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I have a great time cruising small rivers (1s and IIs)with a small amount of gear. Still not fast, but I can ferry and hit any part of the river I like on short notice if I have less than 300lbs in it. Workmanship is mediocre, but the boat has taken a lot of abuse and is going strong. Takes some skill, but definitely more entertaining than my tandems.
On flatwater, it doesnít track as straight as some other boats, but itís designed to be a river-running boat, so you canít be too surprised at that. With a good C-stroke, it tracks more than well enough. With a light load (havenít tried a real load yet), a following or quartering wind will blow it around, but if you adjust your trim (upwind end heavier than the downwind end), itís not an issue. That can be accomplished either by moving some of the load to one end, or, with the IQ2 Gunnels, moving the seat fore or aft, as appropriate. Once you do this, wind ferries work quite nicely.
I donít think Mad River realizes it, but this is a nice boat for Freestyle Canoeing as well. FS is "the art and science of precision boat control," also referred to as "Canoe Dancing." Although this boat is a bit heavy for the purpose (being Royalex), I have amazed myself with how effective the maneuvers can be in this boat. I get 360-degree turns out of Wedges & Posts, and can even pull off 180-degree Axels & Christies, which have always been difficult for me.
So this isnít a beginner boat Ė it requires some skills & good technique. The unprepared might find the learning curve forcibly squeezed by trying to learn fundamentals in it. But with decent skills, itís a blast!
No matter how many times I've tried to make the S-curve at Ziemer's on the Red she hits the sides, hard. I just use a ww canoe for that stuff now. Open water in wind is a nightmare. But then, she's so high she can tack in high winds. I've learned to cope by carrying a double bladed paddle, or just using my c kayak. She is pretty heavy for short little folk, but I'm planning on checking out Yakima's new Showboat loader.
Since then I have learned to ride it and I absolutely love this boat. I have loaded it down with four days worth of camping gear and a German Shorthair Pointer and went down mild class two water and it still remains responsive and agile!
I have had it on class two and three water on the new river and it has done everything I have asked of it though if you're going to run class three water I would recommend flotation. For me this is an awesome boat and I would buy another one in a second!
The Freedom Solo also likes to carve turns and does so very readily. Good for clinging to a shoreline or exploring vegetation.
All in all a great utility canoe. I know a smaller woman who has one and she modified the setup so that she can also use it as a tandem with another small person. She told me, "It's all the canoe I'll ever need". Enough said.
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