As an old bicyclist, I find the pedaling aspect of the Hobie kayaks to be most appealing. Just like a well tuned bike, a good running Drive can really improve your ride. Yet I commonly see Hobie users happily laboring with Drives that perform miserably, wasting up to half their pedaling effort on unnecessary friction and inefficiency. So here are some reminders that can reduce your pedaling effort while improving your range and speed.Stage 1 -- Tune and Lube:
This costs nothing and can give you great results regardless of any other factors. Even factory-fresh Drives are sometimes adjusted at less than optimal settings. A well set-up Drive should cycle by hand almost as well as a bicycle gear set. The FAQ section has articles about the specifics of lubing and adjusting your Drive. When properly done, it should feel as smooth as soft butter. Stage 2 -- Seating position:
This also requires no monetary investment and can add a lot of endurance and power to your stroke. Many new owners keep their knees too bent, wasting power and increasing fatigue. A classic symptom of this is if you're able to smack the hull (or stops) of the Drive with your leg fully extended, you need to extend the pedals. Each pedal position equals about 2 inches, so if you want a smaller adjustment, there are several things you can do. Examples include, changing footwear, adding or removing pedal pads (available from Hobie), changing your foot position, and modifying your seat back.
Keep in mind that your legs have the greatest bio-mechanical advantage when they are almost fully extended. There is no harm or loss in power by taking shorter, quicker strokes, so do what feels best!
If your butt gets sore pedaling, look into the i-comfort seat. It makes a huge difference for me in comfort and provides better circulation to the legs for better oxygenation. In my case, it is a speed and range consideration -- I use it on all my Hobies.Stage 3 -- Accessorizing your Drive:
Stage one and two can improve your range and comfort, but proper fin choice can add some sizzle to your ride.
Standard fins are great for just tooling around. They are the most rugged and the price can't be beat. But they are the least efficient and seriously so at higher speeds.
ST fins are more efficient, require very little extra pedaling effort and slide over the existing mast for a quick and easy upgrade. If you like to switch back and forth (for instance, pedaling over oyster bars where standard fins have better durability) this makes an easy transition. These fins are almost as efficient as Turbos IMO, but with less torque available.
ST Turbofins are probably the most popular and certainly my favorite. They look much like the ST fins but are 2" longer. You can operate them at a slower cadence very easily or ramp them up for a nice improvement in speed and acceleration. With a "flutter kick" they require no additional operating depth despite their longer length (see composit picture below):
They also work best as a "centerboard" when sailing.
With both ST and Turbofins, it's important to set them up correctly for proper performance. Hobie recommends (and pre-sets) the fins with a tight clew, so the fin is snug into the clew outhaul with little to no mast twist available as shown here:THIS IS NOT CORRECT!
If you leave it like this you'll spend lots of wasted effort batting water side-to side!
The best adjustment position is to open up the clew as much as possible (by turning the brass knurled nut) while keeping the back of the fins barely tucked unto the clew outhaul (about 1/8" so they don't pop out). They should look more like this:
This allows the fins to twist up and down the mast so they vector the thrust more aft. You'll find this much easier to operate and more efficient at all speeds.
One last accessory to mention -- the drivewell plug.
Some Drives come with them installed and some don't, but they fit all Drives. Extraneous fin output normally swishes some water into the cockpit, but this device redirects the output aft for a small increase in efficiency. If you're not having any difficulty inserting your Mirage Drive, you should have this handy device installed for the additional free thrust it affords.
For serious speed fans there are some other mods that can be made, but for most users, optimizing these factors will maximize your speed and range while minimizing any wasted effort. Happy pedaling!