Smarttrack combines fixed foot pegs with movable rudder pedals. Allows you use a rudder without giving up rigid foot braces, essential for solid bracing in a performance kayak. May require optional tubing kit.
I installed the SmartTrack Rudder Kit on my Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140. In addition to the Rudder Kit, I needed the Tubing Kit and I opted for the Vertical Adjustment Kit. My boat was rudderless, but came prepped for a rudder with screws in the stern to attach the rudder mount and "frog eyes" molded into the deck that just needed holes drilled for the rudder control cables. The installation was very straight-forward. I spent about six hours over three evenings on it. A good part of that time was spent admiring my handiwork. The next one I install (on my wife's boat) will take about two hours. The kit is almost complete as delivered. I bought a tube of Permatex thread-locker for the rudder mount bolts. The Tsunami does not use lock nuts on these bolts, so I wanted to be sure the bolts would not work themselves loose. I also bought a tube of marine sealant. I squeezed a bit on the rear bulkhead where the control cables pass through, and put a dab on the "frog eyes" as well. One tip not stated in the instructions: Use a butane lighter to melt the end of the control cable tubing where it exits the stern at the "frog eyes." With a bit of flame, the tubing will melt and form a rounded end with a "flange" that prevents the tubing from being pulled into the boat. Another tip: Don't cut all the excess control cable off at the rudder and don't melt the heat-shrink tubing until you've completed a test-paddle. I needed to fine-tune the position of the control pedals for comfort after an initial short paddle. Once adjusted for comfort and correct operation, you can cut the excess cable. The vertical adjustment kit is optional unless the bolt spacing for the foot pegs on your boat is not 14.5 inches (which it is on the Tsunami). I'm a smaller than average guy with size 8 feet. The vertical adjustment kit allowed me to mount the pegs lower for more comfortable operation of the control pedals. If you are not sure that you need it, you can easily add it later. I had one question about the installation that Peter at ACK answered immediately. His advice before and after my purchase was spot-on. I was anxious to see how the rudder worked in a real sea-trial, so, with a forecast of 70 degree temps in January, I headed from my home in Alexandria, Va to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. I paddled for two beautiful days in the tidal creeks and in the open water of Tangier Sound with winds up to 20 knots and seas of 2-3 feet. The boat tracked beautifully with wind from any direction. Pre-rudder, I would have needed continuous carving and sweep strokes to maintain a heading with strong quartering winds from the rear. The SmartTrack allowed me to maintain my heading with normal forward strokes. This was much less tiring and much more enjoyable. Unlike most rudders that stow flat on the deck, the SmartTrack stows in a vertical position. This is part of what makes the SmartTrack a more efficient design than other rudders. However, this design also leaves the rudder vulnerable to rear impact. You need to remember that the rudder is hanging out there if you're floating backwards into a piling or some rocks. The SmartTrack is an elegantly engineered design. All components are top quality and are obviously built to last. Installation is a piece of cake with a few hand tools and a drill. After using the SmartTrack for a few weeks, I can't think of any way it could be improved. Inclusion of small tubes of thread-locker and sealant would be a nice touch to make the kit 100% complete. I give the SmartTrack two thumbs up. Gary Jean Alexandria, Va January 2008
The rudder kit arrived as pictured, but they don't include a cable housing that is critical for the proper installation of the rudder and control system. It cost me another week of waiting for my boat to worked on and another $20.00 in parts. Smart track is a great system and I don't mind paying the money, but why not tell me up front?
I purchased the SmartTrack rudder system for my 2001 Necky Looksha 3. The Necky already has a rudder system, but the original nylon adjustments on the footpegs have a lot of give and does not allow for optimal paddling. With exception of the footpegs, installation was pretty simple, hardest part was adjusting the tension just right and patching holes from the prior rudder rest and rudder clam cleat. The SmartTrack rudder line clam cleat is much smaller than most other clam cleats out there, and the thinner line would not work in the original. Footpegs on the older Necky's do not use the standard 13.5" hole spacing. Correspondence with SmartTrack suggested purchasing their vertical adjustment kit and drilling new holes in the plate. However, their response was a form response and I could not find actual dimensions of the vertical adjustment kit to indicate that it would accommodate the close to 18" spacing of the Necky holes, and drilling new holes in my hull was not an option. I ended up purchasing a 1/4" high density plastic sheet from Amazon and with a drill, tap and die set, router, sandpaper, and table saw was able to fabricate my own mounting bracket. Not an easy task and required a high level of precision, an entire evening, and long arms, but has worked very well. First time in the water I liked this rudder better for straight travel, but was not impressed with turning or the smoothness of the mechanism. It took much more force than necessary to turn, and the Looksha lost its ability to turn on a dime. However, the solid bracing was a drastic improvement. Before my second paddle I lubricated the pivots and lines and found it worked significantly better - able to more easily get the full turning angle with reasonable force. Still not as sharp of turning as the original Necky rudder, but pretty close, and feels like less overall drag due to the reduced rudder slop on the straights. I do notice slightly decreased stability from the reduced surface area of the rudder, hard to know if it's from me working on my paddle rotation or the smaller rudder. One note: I bought the tubing kit and did not use it. The cables fit the existing cable routing through the kayak seam and appeared to be the same diameter cabling as standard rudder kits (I think it's a 0.125 diameter stainless line). Is it an improvement? Yes. ACK was great - always are. Took off a product star as SmartTrack's customer service was not very helpful, and I can't understand why they didn't answer my questions about the improved and specialized SmartTrack rudder housings only available on Stellar's website. Think they should also have a Necky retrofit kit (or at least a template for download), and be better prepared to answer installation questions. How hard would it really be to make an installation YouTube video for a company that specializes in retrofits? Great product, just needs better support.
Product is awesome. Did not realize how much of a difference it would make. Awesome. Get it. You will be happy that you did. Really.