in hands will also create more wind resistance.

My final thought is that I would not venture out too far in open water with pedal kayak. I am just not sure of the boat or my capabilities with it in challenging conditions.


I’ve pedaled a fishing boat fairly far offshore in Lake Michigan. A 12 foot fishing kayak with a good pedal system does about 4 miles an hour without working up too much of a sweat. That said, pedaling on water isn’t at all like pedaling on a bike, as there’s very little resistance compared to road cycling. As a workout, not so great.

The Manta5 hydrofoil bike might be of interest to you, but given that it isn’t stable or seaworthy when it’s not moving, not so sure I’d recommend it as something to use out in big water.

One other thing to watch, if you do choose to get a sit on top, is the type of pedal drive. Some pedal in a circular motion like a bike, but not all. Some move in a more straight line, linear pumping motion.

Indeed, thanks for bringing this up. I wonder if the Hobie pumping mechanism isn’t more fatiguing or physically demanding than the prop-based full-rotation drives. I’ve read the Hobie forums on this, but there may be some bias there :slight_smile: Any experience?

@carldelo Thanks, some of those “island” designs looked quite appealing just for the sake of stability, as you point out to avoid trying to balance with a paddle while pedaling with your legs. If those things ever flip I’d hate being the one trying to “undo” that. I suppose you can attach stabilizers as well?

So when does a kayak become something else…a skiff, a cabin cruiser, a sport fisherman, a catamarin, etc.

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Unfortunately no, I’ve never tried a pedal drive kayak. I just thought I’d bring it up since you mentioned taking your cycling lower body fitness to this.

You found my hidden suggestion - in my opinion, pedaling on the open water is probably better done using a catamaran, rather than a kayak…

To a kayak, yes, generally called outriggers. Adding them to a catamaran gives what, a quadra-maran?

OK, this is my new favorite thing: Antique water bikes

Make sure you get down to the sailing water tricycle…

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