Looking over the display boat the first thing I noticed is the boat itself. It was a standard desert camo Lure 11.5 with a rudder. In 2015 when Feelfree switched over to the new Sonar Pod, the intent was always to be able to upgrade to a pedal drive in the future. While every other manufacturer went the route of all new platforms for their pedal drives, Feelfree designed their system to work around their incredibly successful Lure line of kayaks. This means those of you who already have a Lure 11.5 or 13.5 with a Sonar Pod will be able to buy the Overdrive kit and drop it right in. It also means you are starting off with a proven paddle kayak and not sacrificing performance when floating rivers, skinny water fishing, or in heavy weeds.
I think the direction Feelfree took with the Overdrive System puts them into a unique position in the market, and paints a picture that they want to support their existing customers base, and not just profit from selling them another boat.
I had a few very candid conversations with head engineer Peter Murphy about the project. He explained to me a few of the major hurdles he had to overcome in order to pull this off.
One of the hurdles that he had to deal with was the ability to adjust the paddler to the pedals and to ensure that the ergonomics were ideal for pedaling, and paddling. They did this with a bracket that clicks into the notch where the rear of the gravity seat usually clips into. This bracket attaches easily to the seat and allows you to click the seat forward and backward in order to get the proper reach for the pedals. They also take advantage of the Feelfree Gravity Seat which allows for height adjustment to dial in the ergonomics and helps you get your hips in the most comfortable position for pedaling. This was something I struggled with in other pedal yaks. I always found myself compensating for my height by slouching in the seat. With the Feelfree you will be able to completely dial yourself in to the boat by adjusting the seat up and down and forward and back.
The most progressive thing about the Feelfree Overdrive System and the largest piece of engineering was the Motorhead unit. This electric drive unit plugs into the pedal system and turns the existing pedal drive into an electric trolling motor. The Motorhead clicks into the drive the same way a battery would click into a cordless drill. When in pedal mode the drive sits in the first click, when moved into the second click the drive disengages the pedals and takes over propelling the kayak, making it a seamless transition from pedal to power. It will come with a wired in remote control that allows you to adjust your speed and control forward and reverse. At Icast they had this setup on one of the boat's tracks with a Rail Blazer electronics holder, which looked clean and worked well. Final details about price and what all will be included in the kit is to be announced, and we will update our info when we get that. One thing we know for sure is that it works well. Jim Hager from Feelfree Kayaks sent us this video clip and says his GPS clocked him at 6 MPH on the water.
The last hurdle the engineers had to deal with was converting a foot controlled rudder to a hand controlled rudder. They did this by using the optional rudder that has been the standard upgrade on the Lure for years. They added a lever that attaches to the gunnel of the boat and clamps on to the rudder cable. Although I could tell it was 3D printed and prototyped, it was simple and effective in how if functioned. Most importantly it allowed for the standard foot controls to work when paddling. Here is my interview with Peter Murphy, the head engineer of the Overdrive project.
Other unique features:
-Pitch adjustment on the prop, which allows you to dial in the amount of grip the prop has depending on your leg strength or endurance.
-Transducer Mount on the front of the drive.
-Storage box that will slide into the pedal drive where the motor goes if you are doing pedal power only. (they didn't have this to show, but told us that it would be standard in the pedal drive kit)
At an Icast where pedal powered kayaks were all the rage, I feel like the Feelfree Overdrive stood alone as the most innovative. I know thousands of Lure 11.5 and 13.5 owners are going to be so stoked to be able to keep the boat they love, but now have the ability to pedal, paddle, or motor it. We are excited to see what this new drive means for the future of Feelfree and pedal kayaks as a whole. It sure is an exciting time to be a part of the kayak fishing industry!