Are Pedal Boats Hard To Use? (Can One Person Do It?)

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Going to a lake, a damn, or even some of the calmer oceans around the world can be one of the most enjoyable things you can do. Or so I hear.

I spent much of my youth standing on the shore of a lake (we couldn’t afford a boat) and was also a bit dissatisfied.

While I stood there I would watch people relaxing, fishing, and tanning in their little pedal boats. I figured that such things were beyond me.

Surprisingly, pedal boats are easy (cheap) to buy and even easier to use!

How Hard Are Pedal Boats To Use?

In general, pedal boats are not hard to use. Operating a pedal boat is similar to riding a stationary bike as you do not have to worry about balancing. The only challenging thing about pedal boats is the amount of effort you will be putting in to go around the lake, as there is no gear system for the pedaling.

To understand why a pedal boat is not hard to use, we need to look at how exactly you will be using one. There are several things about pedal boats that many assume and some things that many don’t ever wonder about; we will be taking a look at each one.

How Do You Use A Pedal Boat?

Before we take a look at everything that is misunderstood about pedal boats, we will need to look at how exactly you will use a pedal boat once you get to one. The steps to doing it are quite simple, and in person, it is quite easy to understand how they are used and controlled.

However, we understand that it can be a bit intimidating if you have never seen a pedal boat and you must get into one. Don’t worry though, pedal boats are quite safe.

We always recommend that people take things slow and assess the situation fully before simply jumping into the driver or passenger seats.

  • Get in: The trickiest thing to do on a pedal boat is getting in, preferably it should be tied down, or someone should hold onto the boat as you are getting on. Because the boat is floating, it can be unbalanced and bob up and down, so be careful not to move too slowly.
  • Position securely: Once you are in the pedal boat, we recommend getting comfortable, as you may be spending several hours in that position. If you are going to be pedaling, we suggest that you ensure your feet can comfortably reach the pedals at each position.
  • Both feet on the pedals: This is the thing that will stabilize you, and it will also be making power for the boat to be moving forwards. It is called a pedal boat because you need to pedal to provide power, which is why it is always better to have two people pedaling.
  • Only one person on steering: The biggest cause of a fight on any pedal boat is who is getting to steer, as there is only one handle in the middle. We recommend that the older person is steering as it can be tiring to constantly paddle and focus on where you are heading.
  • Make sure it is pointing straight: This is a mistake that many make on their first try pedaling; they don’t go straight when they start. Making the boat veer to random sides or even go backward instead of going deeper into the water.
  • Start pedaling: Once everyone is on the boat and the steering has been sorted, it is time to start pedaling. You don’t need to pedal as fast as you can, but providing a steady beat to pedal with will allow you to comfortably see the dam, lake, or ocean around you.

Can One Person Use A Pedal Boat (Alone)?

If you’re looking to rent a pedal boat to get away from everyone else flocking the shores of a lack, don’t worry, you can go it alone.

It will be a bit more work but most rental places will let you do it, albeit with a few caveats. Since pedal boats are generally designed for two people to pedal simultaneously, having one will make things less stable so the company will want to make sure you’re not a total noob.

Because pedal boats are quite safe, in general, however, you’ll be hard-pressed to mess anything up, even if you’re alone.

If you’re buying your own boat to take out by yourself it’s a big of a different story. Obviously, they’ll be no one to stop you but you’ll be faced with unloading/loading the boat yourself (remember, it’s heavier when wet) and it’s much more likely you get far away and run out of energy.

So, if you’re going to go alone…take this…it’ll help (it’s common sense).

A Few Other Things You Should Know

Why Are Pedal Boats So Slow?

One of the main reasons that pedal boating seems hard to people is that they expect to be going a lot faster than they are. This means they burn themselves out super fast as they use all the energy they can.

Unfortunately, pedal boats are super slow and there is a point of diminishing returns where more effort really won’t make you go much faster.

The main reason for this is the amount of drag they create but there is a bigger and even more obvious reason.

Simply, you are the motor. This means that when it is going slow, you are not pedaling fast enough. Further, the rotor used on pedal boats is less efficient than the rotors used on other boats instead of focusing on versatility.

Combined, these two factors mean that you will usually be unable to reach as high speeds as even the kayak that is probably passing you. With pedal boats also weighing a lot more, even if two fit people are pedaling as fast as possible, the speed will rarely be excessive.

It is always amazing to see two people pedaling their hearts out in a pedal boat, only for someone to leisurely pass them with a canoe or kayak. However, you should remember that the pedal boat is for sightseeing and ease of use, not the next waterlogged speed demon.

How Do You Drive A Pedal Boat?

All pedal boats have a handle of some sort in the middle, between the two seats with the pedals; this is directly attached to the rotor in the water. Turning the handle will turn the rotors, pushing you in the direction that the rotor is pointing at that moment.

Usually, turning the handle to the right makes the boat go to the left, and turning it to the left makes it go right. However, the handle can be turned around completely, making the pedal boat reverse in whichever direction the rotor is turning at that moment.

We always recommend getting accustomed to the steering before going too deep with the pedal boat, as it can make a difference in your overall experience.

How Fast Can Pedal Boats Go?

A pedal boat can go as fast as you and your friend can pedal, with a lot of energy lost in the chains and gear conversion process. This is why you and your friend may be pedaling with all your heart but barely be moving at all.

However, there is a way to drastically increase the speed of a pedal boat by simply starting slowly; this is why you often see younger pedal boaters overtaken by older people. If you paddle slowly but consistently, the amount of power lost to the rotor simply splashing is greatly reduced.

For the best paddle boating experience, slow and steady always wins the race, which helps build the boat’s momentum using the pedals only when you need to turn. We have seen many people that can make a massive splash while pedaling but are almost completely stationary.

Do You Get Wet On A Pedal Boat?

A question that has plagued many people over the years is whether you will get wet on a pedal boat; the answer depends heavily on the type of pedal boat you are using. Some older boats splash you with water from the rotor as you are using and turning it.

However, modern pedal boats have much better designs and will not allow you to be splashed as easily by the rotor. Many pedal boats are also completely covered now, protecting you from the sun and any water that may be splashed on you from other boaters.

We recommend that you are still careful, as most people usually fall off pedal boats their first few times when disembarking. Making the mistake of thinking that it will be easy and no hassle to get off the boat when in reality, this is the most dangerous moment of pedal boating.


Pedal boats are not hard to use, and once you have had some practice, it will be easier to do than riding a bike. Further, many people prefer to do pedal boats specifically because they are much more relaxing and allow you to easily enjoy a day on the water without becoming tired.

Whatever you do, please don’t try and race on pedal boats; you may be surprised just how far you can get away from the shore while spending all of your energy.

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