Kayak, Reviews

Live2Flow’s Long Term Kit – Pyranha Speeder

I get asked a lot about the equipment I use so thought I would do some blog reports on the various craft that make up the Live2Flow stable, offering opinions on their strengths and weaknesses and where appropriate detailing any changes and adaptations I have made to improve their performance.

The first in this series is based on my Pyranha Speeder Touring Kayak, a boat which I’ve owned longer than every other boat, bike and board in my stable.  Pyranha claim the boat is ‘the one to enjoy every day on the river, on the sea, lake or flat water.’  Well, Live2Flow has paddled this boat in all those environments and it now holds many happy memories for me, not least of which the Great Glen Paddle, and I’ve made a few observations below.

So what have we got here?  It is a slightly odd kayak which looks like the lovechild resulting from a night of passion between a wild water racer and a touring boat!  The length and general hull sculpting bear great resemblance to the former with a narrow humped bow, upward and outward flair behind the cockpit and a 4.5m overall length.  However, the flattened hull bottom, rear hatch and deck fixings all suggest a touring heritage.  And this is all by design as the boat is conceived as a crossover which Pyranha seem to aim firstly at river paddlers, especially rivers with some moving water sections, but with a nod to general touring environments too.

Why is it in the Live2Flow stable?  Fitness, adventure and more!  I started with a borrowed Perception Wavehopper as my fitness training boat, but when that had to be returned I bought this boat second hand for the same role.  Its basic job was to provide a platform with which I could work on my paddling fitness, blasting up and down the local canal, but I quickly realised the boat offered more.

How is it working out?   I have used it on moving water, for many miles of estuary, river, canal, lake and loch paddling and was my boat of choice for the Great Glen Paddle.  Covering in the region of 700 miles in the boat, I feel I have the measure of it now plus have incorporated the experiences and opinions of friends who have tried this boat in forming my opinions below.  Some footage of the boat in action is in the video below…

Strengths?   To coin a phrase: jack of all trades.  It can be used for so many things that is a great second boat for the whitewater paddler.  With a long water line and narrow hull it has a decent turn of speed but, equally, once you have the measure of the boat it is stable enough to encourage you to take it out in situations usually reserved for specialist craft; light sea use, long distance touring and low grade moving water.  It is also as robust and durable as we have come to expect from a plastic boat further enhancing its ‘give it a go’ attitude.  It is not a bad weight either and although the length makes it more cumbersome, it feels pretty much the same weight as my creek boat.

Weaknesses?  To continue the phrase: master of none.  So often I found myself out in the Speeder with other people in boats designed for that environment.  Yes, I got a certain satisfaction knowing I could hang with them and then go do something completely different in the same boat but equally, I often felt a frustration that the boat was never the ‘right tool for the job’.  My Great Glen Paddle team mate and I both found the top end speed a little lower than expected; we found we could accelerate the boat up above 6mph for a sprint but a more realistic sustainable top speed was 5.5mph and over long distances (15+ miles) we struggled to average more than 5mph.  Still quick, but there are many faster sea kayaks out there without even considering K1 crossovers.  The ‘lean to turn’ steering takes some adapting too with no rudder or skeg to assist, some people really struggle with this aspect, and this also translates to the boat becoming a handful in cross winds and following seas, where the constant fight to keep the boat on track quickly wears you down.

Adaptations?  To get the best out of this boat I would fully endorse the use of winged blades.  In all environments except whitewater these really bring to life the speed of the boat and also the agility as the edged turning becomes more effective at speed.  These can be used in whitewater too but I prefer large whitewater blades in this environment so I retain the feel and range of strokes offered by a flat blade.  For me a bow airbag is a must to compensate for the lack of a bow bulkhead but I found the Connect 30 cockpit fittings superb with no adjustments needed.  I did also add a GPS mount ahead of the cockpit which provides great feedback during fitness paddles; there are many mounting systems available for the kayak fishing market and I installed one of the deck fittings and then modified an accesory mount to fit a Garmin GPS.

Recommendations?  If you do not have a long boat in your life and want something incredably versatile then this boat could be what you are looking for.  It is not ideal for novices but if you have some paddling experience you will find it sits nicely between the environment specific extremes and once you get to grips with its handling it is faster and more versatile than most crossovers.  However, if you already have a sea kayak and a whitewater boat then the niche into which this boat fits becomes narrower and you need to consider how often you would paddle the Speeder.

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Speeders cruising at speed on Loch Ness…
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