Sit On Top kayaks have encouraged many thousands of new paddlers to take to the water over the last few years. Its a cheap, healthy, fun, activity and relativly safe compaired to sit in Kayaks when used with a little common sense. There are many brands and models of Kayak available. This review deals with a specific model but visit the Storm-riders website for a full guide and technical specifications of the two current most popular brands in the UK, Ocean Kayak, and Bic Sports Kayaks' best selling models.
The Bic Sport sit on top kayak range is one of the most popular choices of brand for recreational paddling in Europe. BIC has a small but well designed range of Kayaks available to suit a variety of purposes.
This guide deals with Bilbao model which is the most stable single person [plus one small passenger extra if required]recreational kayak in the Bic range and geared towards family fun on flat water. I'll make specific comparisons in this review with Ocean Kayak and other Bic models to illustrate points. Ocean Kayak are the worlds most popular range of sit on's, and for good reason. The OK range has more models than any other we know and are well designed and constructed.
I've regulary used this model for day trips on flat water, as a fishing platform and for beach play with my children. Its a firm favorite with users not looking for too much adrenalin in their paddling but who want a very stable and comfortable kayak. It's perfectly suited to relaxing paddling but can be used to a degree in very small broken waves and whitewater. Its not designed for carving on surf. If thats something your'e likely to do a lot of, then the Ocean Kayak Yak or the Bic Ouassou would be more appropriate and slightly cheaper.
Its been great fun on rivers and its performed well on longer inshore costal water and lake trips. Its very stable on flat water and gives a very secure feeling to the user. It is however a bit limited on surf as its almost too stable and doesnt turn very quickly.
Its direct Ocean kayak competitor is the Frenzy or Prowler. These are also very capable boats but the cockpit of the Bic definately feels roomier and better suited to a bigger paddler or to carrying an extra passenger. I would say that if you are likely to travel really big distances on your kayak then the OK Prowler or the Bic Scappa would be far better options as the both glide far better than the Bilbao, but they are more expensive and more awkward to handle when out of the water. The OK Frenzy looses out a little to the Bilbao in terms of stability, which isnt nessecerally a bad thing. If your looking for a bit more excitement the Frenzy should provide it. The Bilbao wins hands down in terms of storage potential, and due to the fact it provides a comfortable front seat for a smaller passenger. Another thing to consider is that kayaks larger than this can become difficult for most people to get on their cars roofrack which could be wise to bare in mind when choosing a model of kayak suitable for you.
One of the definate advantages of all the bic models in comparison to other ranges is that they can give the user a much dryer ride in flat water. The sidewalls of all the Bic models are taller than most other brands of sit on top kayaks models and when using bungs in the drainholes in calm water you will feel dryer. You also feel a bit less exposed which seems to give less experienced paddlers a little more confidence.
Bic produce a fishing specific version of this boat equiped with rod holders, net holders, dry storage hatches, etc which offers a superbly stable platform for inshore / river/ lake fishing trips. Its a great little fishing boat and a good seller in our shop.
The Bilbao is one of the easiest of the full sized single person kayaks to use and is very easy to move around on land as its equipped with a rear wheel housed in its rear skid plate. This whole wheel/skidplate is replaceable and will definately save wear and tear to this most vulnerable, rear bottom section of the boat and prolong the life of the boat. A new skidpleate cost nothing compaired to a new boat!
It's stable enough to accomodate a very large adult plus smaller front passenger with a combined weight of up to 120Kg which is adequate for most people. I would say that I've perched a much larger passenger at the front occassionally for fun but the boats become nose heavy and dont paddle easily, allthough they wont sink.
The rider position in the cockpit is set up to allow comfortable paddling for most adults and teenagers. The width of the seat makes it comfortable for wider hips of bigger blokes and women. For woman specific use, the Ocean Kayak Venus is a better choice due to the seating position and lower weight and volume, but it is quite a lot more money and the rest of the family wont be able to use it comfortably. The footrests on the Bilbao allow a comfortable knee position for all but small children who's feet dont generally reach the footrests. I've personally found this far more comfortable to paddle than the Ocean Kayak Frenzy which is OK's equivalent model which is a bit narrow for my 14.5 stone frame. The use of kneestraps make it much more controlable as conditions get tough. That recommedation applies to any sit on kayak.
One great thing about the Bic Kayaks is that they dont have the hidden extra cost of the backrest to make them useable. Most brands require a backrest to be fitted to allow a basic level of comfort. That will drive up your cost by about £25 to £60 depending on your model of backrest chosen. The Bilbao offers acceptable comfort even without a backrest due to the shape of the deck behind the seating position. However, for extended use we'd still recommend one being fitted for ultimate comfort.
In summary, we've found the Bic Bilbao to be an excellent kayak for stable, flatter water family activities and fishing. Its relatively inexpensive and would be a great investment for anyone looking for a relaxing watercraft. It doesnt really surf well, but that not what this boats about. It should give you loads of chilled out paddling adventures and will let you get to places most people will never get to experience.
Drink holder. Ergonomic seating position with EVA foam cushioning. Integrated foot rests Replaceable bow and stern protectors Self-draining scuppers (2) Rubber cushioned carry handles. Accessory stowing net Mooring straps Safety grab lines Optional Extras: paddle, back rest, water bottle.
Length : 9'10'' - 300.0 cm Width : 31'' - 78.0 cm Weigth : 21.0 kgs - 21.0 kgs Max. Load : 264 lbs - 120 kgs Material : Thermoformed polyethylene Suitable Conditions for use : All Flat Water and up to Class II Whitewater [Bic's Recommendations - not mine]
I hope this brief summary of my personal experiences with these kayaks has been helpfull. If I can help with any other information fell free to get in touch through ebay and I'd be happy to try to help.
If you are Mr Bic or Mr Ocean Kayak and you feel I've been unjust or turned away your potential buyer please bare in mind these are my own personal thoughts and not the views of Stormriders.