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Eco Bezhig review – again

25 Jan

I’ve had the Eco Bezhig for about 3 years now and have paddled many k’s in it. In previous posts I’ve discussed some issues that Mission (formerly Perception) should see to in the event of an Eco Bezhig 2. At the very least I think they should put out an option to buy as spare parts some things that would make the boat much, much better.

First problem is the seat. It is molded foam and forms the central bulkhead. The idea is to make a very comfortable seat and initially it appears so but after spending some time in it I can say it certainly is not comfortable. The rake angle of the back of the seat is too flat which causes you to lean back as you paddle. This results in an inefficient forward stroke that causes fatigue much more quickly than a normal adjustable seat. I noticed Mission have released some pads to glue onto the seat to correct this but surely a replacement seat should be designed and offered. Anton from Southern Adventures in Gosford contacted me and said he could get a replacement seat for nearly $300. Since my seat is starting to fall to pieces, it would be nice to be able to replace it with a corrected style. Also, the fact that the seat is falling to pieces galls me no end as no other boat I know has this problem. My Gecko has a seat that archaeologists will dig up in 5000 years.

The Ozo pedals are bloody uncomfortable too. I know they are widely used but they are stupidly designed with the rudder cables attached to the top which means they get in the way of your toes. You have to control the rudder with the tips of your toes rather than your whole foot and this makes your whole foot fatigue and go numb. The pedals themselves are far too small and are very hard to adjust if sand gets in the sliding lock. I have padded out the floor of the cockpit with 1 inch marine cell foam to increase the height of my feet relative to the pedals and for some comfort and this has helped but there is a poor relationship between the angle of the pedals to the position of the molded knee braces in the upper cockpit which significantly adds to fatigue. Unfortunately, this is a design issue and cannot be remedied.

The rear deck rigging is dangerously inadequate. There are no rear decklines and fitting 8mm lines is very difficult to do securely as the attach points are very small. The upshot of this is extreme difficulty in self-recovering from the rear. That’s just appalling. The rigging at the front is fine, though, so I don’t understand why the designers stopped there.

The worst problem, and one that is completely insurmountable, is the dreadful weathercocking. I like to paddle without rudder as much as possible but you can’t do a long stretch without rudder down or you’ll end up going round in small circles. It is a pig of a boat to handle and has poor edging characteristics. I’m doing a lot better at this these days because I practice all the time but compared to say the Impex Assateague which can hold a near vertical edge indefinitely, the Eco is unstable.

A minor issue and one easily fixed is the clear plastic map-holder thingy over the glovebox hatch forward of the cockpit. This is an annoying and useless piece of junk. I know most Eco owners get rid of it but I’ve kept mine for some reason. It frequently detaches and snags a paddle leash causing repeated mis-strokes. I hate it and will get rid of it. It does have a handy set of bungies for a drink bottle though.

So, for a boat that costs near A$3000, the Eco has many shortcomings that don’t become apparent until after you’ve paddled one for some time. I can see why they were massively outsold by Mirage for years. However, these days there are many other great designs around that might offer better paddling. The Valley RM series are great value at around $2600, there’s also Impex, Boreal and SKUK boats but these are much dearer and composite. Even a tub like the Australis Salamander has a superior seat and rigging and might offer as good an alternative.

I’ve had loads of fun in Eco and have become a proficient seakayaker in it. My financial constraints at the moment mean I’m stuck with it for a few more years so having the seat problem fixed at least would be great. But I’m astonished at how much better a paddler I am in a superior boat so ultimately the Eco Bezhig is holding me back. I think if Mission want the Eco to be their serious single seakayak, they need to address those concerns that can easily be fixed and do it soon. There’s not much they can do about the handling or weathercocking and a beginner might find these tolerable if the other stuff is sorted. They can do this on the current version. I would like to see an Eco 2 which has better edging, a skeg and/or rudder, lower volume all round and better seat and pedals. A provision for a foot pump would be nice. So would some hard points for towing or a sail and custom decklines and bungie rigging. This would make the boat competitive next to a Valley Aquanaut, a Mirage 580, Penguin or a Tasman Explorer, a contender for the $3000 price point and maybe the front runner.

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11 Comments

Posted by on January 25, 2009 in Paddle Gear

 

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11 responses to “Eco Bezhig review – again

  1. tkneller

    September 15, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Thanks for the informative review! I’ll think twice (or three times) about buying one! 🙂

     
  2. horis karloff

    October 20, 2010 at 2:46 am

    I have an ecobezhig. I used to have a Valley Rapier 20 and a Kayakpro Vampire. Apart from the speed issue I like the eco. Yes the backrest is of no use if paddling hard. Main issue I have is water getting into the hatches, I think it’s sucked in by temperature differences on/in the hull. I made a stainless steel rudder blade witch cuts through the water with less resisitance than the stock one.
    I like it though and shant be bying anything else for a while.

     
  3. Russ

    November 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    To be fair you should be comparing the eco bezhig against other plastic boats. Glass is always going to better, but it is not as tough.

     
    • rjimlad

      December 3, 2011 at 5:20 pm

      I have to disagree Russ. The Valley Aquanaut RM is considered a classic whereas the composite is not. The Valley Nordkapp has pretty much identical dynamics in either RM or Composite and the superior toughness of the RM means it should be the first choice between the two. The Eco-bezhig has major design flaws that have nothing to do with the material of construction. In fact, I did compare the Eco to plastic boats. You will notice I mentioned the Penguin, Tasman Explorer and Valley Aquanaut.

       
  4. Adam

    February 26, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I’ve had my Behzig for close to 6 years now. It has been an absolutely fantastic boat for cruising and also for short bursts of sprinting for exercise. On the longer runs it has been the ONLY boat I could paddle for long periods of time without losing feeling in my feet. I’m sure there may be new boats out there now that I haven’t paddle yet that can compare, when I bought this the comfort was just unbeatable. I’m 6’4 or 194 cm’s and 90 kg’s. My height obviously plays a lot towards overall comfort in the boat for longer periods. I find that my paddling position is nice an upright, again this might be because of my height. The storage is fantastic. I do not like the actual build of the rudder assembly. Too difficult to fix when it gets knocked around. I mostly paddle with the rudder up anyway. Being a plastic moulded boat too, It allows me get nice and close to the rocks without the worry of fibreglass breakages…:). It is also extremely stable in large swells and I have found that only on the odd occasion does it track poorly when catching swells. It is very easy to roll and manoeuvre. The only boat out there that I would change this for would be the Wilderness Systems Tempest. That’s an absolute cracker. But I get a little uncomfortable over longer distances in it.

     
  5. Nigel H

    May 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Well I really loved my Ecobezhig but it’s split in 2. One day I was paddling nr a beach and some men in a speedboatdid not see me cos they were operating a radio controlled model boat. I capsized 2 seconds before impact but the outboard sliced through the kayak and cut S shapes into the bottom of the hull under the seat. I would have bought another one but they are difficult to get in the UK. My new kayak for touring is a Valley Aquanaut 3 peice HV.

     
  6. Craig R

    October 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Having read your review, I must admit to being slightly perplexed. The flaws you’ve pointed out are pretty much confined to issues with your technique or misunderstandings relating to the design of the craft. For example, if the back of the seat even comes into play when taking a forward stroke, then your posture and technique are the culprits, not the angle of the seat. The 1″ of foam you’ve put under your feet will only make matters worse because by raising your feet you reduce the drop from your hip-line and inhibit your capacity to “get over” your stroke thus impacting your power and efficiency. This would also increase hamstring/gluteus tension and cause discomfort and lower back pain.
    The rudder pedals are designed specifically to be used with your toes to prevent inadvertent rudder flutter that might be induced through leg drive off the foot plates. Properly adjusted and with leg-length set correctly, the steering is light and very easy to control with just the toes. It just takes practice.
    A quick visual examination of the hull’s characteristics would point to the fact that the Bezhig has been designed from the outset to be used with a rudder. No skeg, no chines, high volume and some slight reverse curvature just before the stern. To criticise its tracking when using it in a manner contrary to that for which it’s been designed seems just a little odd. A bit like buying a tricycle, removing one of the wheels, then complaining it goes around in circles…
    As for edging, – yep it doesn’t edge as well as some kayaks and as a craft designed for expedition work, you have to expect both primary and secondary stability to have been a priority.
    In summary, I suspect the Bezhig is the wrong craft for your needs and your criticisms of its perceived “flaws” are a reflection of this. I guess if you buy a Landcruiser and expect it to corner like a Lotus, you’re going to be disappointed. That doesn’t mean the Landcruiser is a bad vehicle though.

     
    • rjimlad

      October 8, 2012 at 11:08 pm

      Thanks for your comments. However, I stand by my criticisms. I have had great trips in the Eco and learned a lot from paddling it. I agree that it is an expedition craft and will never handle like my Assateague or a Valley. However, the cockpit volume is enormous and in fact one of the biggest of any boat on the market. I had to raise the deck under the pedals because I couldn’t access the rudder control. That’s not a question of adjustment or technique it’s just plain too big. Doing what I did increased control and comfort and reduced numbness. I agree with your comment about the seat angle and paddle position but since you haven’t seen my paddle technique you can’t really blame that. The seat actually encourages you to lay back slightly where every other boat I own or have paddled does the opposite. There is also the issue of the seat falling apart, which mine has, and that it is the centre bulkhead.
      I still own the Eco and am fond of it but it the cost of seat replacement is too high and too much trouble. I have several other boats now and all have superior feedback in the cockpit. I also wouldn’t rave about its tracking all that much as it weathercocks worse than my Assateague but not as bad when loaded. It is faster than UK style boats like Valley and Impex and it surfs quite well so I’m not rubbishing the boat. All in all it is a decent boat but nowhere near a classic like an RM Aquanaut or Mirage and these boats are cheaper.

       
      • Craig R

        October 10, 2012 at 10:46 am

        Thanks for your response. I personally haven’t found the seat to encourage a laid-back position, but most of my paddling is done in K1s or on Skis, so I guess I’m accustomed to fairly strict postural discipline. It’s a bummer that your seat is falling apart though. After 6 years mine is as good as new, but it probably hasn’t had the use that yours has experienced.
        In my case, the Bezhig is only used for expeditions rather than for daily paddles.
        I have used it (unladen) in the surf a few times and while it suffers the same issues as all boats with stern-hung rudders, it’s directional stability and performance on a wave were vastly better than a Mirage I borrowed for a few days. (Seriously, on what planet does the Mirage rudder system actually work? Not on this one, that’s for sure!)
        Indeed, I found the weather-cocking of the Mirage to be much worse than I’ve ever experienced in the Bezhig.
        Used for the roles it was designed, I’ve found the Bezhig to be an excellent kayak. I can’t think of another boat that could swallow as much gear while offering the same balance of speed, comfort, ruggedness and practicality. There are plenty that may be better against one or two of those criteria, but none of which I’m aware, that best it in all areas.

         
  7. rjimlad

    October 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, Craig. I love the Bezhig. I agree with the things you are saying. I haven’t been on long expeditions in it but I know it carries tons of gear. I’m just saying that if they brought out a new release, they should make a couple of changes that would make it even better. The seat is on. Yes it is comfy but need to be easily removable and adjustable somehow. On the Mission site there are add-on pads for sale to create some adjustment but that’s pretty ad hoc and very impermanent. A stiffer build would be good too but I guess weight has to be considered. I’d love to paddle a composite Bezhig if it existed.
    I agree on the Mirage, too. I’ve never been a huge fan but they are a superb expedition craft and have amazing build quality so I have plenty of respect for them. I paddle with loads of Mirage owners and they are quite energetic in defense of their boats. The rudder is a big limitation in the surf. My Mirage friends never take them near rocks so I really regard them as point-to-point transport. The Bezhig is too but I’ve ridden over all sorts of rocks and oysters. I think I might take the Bezhig out for a spin this weekend, now.

     
  8. RogerW

    May 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I’ve own several plastic kayaks and have had my Bezhig for about 6 years now. Overall I am very happy with it. Cockpit volume is large but my magnetically switched bilge pump empties it quickly. Rudder pedal are fine.
    Seat is still in good condition (although faded). I’ve not had a problem with the seat back angle but (like most seats) after 5 hours or so the seat itself is a bit uncomfortable. For long trips this is solved with the ‘Sweetcheeks’ seat insert…Ahhh.. The huge advantage of the foam seat doubling as a bulkhead is that the day hatch volume is huge and the space behind the seat isnt wasted like it is on most boats.
    It paddling speed and manouverability is good and it sails well with both a Pacific Action and Tasman-style sail.
    But it come into its own on long expeditions… It easilty swallows 2 weeks of food and equipment with its 205L of storage, and still travels very well (maybe better than when empty). We have done things that people wouldn’t consider with a Mirage… fully-laden rock landings, cave/rock garden exporing, dragging boat right into camp etc
    Problems: I agree that the plastic ‘dashboard’ is fairly silly but has held together OK so far and has its uses. I’ve had to recently replace the neoprene inner hatch covers when they started taking on water due to splitting of the inner rubber layer. The rear seals around the guide tubes for the rudder lifting control lines have given way and need reatachment and sealing.
    Overall a very good expedition kayak.

     

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