Submitted: 06-03-2002 by incanoe
Bought a Royalex Wildfire because of the rocky streams I paddle plus the durability, easy care and lower cost of the material. All in all the Wildfire lives up to its reputation. It is an extremely responsive boat, although its ability to sideslip is not as high as my Mohawk Challenger which has a flatter bottom. The Wildfire is easily heeled nearly to the gunwhales and feels stable doing so. It will catch eddies effortlessly and also surfs well. It will track fairly well w/ a good J-stroke. It has good speed for a Royalex boat and is perhaps a bit faster than my Royalex Wenonah Rendezvous which is almost two feet longer.
The hull is paddled best when kneeling which is where I have to state my only complaint. The seat position is too low and my feet (only size 10) feel trapped under the seat. The seat is also too high for sitting and the boat feels tippy in anything but flatwater. Unfortunately the seat hangers are made and mounted in such a way that raising the seat is a major project. The seat is hung on metal brackets whose horizontal mounting point bends to the outside of the hull. This makes it impossible to install shims to raise the seat. About the only way to adjust seat height is to drill out the rivets and either trim the brackets to shorten them, or reverse them and trim the seat rails to fit. Although the seat can ultimately be raised I feel it is an oversight by Bell to use this mounting design, which I believe is only used in the Royalex boats. Mine has vinyl trim, but the Royalex hull is also available w/ wood trim which might give a different seat mount.
Other than the seat issue it is a great boat and nice to look at. For twisty streams and up to Class II it is hard to beat. If you have lightweight gear you could do multi-week trips in it too.