Miragedrive GT KU Vs MD180 KU

Hobie Kick-Up MirageDrives 2021

Hobie’s revolutionary MirageDrive pedal propulsion system has come a long way since they were first introduced to the world with the Hobie Mirage Kayak series. Virtually every component (save for the pedal straps) have undergone numerous revisions over the years, more so that official version numbers would have you believe. Right now Hobie offer 3 different MirageDrives, though the illustrious MD360 model is dedicated to the Pro Angler 360 kayaks and as such not relevant to the discussion here. This leaves the MirageDrive 180 Kick UP (MD180 KU) and Glide Tech Kick Up (GT KU) options, and they are well worth comparing.

All Hobie kayaks are supplied with a specific type and configuration of Kick Up style MirageDrive – the Passport series is supplied with the GT KU drives as a standard and Rotomolded models come with MD180 KU drives (the Compass Duo comes with one of each). SLH offer customers the option to change the drive type and we do this for two reasons: cost and suitability for the usage scenario.

GT KU drives are significantly less expensive, so for those customers who can’t quite afford the asking price of a new kayak with an MD180 drive the GT KU is a great option. There are also those among us that aren’t terribly fussed about the ability to pedal backwards so the GT KU is a perfect fit. On the flipside, we have plenty of Passport customers that like the idea of buying it with an MD180 KU drive in order to have the ability to pedal in reverse at the pull of a cord, so we can accommodate that as well. Having options is good, although it kind of forces you to make a decision.

So which drive should you get? Let us answer a question with a question; would you buy an AR15 or an AK47? The former has more features and is a pleasure to use. The AK47 is built tough with less components and is as dependable as the rising sun. Those differences generally make it a pretty easy choice for the user. Its the same when it comes to Hobie pedal drives.

It boils down to what’s more important to you – features or simplicity. When it comes to features the primary advantage of the MD180 KU drive is the ability to pedal backwards on the fly. For some anglers – particularly those fishing in tight & skinny waters and or fishing tournaments where every cast & moment counts – this advantage can’t be understated. If you fall into this category it’s a no-brainer, the MD180 option will be better suited.

It’s worth pointing out that there is no performance left on the table when it comes to the GT KU drive and it’s also worth knowing that you can use it to pedal backwards providing you put it in backwards, which is actually pretty quick and easy to do (and, well, there’s always the paddle). So for some users (particularly those paddling in open waters) the inability to pedal in reverse isn’t really a huge loss.

We also like to point out that due to the fact that the GT KU drive is a simpler design with less moving parts it follows that there is less to potentially go wrong, it’s easier to service, maintain & keep performing optimally. On top of this, in the event that something does go wrong it’s likely to be easier and less expensive to fix.

Perhaps the biggest difference in the design of these two drives is hidden from the eye. Much like all previous MirageDrive versions, the GT KU drive has a solid stainless steel sprocket shaft that runs through both sprockets. This adds significant structural durability that the MD180 drives don’t have, due to the pivoting sprockets that facilitate the rotation of the MD180 fins. We have seen instances where an MD180 MirageDrive spine was damaged in circumstances (like being bashed into a rock at high speed) that the GT spine would have survived. That said it’s important for us to add that ever since the introduction of the Kick up fin system damage to MD180 spines has become pretty rare.

So in conclusion, despite being less expensive than the MD180 variant, the GT KU MirageDrive is a fantastic bit of kit that will serve you well. It will perform every bit as well as an MD180 drive and providing you’re not going to be relying on the ability to go backwards all that much (or at all) the cheapest option might just be the best one.

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