Pedal kayaks and speed is one of the age-old debates and one of the oldest ones around. One of the distance records held for the fastest hundred meter sprints using pedal power brought the craft up to 18.5 kn. And the 24 hour record for the fastest flatwater peddling was 245 km within a single day using a light carbon fiber hall with a propeller. While most of these records are held by pedal craft it’s important to note that all a lot of this does not translate to the pedal kayak because a pedal kayak usually sacrifices speed for added performance and better stability.
Tracking many pedal kayaks we have seen people come up with their own results and use GPS tracking to show how quickly they can go one person we spoke with showed a figure of 3.5 to 4.5 mph maintained on a pedal kayak in particular the Hobie Mirage pedal kayak for this test.
Looking at the physics when you use a pedal kayak versus a paddle kayak you are simply transferring the physical strength and process from the arms to the legs dependent on the efficiency of the movement you may still be exerting the same amount of strength to move the kayak however most people have much stronger muscles in their legs than they do in their upper body and arms so the process of peddling is easier for them than paddling.
When it comes to pitting one against the other in terms of speed and it does all tests have shown that they are fairly similar however for sprinting power a paddle kayak can be much faster and for actual weight and caring power the pedal kayak is much stronger there been tests on the Hobie website. Where they take to kayakers and pit them against each other in a tug-of-war competition and the pedal kayak always wins out. In the second series of these videos they pit a kayak or on the pedal Mirage system against to paddlers and the tug-of-war competition comes very close but in the end it to paddlers went out. Now this is not a perfect test because it does show leg strength against arm strength but it doesn’t show the actual speed at which you are going since the paddle is probably displacing larger amount of water they could be just as fast or have the paddle as a faster way to kayak.
In trying to find an actual side-by-side comparison or test we weren’t able to find any legitimate videos or tasks. If you do find one or you want to send us a video of your test we would be happy to put it up here and link to it also be sure to leave a comment in the comment section if you agree with what we’ve said or if you have your own take on which one is faster or better.
If you are looking to buy a pedal kayak you should check out our guide to the best pedal kayaks here.