Submitted: 07-24-2009 by red_pepper
When I purchased my WSBS Thunderbolt used from a fellow racer, it came equipped with the tiller bar system that I believe is standard on these boats, along with an ineffective over-stern rudder. In another review, I discuss changing my rudder to the Onno P-41, but along with the change in rudder I swapped out the tiller bar system for Pat's carbon foot-bar/rudder pedal system.
I've paddled several boats with tiller-bar steering systems, and I've always thought they leave a lot to be desired. Most racing boats are narrow, and with my wide feet I don't have much room to maneuver a tiller bar - especially when the weather turns cold and I start wearing my river boots. I also don't care for the need to move my feet when I'm pushing hard in a race. I am used to gas-pedal systems in my sea kayaks, and it feels far more natural to me in my racing boat as well.
Pat's pedal system is well engineered, beautifully made, and very solid, with something of a custom touch. The rails on the Thunderbolt taper in as they go forward on the inside of the hull, so Pat asked me to provide hole-to-hole measurements at my foot bar location to provide him with hole drilling locations on his unit. The holes have a loose enough fit that the unit can move a few holes forward or backward to get the distance set correctly.
The Onno rudder pedal/foot board system drops in place, but it's still a challenge to get it into the hull of the Thunderbolt. The T-bolt hull is small enough that the system takes up most of the room, so it takes a little creativity to get to the bolts and wing nuts used to install the system onto the rails (the holes are on the cross bar, behind the foot board). It's not a system I would move around if it's not necessary, but I was pleased that it matched up well with the stock hardware. The small foot area of the T-bolt presented me with one other small challenge - the pedals wanted to scrape the hull as they moved back and forth. A little filing on the edge of the pedals took care of that situation.
As it comes, the foot pedals on the system are held in place by the tension of the rudder cables, but they can flop towards the cockpit when your feet aren't against the pedals. To keep the pedals in position, I attached one end of a small bungee cord to the top of each pedal and attached the loose end of each cord to the forward most hole in each respective side rail. This worked quite well, keeping the pedals taught against the rudder cables to keep them in position. I joined my rudder cables to the cords supplied with the Onno rudder pedal system by means of cord ratchets, making pedal/rudder adjustments extremely easy, even on the fly.
After installing the Onno foot pedal unit (and P-41 rudder), my boat was a whole new animal. It became easy to guide with my toes while at the same time delivering maximum power to the foot board with my legs, allowing me to focus on performance instead of trying to tame the boat. I'm very pleased with the Onno system.