Friday, May 29, 2009

DR Madboy; Review

As one of the Southeast DR guys I have wanted to get my hands on a MadBoy for a while. A few weeks ago Scott was nice enough to bring mine down to me. I weigh roughly 180 lbs., I’m 5'10", have 30" inseam, and a US size 9.5 shoes. For the last year I have been paddling the Critical Mass as my primary creek boat and playing around in the Gangster on easier lower volume runs.

What I loved about the CM was the speed and stability that it has conveys an amazing feeling of safety. What I didn't like was the cumbersomeness and slow edge-to-edge transfer that was very apparent to me in the class II to III realm. What I liked about the Gangster was the speed it carried for it's size and the playfulness of it, can you say freewheels off of Blackwater falls. On the other hand when the gradient stepped up and the volume increased it always felt a little small for me.

My first impression of the boat was,
"holy shit, Corran actually put in outfitting!”
Ok that wasn't what I really thought. However I was drawn to the change in outfitting.

There was a simple to use ratcheting back band that easily folds down for stern access, adjustable thigh braces, Velcro hip pads, adjustable bulkhead, as well as a nice plastic center pillar up front.

The overall boat design has a forward sitting cockpit with initial bow rocker transitioning into a longer stern, which carries the progressive rocker nicely.

The MadBoy looked and even measured a few inches narrower then the CM, Nomad 8.5, and a Jefe Grande. I liked that DR has kept with the racing stripe theme as well as the molded in graphics. It has a simple planing hull with edges that start about your knees and follow to the stern.

Of all the Corran boats I have paddled over the years this one was by far the easiest to outfit to my liking. The thigh braces are adjustable by loosening an Allen bolt (Allen key included) and sliding for or aft per personal preference. They are already padded out with 1/2" neoprened foam, all I added was some triangular knee blocks to help lock my legs in from underneath.

The bulkhead is set up to easily move forward and backward as well as expand or contract depending on how far forward one needs it to be. I cut out a 5" thick piece of foam for my bulkhead padding.

The seat has padding riveted with plastic rivets to the seat pan. I have found it comfortable as is but it would also be very easy to add a small cushion underneath the factory seat pad. The outfitting also came with hip pads that easily Velcro into place and then have one strap that adds to their security. I wish the hip pads could be opened up to either add thickness of remove some padding.

Other then the factory outfitting I added two small thigh risers on the front of my seat, a thin strip of foam on the back of the seat pan (to help with a more aggressive body position), added small shims that sit between the seat and the sidewall, and added some padding for shouldering my boat.

As far as attachment points inside the kayak, I easily added a throw rope holder in the molded in slot in front of the seat, as well as added a loop of rope to the back of the seat to attach drybags or hand paddles. Both modifications took less then two minutes.

Behind the seat I drilled two holes and ran a loop of 3/8" cordelette though the holes and have an easy place to clip things behind the seat. On a regular basis I have a filled Watershed Ocoee duffel, hand paddles, and a water bottle. There is a spot molded into the back of the seat the will hold a small Nalgene water bottle. I have been thinking of adding a webbing strap to the nice plastic bow pillar as a place to hold a larger water bottle. For the throw rope, there is a molded in tray already in the seat. I drilled four small holes and ran an old piece of bungee through them.

So far I have put the boat through some good use. I started out on the Cheoah which has a great class IV bigger water feel to it (pushy, lots of holes and waves), then put it through about half a dozen Green runs which is your standard class IV-V SE creeking, then she got the real test and got a couple of Raven's Fork and Toxaway runs big manky class V+ with huge slides (you know LVM type stuff).

First impression after day one was a good one. I could feel the speed immediatly one, two stroke ferries were easy and felt stable crossing the current. I felt like I could tuck the bow into curlers and scoot straight through, as well as catching diagonals high and using them to cross current or line up for the next move. Wasn't too sure about how it would boof, as there was not much that I felt big enough to boof as the MadBoy was going through everything. The one thing that I Questioned after that first run was the top edge on the stern, initially I thought it might be a little low. I was feeling it getting grabbed occasionally or hanging up on an eddy line. With more runs in it now, I have positioned my body more forward and have rarely thought about it since.

Being on the Green for the first time with the MadBoy was great. Hey it's my home river now and well it's fun playing with a new toy on your home river where you know all the lines (or at least think you do). First real test for boofing, tight turns, and tight slots. I have not noticed any instability due to the narrowness of the MadBoy; instead I have found it very nimble. Much more so then the CM. Edge to edge transfer is much easier and I really notice this in the class II-III shoaly sections. It gets hung up a lot less and sneaks through more slots. I could really feel the speed on a river I have run hundreds of times before in many kinds of boats. It almost felt like paddling my long boat but with the ease of today’s creekers when it came to turning or boofing. One thing I have noticed; where the CM is prone to turning out on you because of how easy it is to turn the stern edge on the Madboy I find is prone to grabbing eddy lines and carving you quickly into them. Not a problem but it’s quick when it happens. Oh yeah and I can still freewheel the Madboy and throw it around out there. It was a very fun boat for me on the Green.

Ok, now we got some rain down here and well things came up. So far I have run the Raven’s Fork and the Toxaway twice. I’ll admit I was a little nervous. It is definitely smaller and edgier then the super stable CM. All I can say is this boat gets it done. Despite the edges, narrow hull, and smaller size the Madboy felt incredible stable underneath me. On the huge slides on the Toxaway I never felt my edges getting grabbed or tripping up. In the steep tight sluices it was easy to stay straight and handled the gargantuan diagonals with easy and confidence. Yet at the same time maneuvering the much more technical rapids of the Raven’s turning the bow took a simple sweep or C-stroke which would allow me to carry my speed and make moves that need to be made.
As well as paddling the Madboy is a decent hiker as well. It is about the same weight as the CM, added weight probably from the new seat/thigh brace combo as well as the nice plastic center pillar. A little padding on the cockpit rim works well for shorter hikes. For the longer hikes I have used and NRS backpack system with good success. I found it best with the bow down to help control the weight of the bulkhead better. I always got a little bit of calf smacking with it but not enough to prevent light jogging on downhills.

Overall I was more impressed with the Madboy then I had expected. I was expecting a fun boat that would be fast yet still handle the Green with ease. I didn’t expect a boat that would feel so stable and not out of its realm on the V+ yet still being a very fun boat to play around with on the easier stuff.

final photo "landbridge" shot by Chris Gragtmans

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