After having sold and serviced Hobie Mirage pedal kayaks for well over a decade, we've seen a few common issues that misinformed people can run into. It's for this reason that second hand buyers are most likely to encounter mountains that would otherwise barely even register as a molehill. In other words, yes – you're far more likely to run into issues if you buy a second Hobie and no, that doesn't necessarily mean there was anything wrong with it when you bought it. What it means is that unless you are aware of a few key points of information, there's a fair possibility you're going to learn a lesson or two the hard way. It would be remiss of us to not provide the information you need below, so without further ado, lets get this show on the road.
Miragedrive: Inspection & Chain tension, Hull insertion, Maintenence and servicing
Inspection & Chain tension
The topic of Hobie Miragedrives can get complicated if we go down the rabbit hole of comparing the various versions of it, but we're going to keep this simple with information that is for the most part relevant to almost all of them (the latest MD360 being the exception). Before you go ahead and use your newly acquired used Hobie, you should inspect the Miragedrive pedal system. Check for damage on the drums (look closely at the leg length adjustment holes), spine (look closely at the set screw that holds the sprocket shaft in place - this should be firmly in place but if its too tight it might crack the bottom of the spine) and most importantly, you need to inspect the chains and sprockets. Look out for rust on the cables and chains. If there is visible rust spray it with Inox or Hobie lube and then see if you can rub the rust away with some steel wool. If the rust has set deep into the cables you should look into replacing them – especially if you see any broken strands of cable wire.
Also pay attention to the chain tension. If the chains are too loose there's a good chance the sprockets will get damaged if they aren't already (look closely at the sprocket teeth). If required, adjust the chain tension by tightening the 1/4” nuts equally on each end. The chains don't have to be piano string tight, but you don't want too much free play there. You should be able to wiggle the front chain about 2-3mm and the rear chain 3-4mm, but not much more than that. Be careful not to over tighten the chains though and be especially mindful of the rear chain on MD180 drives.
There's really nothing terribly tricky about putting a Miragedrive into the Miradedrive well, although more recent models (2012 onwards) feature a alignment guide pin that helps to make sure that the Miragedrive is inserted correctly (alignment pins are inserted into molded grooves in the Miragewell). Earlier models do not include the alignment pin, so you have to take more care to make sure you insert the Miragedrive correctly. Once you know how it's easy, but if you get it wrong there is every chance you will irreparably damage the rear fin on the Miragedrive, not to mention put an end to your kayaking day.
Fortunately for you, we've written a guide on how to go about putting the drive in correctly, and Hobie themselves have provided a instructional video. Behold:
It is also critically important to make sure that the Miragedrive is locked into place correctly before pedalling out into yonder. With 2008 and earlier models this is done by locking the drive into place with cam lock knobs. Newer models feature the more robust Click & Go drum shaft locks, although there is one mistake that ill-informed beginners might make operating them.
The thing to be aware of is that the Click and Go should automatically lock the drive into the hull when you drop it into place. The mistake we see people make is that they insert the Miragedrive into the Click and Go locks, without realizing they lock automatically, and then shift the lock lever thinking they are locking it, when in fact they are now unlocking it. This is bad – not just because pedaling is going to feel weird, and not just because it could cause the spine to get inadvertently wedged into the Mirage well (more likely on some models than others), but more so because should you manage to tip the kayak, the drive will probably sink to the bottom.
So get familiar with how the Click and Go system works. Its really simple – and once you know about it you'll never make this mistake. If in doubt, just yank on the pedal cranks when you have inserted the drive to make sure it is firmly locked into place.
Maintenence and servicing
We've already written some more in-depth articles on general maintenance and servicing of V2 and GT Miragedrives. The basics of maintenance also apply to MD180 drives. Most importantly, you need to be aware that you should be rinsing the drive off after use in salt water with fresh water. Warm fresh water is best (it dissolves salt better). Chains and especially cables should be sprayed with a good lubricant from time to time (we use and recommend Inox, Inox+ and Hobie lubricant).
Hobie reinforce this information with this video, which offers useful info on using and maintaining GT and MD180 drives
As previously discussed, keep an eye on chain tension. Every time you are spraying the chains and cables with lubricant is the ideal time to quickly check the chains and idler cable. If they are loose, tighten them as previously described. If you find you are having to adjust chain tension frequently, you probably need to replace the 1/4” nylock nuts, as it is likely that the nylon locking gasket has worn down.
In our opinion, to fully service a V2 or Glide Tech Miragedrive, the drive needs to be disassembled, inspected, cleaned, re-greased and reassembled. We've covered that in detail with this video:
Rudder: Inspection, left / right lines, up / down lines, rudder pin
Most Hobie kayaks have Twist & Stow rudder systems and it's worth inspecting this closely before using your new second hand Hobie. Most importantly you want to check that the rudder up and down lines pull the rudder up and down smoothly, and that the steering handle turns the rudder blade left and right evenly. It's not a bad idea to inspect the rudder pin to make sure it looks OK (push it up from the bottom). If it doesn't look terribly worn slide it back into place. If it does, replace it with the spare that should be neatly tucked under the bottom side of the rear hatch. If there is no spare rudder pin there, get one.
Left / right rudder lines
Smooth rudder operation requires that the left / right rudder lines aren't slack and it's not uncommon for ageing twist and stow rudder systems to require re-calibration so that the boat turns left and right evenly. This involves adjusting the tension on the left and right rudder lines so that they are equally taught. Before you do this, however, first check to make sure the rudder lines tubes haven't come loose from the padeyes that hold them into place at the rear hatch (on most models). If the lines aren't secured by those padeyes, that might be partly responsible for slack lines. Put the rudder line tubes back into place behind the padeyes. On most models there will be 3 lines on one side, one on the other. If the lines have come free from the padeye, it will look like this:
If you want to make sure those rudder line tubes never become dislodged again, you can secure them to the padeye with cable ties, like so:
The best way to calibrate the rudder for even left and right turning is to make sure that the rudder is in the centre position while the rudder steering handle is in the centre of it's arch of movement when you tighten the rudder lines. We generally do this by having someone hold the steering handle in the center of its arc of movement while someone else tightens the rudder lines while keeping the rudder in the down centre position. Once the lines are tightened, test the left and right movement of the rudder. It should be turning left and right at roughly the same distance on each side, and the left / right lines are equally taught when the rudder is centred. Rudder lines don't need to be piano string tight, but you don't want them to be terribly loose.
Up / Down Twist and stow rudder lines
It's common for the up and down lines to lose some tension over time and this can usually be adjusted at either end of each line – at the rudder drum, or at the t-handle toggles that you use to pull the rudder up and down with. It is much easier to make adjustments at these t-handles.
The way to know if adjustments are required is to inspect the lines at the t-handle. If there is excess cord hanging out of the hole when these lines are relaxed it's not a bad idea to trim them up to take out the slack. To do this, remove the 'up' or 'down' label on the t-handle toggle (these might be self adhesive labels, or decals that click into place. Underneath the label you will find a stopper knot tied. Push this out of the t-handle and tie another stopper knot a few inches down the line (roughly the same length that the cord was hanging out) and then test the up and down operation again.
If the rudder locks up and down into place properly you can safely cut the line just above the new stopper knot, put the label back into place and you're done. If you have the old "self-adhesive" labels, they might not behave when you try to stick them back. If this is the case, you can replace the labels with the newer clip-in type, here:
Adjusting rudder lines on Pro Angler and Compass models is generally a simpler affair and these tend to need less attention in the way of maintenance.
Finally, there's one last thing we'd like to mention about Twist and Stow rudder systems, which is the requirement to cleat the rudder down when you deploy it. All too often we'll hear from someone who bought a used Hobie that is having problems steering it. This is almost always because no one told them the rudder has to be cleated down, otherwise the rudder blade will drift somewhat, which compromises steering.
On most models the rudder down line is cleated with a black clam cleat (located in the utility tray of an Outback, or on the starboard mesh pocket frame of most other models), but Island models use a cammatic cleat. So if you're having steering issues, make sure you're cleating the rudder down and in the case of the Island models, make sure it's cleated down firmly.
In the event that the up and down motion of the rudder is stiff there's a possibility the drum bolt has worked itself tight. This is more common on older models, and you'll find information on how to address stiff up and down rudder operation here
All about Hobie Hatches on second hand kayaks: Twist & Seal hatches, Front hatches, Gaskets, Trim lock, Bungee cords
Twist & Seal hatches
Before getting too adventurous in your new second hand Hobie, we highly recommend inspecting the hatches. Most Hobie kayaks come with Twist and Seal hatches, so lets start with those first. What you're looking for here is smooth operation when opening and especially closing. If you are having trouble closing them, it is most likely that the rubber hatch o-ring seals and hatch seal rim are dirty and gritty and the seal itself could be stretched (which would best be replaced). First try cleaning the seal and hatch rim to remove any gunk from obstructing operation, and then spray them with a silicon spray. We have more information on how to do this here
If the hatch is still difficult to close you probably need to replace the o-ring seal.
If the previous owner neglected the hatches but continued to use them in that state anyway, the hatches may now be warped, in which case the best solution is to replace them. Moral of the story is that you should keep the hatch seal and rim clean for smooth operation, performance and longevity.
Most Hobie kayaks have a flip up style bow hatch, and these are typically lined with a trim-loc gasket that helps to seal the hatch. These do wear out over time, especially the older models, which used trim loc with a glued-on gasket (newer types have a fully molded trim-loc gasket). Check to make sure the gasket isn't pulling away from the trim that clamps to the hull plastic. If it is, you should consider upgrading to the newer trim loc gaskets. We have per-model kits of trim-loc available here.
The bungee cords that are used to secure the hatches down do get stretched and worn over time. If that is the case, then it is prudent to trim these up so that there is enough tension to hold the hatch down firmly. To do this, unscrew one of the screw-in shock cord end on each bungee cord and you will find a stopper knot tied into the cord inside the shock cord end. Pull more bungee cord through, retie a stopper knot, cut off the excess bungee cord, reinstall the shock cord end and see if that does the trick.
If the boat is old enough and or has seen enough UV, the bungee cord might be too stretched and has lost it's memory. If so, it might be time to replace it entirely. Use 7mm bungee for best results.
If you're buying a second hand Hobie – particularly an older model with the older style molded scupper tubes, you really should inspect these before handing over any money. Make sure there are no cracks inside and around the edges of the scupper holes (which would typically suggest misuse of a cart). Breached scupper holes can be problematic to repair, so make sure you don't buy a kayak that requires it.
Newer models have reinforced scupper tubes, which are far less likely to have incurred damage through misuse. Its probably worth giving them a quick inspection to, but its very rare for them to ever have any issues.
Either way – and this is especially true of older models with older scuppers – you want to avoid the possibility of misusing the cart. The moral of the story is that you need to make sure the wheel cart posts are inserted all the way through the scupper holes before allowing the weight of the hull to bear down on the cart frame. If the wheel cart posts are only partially inserted and the weight of the hull is dropped onto the frame, the wheel cart posts might damage the scuppers. Particularly if the wheel cart posts are missing the end caps, in which case the posts will present a sharp edge that could cut into the plastic is misused. So if your wheel cart is missing the end caps, replace them.
Note: there are two types of end caps, and you really need one of each. You'll want an end cap with keeper pin on one side, and a standard end cap on the other. The keeper pin is used to lock the cart frame to the hull in instances when you want to pick up the hull without the wheels falling out. Its a handy little feature that many find very useful.
Alternatively, if you are having problems getting the cart back into the hull when you land the kayak – especially if you have a larger heavier model, and or are carrying lots of gear, our clever little Wheelcart Retrieval Kit might just get you out of trouble.
There's a few different seating systems that have surfaced for Hobie Mirage kayaks over the years. Up until 2015 every model save for Pro Anglers have used soft padded seats which plug into the hull. If you're buying an old model with one of these it's not a bad idea to inspect the holes the seat plugs into. Just check there are no visible cracks there.
Most 2015 models and onwards come supplied with Vantage CT seats. These are great seats that are fairly expensive and we make this point because if you don't lock the seat properly, you may very well lose it in the event of a capsize. We can't stress this enough: Vantage CT seats must be locked before heading out onto the water. The newer version of the Vantage CT seat lock uses a snap buckle at the back of the seat. Note the big red warning label stitched onto it - thats Hobie's way of trying to make sure you notice it is there and that it has to be used. The previous version wasn't quite so obvious, using an eyelet post and hook. While quite secure, it was easier for users to miss it and thus neglect it. If you have an older type you can upgrade to the new buckle system.