SmartTrack Rudder Suggestions/Improvemen

-- Last Updated: May-09-07 5:04 PM EST --

I sent an email to the company that owns the SmartTrack rudder system ( I asked for an owners manual since I did not get one with my kayak. I also suggested that they might want to listen to paddlers for advice on improving the system. I have a few ideas for them.

I was surprised to get a call this morning from a representative from the company interested in my ideas. I had to reschedule the call for Thursday morning because I was with a customer.

So if anyone has some suggestions or ideas to improve the SmartTrack rudder system, submit them here and I will try to pass on the feedback Thursday morning.

Here are my thoughts:

The blade housing and non-foiled part of the blade hang down too low. This causes unnecessary drag by having non-foiled sections dragging through the water. Even the blade lifting line is partially submerged. A remedy may be as simple as fabricating a mounting bracket that has more vertical adjustment. Ideally they would re-design the housing so it had a smaller vertical footprint.

The blade is too small for longer sea kayaks. It feels and responds more like a trim tab on my QCC700. I am comparing this toi my older QCC with a larger Feathercraft rudder. I cut that Feathercraft rudder shorter than stock but it still was much more respoonsive than the SmartTrack. Fortunately SmartTrack offers a Tandem blade that is larger. I have already ordered one and will then cut meat off the bottom to get the balance I am looking for. If one raises the whole unit high enough so it does not drag like described above, then a larger blade would probably be needed anyway.

I think there would be a good market for a kit that bridges the gap between the left and right pedals. What I mean is a cross bar for the stationary pedals and another for the control pedals. Then one could put their feet in the center of the boat like surfskis or anywhere in between. I bet there would be many current SmartTrack owners who would buy this kit just to have the ability to change leg positions. hey it doesn't need to be SmarTrack that offers this kit. Anybody could sell it. Any entrepreneurs out there want to run with the idea?

Even if one did not have a cross bar kit decribed above, I think the system would be better if the current pedals were longer - extended further inboard. I was speaking with someone recently who thought the pedals felt like they needed to be raised up because the only way she could operate pedals and also work legs properly was if her feet were angled outward dramatically. Her heels are being crunched for space because of the curvature of the hull. I find I have the opposite problem. My toes are crunched against the bottom of the deck when I am braced properly and also able to use the control pedals. While they offer a kit that allows one to lower the unit, I think the real problem is that the pedals are jammed to the outside part of the hull/deck where there is often a lot of curvature from hull and deck that restricts space. This is more problematic with the SmartTrack system because the pedals require more space to be used properly. By extending the pedals inboard, more vertical clearance will be created and more foot angles possible.

Here is an easy idea anyone can do right now. I do not use the cleat that holds the blade lift line. I did not even have QCC install the cleat. I attached a length of bungy cords to the end of the lift line and led the bungy to a forward attachment point on the boat. The length and preload on the bungy cord offsets the spring tension in the blade. It took a little experimenting to get the bungy tension right. Now I can raise and lower the blade and it will stay in whatever position I want, up, down or anywhere in between without having to cleat the line. There is enough friction in the system that the blade stays down when moving through the water, yet it will kick up if it hits anything. The best part of this sytem is that I can quickly raise and lower the blade on the fly to clear it of sea weed.

That's all I have for now. Any other ideas would be appreciated and I will pass the ones that are practical on to the Smart-Tracker representative.

More area & more leverage on the pedals
I’d much prefer to have the braces lower and larger and the toe pedals raised and enlarged, so that you’d push more through the heels and steer with the toes as in a surfski. I find the existing setup close to useless in a significant following/quartering sea.

Two suggestions:
1. My pet peeve: make the dam thing so that it comes all the way over onto the back deck when it is up instead of sticking up in the air.

2. Make the cable guides at the foot pedals stronger. On three different kayaks they have broken in only a few years.

On the rudder in the water, you must be a lot heavier than I am. Mine performs flawlessly.



My 2
I’d definitely second the larger surface area for the pedals, with a larger rudder ‘Toe Pilot’ to do away with having to, quite literally, ‘toe it.’ The small rounded platform gets to be painful when driving with the legs. I’d also suggest a bar/brace to span them and allow for legs together positioning. Fabricated one for mine (kudos to a P-netter) on my QCC and then Epic 18. Big difference.

The rudder housing needs work;raise it higher so it doesn’t troll through the water. Why is it so bulbous/heavy? Forget the clockspring for blade tension, a bungee is simple and light. Take a look at Pat’s P-41 rudder for simplicity in design and execution-so feathery and multiple holes in the rudder arms allow for changing rudder sensitivity.

A really good idea that would benefit from further tweaks…

What the others have said, and perhaps a way to adjust the height of the rudder peds. My Size 12s have to contort pretty bad to use mine, It hits near the middle of my arch. I would like it more near the “Pads” or what ever you call them on my feet. Bigger foot contact area would be better too.

My Weight
Jack L,

I weigh about 208 lbs right now. I am comparing the performance of the new QCC700 with SmartTrack rudder to the original QCC700 with a Feathercraft rudder. The originall QCC700 has its cockpit located about 3 - 4" forward of the existing 700.

The trim of the original QCC700 as just slightly bow down. The forward underbody has a lot of lateral grab in the water whil the stern is very light. The boat weathercocks strongly when the rudder is out of the water. But then when the rudder is in the water it balances the string forward bite with a strong and veryy efficient aft bite. The boat tracks like a train and also responds strongly to rudder inputs. Its amazing. The boat also does not squat at high speeds.

The new QCC700 seems pretty balanced trim wise. The boat pivots around the center of the boat when steered with the rudder. but it does not have the same on rails tracking feeling, nor the responsiveness to rudder inputs that the original 700 has. I am still getting used to the SmartTrack pedals so rteally need to give it some more time before coming to any firm conclusions. Stern Squat is also a concern since my paddling speed in the ol’ 700 was in the 6 - 6.5 mph range with frequent surges to 7+ when working to catch waves.

Owner of SmartTrack Appreciates Info
I passed on all the comments here yesterday in a phone call with the new owner of SmartTrack. He was very appreciative and has now called me twice for Hong Kong to receive the feedback.

I will continue to pass on info to him as I receive it.

Jack, you mean you don’t like the …
Freddy Kruger rudder of death? I steer well away from that hellish device, especially in rock gardens. Didn’t Zarqawi use a Smart Track on his kayak, shortly before we blew him up? I have no problem with rudders, but that one is like walking around with a drawn knife.


“1. My pet peeve: make the dam thing so that it comes all the way over onto the back deck when it is up instead of sticking up in the air.”

Thanks for acting as liason.

All the above have been addressed by Patrick at Onno. Take a look at his rudder and controls.

Onno Rudder
I aspire for the Onno Rudder and gas pedal system. Unfortunately, it is a challenge right now to get that system built in a timely fashion as Patrick re-establishes his business in Hawaii.

Comments from SmartTrack Owner
While SmartTrack owner’s comments below do not resolve all the comments, his info may be helpful to some of you. The new owner of SmartTrack seems genuinely interested in making the product better. Howver he struck me as wise enough to understand that any changes need to be implemented in a manner practical for a very very small operation that SmartTrack is and needs to remain to keep their heads above water.

Here are some of his comments sent to me as a follow up email:

Hi Jonathan,

Nice speaking with you yesterday. I appreciate your interest in SmartTrack

and the time you took to go over your suggestions with me.

Its sounds as if you rudder control cables may have been about too loose

when your new kayak arrived. There are two adjustments that will affect

steering responsiveness: The position of the upper toe pedal in relation

to the lower foot pedal and the overall mounting height of the Toe Pilot

Foot Controls.

Toe Pedal Adjustments:

Most folks who have never used a solid bracing / toe operated foot control

system find they have more steering control when the upper toe pedal (used

for steering) is set almost vertically above the lower bracing foot pedal.

This enables you to have equal contact with the lower bracing and upper

steering pedals.

Paddlers used to steering with a solid bracing system will often times

(re)adjust the upper steering toe pedal so that it sits a bit forward of

the bracing pedal. If you look at the Toe Pilot Foot Controls (TPFC) from

the side, you’ll notice that the lower bracing pedal has a slight forward

tilt. Setting the upper toe pedal in the same plane as the foot pedal

tilt places it slightly in front of the lower bracing pedal. In this

position you get more purchase on the bracing pedal but have to “reach” a

bit to steer.

You can make small adjustments to the toe pedal position with the cable

adjustment bolt located in the aft end cap of the side rail. By backing

this bolt out, you will tighten the cable and bring the toe pedal aft

(towards the paddler).

For larger adjustments to the toe pedal, you need to tighten or loosen the

cable where it attaches to the rudder. This should be easy, as the

SmartTrack system uses an adjustable clevis mechanism, called the CRW, for

interfacing the cable with the rudder tiller. If you look closely at the

CRW, you will see that the cable loops around a tapered shim that in turn

seats down into the CRW housing. There is a tiny cotter pin that secures

this shim into the housing. The cotter goes through a slot (rather than a

hole) in the shim, allowing it to be loosened for adjustment.

First, you’ll want to remove the short end of the cable from the heat

shrink tubing. You may be able to just slide this out. If not, you might

need to cut off the tubing. Now, to adjust the cable, grip both strands

firmly close to where they come out of the CRW housing, and push it aft

towards the rudder) so that the slotted shim loosens in the housing. If

the shim is seated so snug that you can’t push it out by gripping the

cable, you can place a tiny nail between the cable strands and give it a

light tap.

Once the shim is loose, you can tighten the cable that is coming from the

pedals until the toe pedal is in the desired position. Having a second

person at the cockpit of the kayak to let you know when to stop can make

this easier. Then take up the slack by pulling on the short end of cable,

which feeds the cable around the internal shim. Finally, once you have

everything adjusted as desired, give both strands of cable a firm tug to

seat the shim back in the housing. Make sure that as the cable wraps

around the back end of the shim that is seated in the slot. If it is not

in the slot, the shim will not properly secure into the housing, and you

can get a bit of slip if you apply hard pressure to the toe pedal.

Finally, reseat the short end of the cable into the heat shrink tubing.

If you had to cut off the tubing, you can use electrical tape to

accomplish the same purpose.

Toe Pilot Foot Control Height Adjustment:

Most paddlers find that the lower you mount a solid bracing steering

assembly (like the SmartTrack Toe Pilot Foot Controls), the more steering

control you have. Many racers using such systems have it set up so that

they are bracing at or just above their heels. Touring paddlers will

often set it a bit higher than this as that provides a more familiar


The SmartTrack Vertical Adjustment Kit is a set of plates that bolt to the

inside of the kayak to make height adjustment easy. All you’ll have to do

to change the height of the Toe Pilot Foot Controls is unbolt the assembly

from the hull of your kayak, reposition using existing holes on the VAK

plate or by drilling new holes in the VAK plate, and then remounting.

There is no need to drill new mounting holes in your kayak.

With respect to the issue of the Blade Housing being too low in the water,

as I mentioned, we have a Riser Bracket that may help to alleviate this

problem. To thank you for your time yesterday, I’d like to send you a

Vertical Adjustment Kit and a Riser Bracket. After you have received these

items and had a chance to use them, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know

how they performed for you.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions.

Best Regards,

Andrew Dove

SmartTrack, LLC.

Patrick’s system looks just about perfect.

Smart Track
Sounds like the new owner is interested in improving upon the product. (I wish he sent me a riser bracket when I owned my QCC-smile.)

As to Pat’s gas pedals and rudder. I have the gas pedals on my EFT. They’re as I like them-I forget they’re there. The solid brace is exactly that. The gas pedal adjustment does require a bit of trial and error. Too close to vertical and you actuate the rudder when pumping your legs. Too far away and you have to toe reach to actuate it. Thankfully, the simple cord weaving through the pedals allows for easy adjustments. The marriage to the standard EFT rudder would be better if the rudder had adjustments for ‘throw.’ ie* Closer to the pivot exacts more swing per pedal movement, a more responsive rudder. Pat’s P-41 rudder is a thing of beauty-simple and feathery light, have one of those also. I’ve been saving it in case I go Huki S1-R (It’s the same one spec’d on this boat and drops right in.), but it’s so tempting to graft it onto the EFT. I may not be able to hold out much longer… :wink:

Trilobite … not sure if yours are
drilled or not but should be.

On all the footbars, I drill a second set of holes just in front of the as arrived in mail set up. Move the pedals that .250" forward and you will feel a difference … then you can re-fine tune the pedal angle. Viola.

If no holes, just put the drill right against the hinge forward lip lined up with stock hole … this little bit works.

Envyabul … every one of those systems you have I ended up just pulling the banana pedals all the way back … factor in the cable runs and slight flex and this seems to be the best solution for performance.


I put the gas pedal from Onno on my Eft and love


I got mine from Pat since he moved and about the only way to get him is by email and he is a little slow at that .

The gas pedal on my Epic 18X is a little better but either works great.

I like it because you never have to move you feet ,just your toes.

I’ve backed toe pedal aft
I’ve tightened the cable tension for the SmartTrack toe pedals using the finger nut adjustments. Definitely prefer the toe controls slightly aft of the heel pedals. I stil find there is little feel to the toe controls. I pivot my toes and kinda wait and see if the boat initiates a turn in the desired direction.

It was good to learn that there is a gross cable adjustment possible back where cables connect to rudder. Its buried under shrink tube, so I assumed the cable was permanently nico-pressed.

It seems that a good owners’ manual would be the easiest and probably the biggest improvement that SmartTrack could make in the short term.

The owners email to me seems like a good start to providing soem of the answers that many SnartTrack users would appreciate.

Patrick, R U Taking orders?

Are you taking orders yet for your rudder and gas pedal system?

Does your system use a line that runs forward on deck to manually lift the rudder? I need the ability to clear sea weed on the fly. I could not see a way of doing this from pics on your’s and Huki’s website.


– Last Updated: May-14-07 8:31 AM EST –

I have the riser bracket, its doesn’t help, and the bracket itself is still in the water and the Rudder now sticks up even further in the air. As it is now with the rudder NOT DEPLOYED I can still steer the boat by using the rudder due to the blade housing acting as a rudder. Find a way to streamline the housing bracket or eliminate it, and like others have said, have it pivot out of the way. The current mounting method for the QCC is to use a “C” shaped chunk of band Iron. It kind of defeats the purpose of having a FOIL rudder, when its mounted on what amounts to a kids school ruler mounted perpendicular to the water flow!!! It does catch the water and makes a nice rooster tail at speed!! In short make it like the CHEAP "Flip up" rudder systems, but with a FOIL blade..

Rudder/Pedal Stuff
I’ve had greater success with the gross cable adjuster on the Smart Track than the little knurled finger nuts-you end up backing each one out to the limits of its travel, and I don’t put much stock in the plastic body. I sure hope they’re not producing the plastic rail sets any longer-went through two sets of them before swapping them out for the aluminum rails. The Seal Line folks were very accomodating though-warranteed them right away. Yes, that rudder housing is huge, and throws an annoying mini roostertail at speed. Don’t really see why they require a huge clockspring tensioner when a simple length of shock cord would do the same.

Pat, I will check for the second set of holes, but it’s not an issue at all. Took all of five minutes of tensioning and fiddling to get them set right. I absolutely love that footbrace/gas pedal combo in my EFT; had it out in some chop and following seas on the weekend, and it’s so much easier to use than the stock tiller bar. As noted earlier, I’m very curious what the deeper foiled P-41 rudder would add to the setup. Using the cable holes close to the pivot should give me very responsive actuation, more swing for less pedal travel.The short, fat stock rudder blade wasn’t horrible on the swells, but a deeper blade should give more 'bite,'ventilating less as the rear of the boat gets lifted out of the water.