07-07-2010Submitted by: charles pace
Reviews for Wildfire Canoe by Bell Canoe Works
Based On: 26 Reviews
- Rating: 10 of 10 Everything good said about this boat is true. It is efficient. You can paddle upstream below hydro plants. You can paddle it down the Middle Fork in Idaho. If you know and love paddling, the Wildlife will be among your favorites.
I bought mine used. Took out the seat. Put in two thwarts, 36" apart. Made a closed-cell foam pedestal the same length. Put in knee pads. Float bags. It rocks.
Whitewater is challenging. The long pedestal allows you to weight and unweight. The relatively short length allows you to practice self-rescue. And the boat is tough. I've destroyed a Sandpiper (but have a life long love affair with 'Rhonda'), and Mad River ... is junk (Sorry, they are fine for lakes etc. but don't stand up when you really punish them).
The Wildfire does it all ... or rather did it all. Whoever buys it at the garage sale tomorrow, they either love it or they will want something with "more" rake or "more" flare or "more" rocker. This one is for the minimalist.
12-14-2006Submitted by: birren
- Rating: 10 of 10 This is an addendum to my review below (dated 1-26-05). In the last two years my Royalex Wildfire has successfully navigated the Peshtigo and Wolf Rivers at Class III without dumping or even coming close, thanks to the greater secondary stability provided by the 2-inch longer thwarts. It doesn't spin like a "banana" type whitewater boat, but it's less work when used in pool-drop conditions.
I bought my friend's BlackGold Wildfire and it has replaced the Royalex model as my favorite solo boat. My wife liked it so much she put her Wenonah Sandpiper away and I was stuck using the Royalex boat. Eventually she bought a used one for herself, in the KevLight layup. She's an advanced beginner and absolutely loves the boat. So we have three Wildfires, and I won't be surprised if my wife gets a Royalex version! It's true - "Nothing moves you like a Bell."
07-18-2006Submitted by: boyscout
- Rating: 9 of 10 A Nice canoe thats fun and functional.being a primeraly sot paddler this is a interesting change for me.it is stable,fast and tracks good for me. which is no easy feat. the learning curve was pretty friendly. i even sold a mohawk solo 14 since I ended up just paddling the wildefire every canoe outing. the balence is good but does take some geting used to, much like from going from sitting to knelling full time. but well worth the time and money.
05-10-2006Submitted by: MWH
- Rating: 9 of 10 I added this review because it has been to long since I have seen a Bell. I owned a Wildfire in whitegold for 4 years and can say next to my Magic, it is the finest boat I have ever owned. Given the right lay up and paddler this boat can go anywere. I highly recommend this boat for solo paddlers of all levels who are looking for a great all around solo canoe. Talk less, paddle more.
04-25-2005Submitted by: Gary
- Rating: 10 of 10 I have paddled the Wildfire since its intro as Royalex. It has handled all river conditions from whitewater to narrow fast twisty Ozark streams. But my biggest surprise came last summer when I paddled it fully loaded for 70 miles at Voyageur National Park, it handled the open water very well!!
03-16-2005Submitted by: dsimons1948
- Rating: 10 of 10 I bought BlackGold Wildfire several years back and really love this boat. I find the boat is quick for a 14' boat, easy to turn, predictable stability and has reasonable tracking or at least is easy to keep on line, this boat responds to a paddle well. I have paddled this boat from small lakes to class II rivers.
I have had canoes from the shorter, rockered, whitewater canoes to the long, slender, straight keel line, performance-oriented hull canoes and find the Wildfire to be a very versatile canoe. The canoe’s secondary stability is probably most notable, it heels well and firms up nicely on edge. I kneel when paddling and the Wildfire seems to be designed for that.
Since I purchased the BG Wildfire I have purchased a Royalex version of the Wildfire, now called the Yellowstone Solo, and have also purchased a Yellowstone tandem. The two Royalex boats are now my river boats and the BG is just a pleasure to paddle and have used it in an attempt to learn Freestyle paddling.
01-26-2005Submitted by: Birren
- Rating: 9 of 10 I'd agree with most of what others have said about the Wildfire, though in my view it's pretty slow, doesn't track well, and the stability of the Royalex version is pretty questionable. My friend can do pirouettes in his graphite model with the gunwale at water level, but the Royalex construction doesn't have enough flare for that. It is (or rather, was) also a bit sluggish in tight places. By installing 2-inch longer thwarts I added flare to the sides and about 1/2-inch of rocker to both ends. The boat is now much more stable and predictable, and it's more responsive in small spaces and rapids without losing much of the original tracking ability. With skid plates and float bags it was the perfect boat for a solo trip down Wisconsin's Flambeau River with Class I-II+ rapids. I would give the stock construction a 6 or 7, but with these mods I'd give it a 9. About the only other thing I could ask for would be a flip-down rudder.
08-30-2004Submitted by: Jamie
- Rating: 10 of 10 I have Osprey's Royalex Wildfire reviewed below (he up-graded to a Northwind RX). All that he says is very true. Additionally, I live on a large lake and have run it in 3+ foot waves with a spray cover. Played with the waves, turned sideways loaded (200 lbs of me + 70 lbs of stuff) to feel the stability in a broach situation - really excellent, but watch it if the tops of the waves are being blown into a curl.
CII is not a problem, but watch CIII and large standing waves as the Cook designed Bell spray cover will pop loose (design problem) and dump the top of a 4 foot standing wave or haystack into the boat.
Loaded for two weeks in Canada the boat handles well in lake waves and CII rapids. Loaded in CIII requires experience and a very careful look-over. I usually line, carry, or portage (then run the rapids empty for fun).
Loaded for tripping adds to the initial stability and allows one to sit on the seat and stretch out the legs, empty it's a kneeling boat under most circumstances. It's about as fast loaded, 4 mph easily with a ZRE Bent shaft, as it is empty with a straight blade Mitchell (this is not a bent shaft boat when empty). Has good maners when pushed hard to 5.5 mph (not all solo's do this ie: my Swift Shearwater which is for sale) and handles wind better than most.
Reasonably fast, seaworthy, turns well straight-up or heeled over, handles a load to 300 lbs very well, well behaved and predictable in adverse conditions, and fun to paddle. The wildfire, like all canoes, is a compromise - but I feel it's the best one available to date.
05-26-2004Submitted by: ckimmerle
- Rating: 10 of 10 The Yellowstone Solo is the Royalex version of the Wildfire. Some design modifications were required to compensate for Royalex flexibility, hence the name changle. Mine, though, says Wildfire. In performace, it is very comperable to the Kevlar version. Initial speed and turnability are about the same, but the Kevlar has a bit of advantage in speed retention. I think it's a wonderful boat and a great price. $800 at Piragis.
04-30-2004Submitted by: ---
- Rating: 10 of 10 I was reviwing the boats here but could not find the Yellowstone Solo. Someone at Bell told me the Wildfire is now the Yellowstone Solo. Thought someone might like to know.
02-16-2004Submitted by: DaveO1
- Rating: 9 of 10 I have Royalex with wood rails. Several times I’ve done the Middle Yough and Upper Delaware Mongaup wave, both solid class II, and some other less whitewater-demanding rivers. I was able to surf, turn into eddies and generally have fun and keep up with the kayakers. I added D-rings, tug-eyes, inch-worm bolts under the gunwales, and used Wenonah floatation bags.
So what you say? Just this. It can handle class II with ease, maneuver in small streams, and handle lakes (just not with great efficiency I suspect). It is relatively tough Royalex and doesn’t oil can or flex much, although obviously it is less efficient, and less expensive, than composite. The hull is torn up from rock collisions, but no breaches into the foam, so who cares? It weighs in at 46 lbs, so carries are easy enough.
So if you can only have one solo boat, and you want it to do everything but hardcore whitewater, this is the boat.
08-14-2003Submitted by: osprey
- Rating: 10 of 10 I've had a royalex wildfire for about a year. It is my first true solo canoe. It seems just perfect for my primary use on small rocky streams. It has felt more and more stable the longer I've had it, but even early on it was comfortable for fishing out of. I have not tripped in it nor taken it accross windy open water yet, however, it handles well in the wind on small waters and I'd expect it to do well enough on lakes. A load does seem to take a little of the responsiveness out of it, relative to itself. Still, recently I had it loaded with about 60 lbs of river trash and my own 220 lbs. and it was a dream to paddle down a shallow rocky stream. I've even paddled it with my 7 year old daughter in it, using the rear thwart as a kneeling thwart and it was workable. I'm very satisified with the overall performance.
05-26-2003Submitted by: gnomon
- Rating: 10 of 10 I picked up a '97 model BlackGold Wildfire last february that was barely used, and when I finally got it wet I was amazed. I think it took about 5 or 6 paddle strokes and I was "home". Quick for a 14' boat, easy to turn, precictable stability and resonable tracking make this a package that is hard to resist. Did I forget to say beautiful? In my opinion, it's a bold move to clearcoat a canoe, not a chance of hiding anything under an opaque gelcoat and really highlighting the care that went into the construction process. That's reflected again in the furniture-grade ash and walnut woodwork- simply beautiful.
Bell Canoes have this wonderful "soft" feel, they just seem to slice effortlessly through the water, even in adverse conditions. I had mine on the Connecticut River in flood (44kcfs) with 25 mph south winds trying to blow me up the river and kicking up some nasty rollers- the boat was effortless. On flatwater, you can push the boat with pretty good success with a bentshaft, or do some freestyle, it's that versatile. Probably my last solo canoe.
I was so impressed with this boat that I just bought a BlackGold NorthStar for my wife and I to paddle.
04-21-2003Submitted by: Wildwater
- Rating: 10 of 10 LOVE. The best word to describe my feelings about this fine canoe. Mine is a fire-red whitegold version, with ash and walnut accents and two added carrying handles. The interior kevlar beatifully matches the fine woodwork, and the seat is stationary wood and cane. At my weight, the Wildfire likes to be paddled in a kneeling position. This is what I prefer, and the Bell gets a "10" for "control", especially on rivers. The previous owner removed the "Bell" and "Wildfire" decals for aesthetic reasons, and I am okay with this (adds to the beauty? and everybody knows it's a Bell, anyway). This is a PRETTY, PRETTY boat, both from inside the boat AND from outside. Now I'll tell you why it's a "10" when no boat does everything perfectly. Well, the Wildfire is a compromise, yes, but the best I've seen (haven't paddled a Swift Osprey, but I'd like to). Must know that I'm 5'10", 205 pounds, 44 years. Once in a while I straighten my legs out, and the Wildfire's okay with this if the river's fairly tame, so I do get to stretch once in a while. The seat height is perfect for my size. The cane seat needs a butt pad - I'm ordering one of those fine "gel-filled" ones - they work well. The Wildfire likes to turn, but does so with predictability - it does not "spin". In the wind, I use BIG sweep strokes and a slight lean to bring this "moving water" hull around. In no wind, it's one, two, three, switch for a nice glide, which I give a 7 or 8 on flatwater. Don't get me wrong, the Wildfire will fly on flatwater, but you'd have to ask the better paddlers on this page. Also, the Wildfire's tendency to "turn" gives it a wonderful "personality", so you can follow the shoreline wherever it meanders. BTW, I use a 48 1/2-inch "Meany" bent shaft, which has a LARGE concave blade (a perfect "10" paddle, but this is another review). In moving water, the Bell truly shines. Wow, it's true love.
02-04-2003Submitted by: billcanoes
- Rating: 8 of 10 Overall a very nice boat. It's very responsive, tracks well and is very stable and fast. ( Kneeling, you can lean very far without compromising stability) However, my only complaint is when sitting (and you want to do this on extended trips) it doesn't feel nearly as stable as when you are kneeling. Where as my Adirondack (tandem) is equally stable. Maybe my confort level will increase with a few more trips.
12-16-2002Submitted by: arkay
- Rating: 9 of 10 My wife and I each have a WildFire with Royalex hulls and vinyl trim. We use them primarily for day tripping in creeks and small rivers up to Class II+. The winding streams we paddle these boats in here in Appalachian Southeastern Ohio are often thin with gravel bars, stumps, beaver dams, deadfall, riffles, pools, small ledges and an occasional broken mill dam. We bought them this past summer specifically for exploring and messing around in these small streams and at this point we have spent about twenty days paddling them. I feel I know them well enough now to offer my two cents.
The Bell’s Royalex hulls seem tough enough to stand up to a fair amount of abuse. The reinforced vinyl gunwales are tough and durable, quiet and smooth. Unfortunately the vinyl decks that terminate these otherwise attractive and performance oriented canoes are thin and flimsy looking and do not have an integrated grab bar. Two of our four decks were fixed in place crocked by several degrees. Bell has two seat combinations available: ash frame with caning and metal drops (standard) or ash frame with webbing and wood drops. We bought one of each. As delivered the seats were uncomfortable and hard to get our feet under. They were built as essentially non-adjustable. We had to make adjustments and basically ended up replacing all the seating components. As to optional Bell equipment we have found “T” kneeling pads very comfortable and the nylon spray covers to be well made, easy to use and very functional.
As advertised the WildFire accelerates and responds to the paddle quickly, the differential rocker allows the canoe to swing its bow about quickly as needed, yet the decreased rocker in the stern allows for reasonable tracking. They won’t track straight on their own however so you’ll need some technique. They heel over well and firm up nicely on edge. They can be made to spin on a dime and side-slips are swift. A feature I’ve really come to appreciate in this model is its excellent response to back ferries; it seems to me that the less rockered stern catches currents very well. A curious characteristic of this hull design is that it “hits a wall” and becomes almost uncontrollable if paddled aggressively for straight ahead speed. At first I thought this was just my technique, but my wife has experienced the same thing and I have heard others say similar things about this canoe and the Bell FlashFire as well. Faced with this design imposed “speed limit” I would not characterize the WildFire as fast, but it really doesn’t feel sluggish unless it’s overloaded or you’re in the company of faster canoes. Sometimes in pools we cruise along with 10 degree bent shafts but more typically we enjoy moseying along with straight shaft paddles. This hull has a lively, playful feel to it when running empty and with a load up to about 200-220 lbs, at 250 lbs it isn’t quite as much fun and at 350 lbs it’s deep in the water, lethargic and well over its pleasurable weight limit.
I have paddled some other Royalex solos in this size range and am pleased with our decision to purchase the WildFires; performance-wise they fit our needs very nicely. In my humble opinion this would be an even nicer canoe if the seats were more comfortable and adjustable and if the decks were more useful and attractive.
Even with these relatively small reservations we are still very well pleased with the performance of the David Yost designed Bell WildFires for the conditions we paddle them in. They are in the end very maneuverable, enjoyable and playful little canoes for quick-water creeks and small rivers. In a word they are fun.
09-09-2002Submitted by: Dave
- Rating: 9 of 10 My Wildfire is Royalex with plastic trim. I live in Missouri where we have a wide variety of rivers,streams and lakes. I fish, hunt and trip this boat all over the state. This boat does everything it is supposed to and more. I have had other boats to try and fill the Wildfires shoes. This boat is my favorite. From my prespective the only down fall is the seat. I replaced the hanger bolts with 3 in. # 10s and made ash blocks of different thickness so the seat could adjusted up and down with wing nuts as needed. Kickin back fishin my favorite cove or on my knees on a II+ Ozark river, my Wildfire is a trusted friend.
07-31-2002Submitted by: ---
- Rating: 9 of 10 I bought my Royalex Wildfire at end-of-season last year and was only able to get it wet a couple of times... not enough to merit a review. This June, however, I took it to Ontario for a week and came back very pleased.
The 1st day I paddled 4 miles into a headwind generating 3' whitecaps: no problem. The boat is extremely seaworthy and stayed dry. I next experienced a 20 mile lake crossing with a tailwind generating 4' rollers. Although care needed to be taken in these conditions, the boat handled beautifully. I was loaded with gear for a week out and yet had plenty of room. The Wildfire handled class II rapids with grace and spunk.
Although is does not carve turns like a WW playboat, the Wildfire ferries well and is quite responsive. My old tandem boat is losing its appeal--I am very pleased with this canoe.
06-03-2002Submitted by: incanoe
- Rating: 8 of 10 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.
09-05-2001Submitted by: ---
- Rating: 9 of 10 Blackgold layup looks great, changes colour in the sun. I'm a big guy 250lb. so take these comments with that in mind. Pros: paddles well,light weight, responsive to leans and weight transfers,ie forward/back. I can hit an eddy that I would pass up in a larger boat tandem boat paddled solo. Side slips well as well as responds to hard prys. Cons: BG finish show scrapes and dings (I think it show character but..be aware) In short choppy standing waves such as one finds on gradient type rivers, ships water over bow. My buddy who is significantly lighter didn't have that problem. I have to pick a good line to stay dry. If you're buying the cantilever yoke make sure it fits tight. You shouldn't have to fine tune an accessory with tape or webbing to get it to fit and stay in place when you're flipping the canoe. It should fit the first time. All together it's a great boat!! Fun to paddle!
10-15-2000Submitted by: Tom
- Rating: 8 of 10 I had one but traded it. I respect the boat for it's versatility - fine for rivers, lakes, day trips, or longer trips. The acceleration is fantastic; the boat feels very light and easy to paddle. I like to paddle hard for exercise and I do not like the way the Bell Fire boats (Flashfire, Wildfire) slow down between strokes (they seem to decelerate as well as they accelerate)... the boat does not carry it's glide as well as a Swift Osprey for example (Wildfire symmetric, Osprey assymetric). My Wildfire cruised much more easily with a bent shaft carbon paddle; with more strokes pere minute it doesn't have time to slow down between strokes. The boat is wonderful in that the weight is light so it's easy to carry (boat on shoulder, gear in other hand - just one trip) and all the lay-ups are light and strong.In my opinion the Wildfire lacks character...as one magazine review said - it steers like a beachball - meaning it responds exactly to your paddle inputs, but if you stop paddling it, it will just spin in circles (does not "carve" turns like more graceful boats). For freestyle the Wildfire's capabilities are a "10" (it can turn like crazy). My opinion is that it's too "twitchy" when heeled over to the rail...it won't spit you out but it's just not as "comfortable" and rock steady as some boats.Also - it's not quite big enough for napping and it's a bit small for taking the dog. :)
Overall, if you try it and like it you can't go wrong with it. (but my Osprey does everything better in my opinion, and I know a few other Wildfire owners that have fallen for the Osprey). If you don't need the full river capability of this boat and you want something that cruises (much) better, try a Bell Merlin II....better for everything but whitewater in my opinion. I tried a prototype of the new Royalex version. My opinion was that it lost significant cruising speed versus the other lay-ups.
09-14-2000Submitted by: Kevin
- Rating: 9 of 10 This is kind of an average paddlers prospective. I have had this boat for a few months and paddled it a lot this summer. I used it mainly as a diving platform when attempting some high kneeling maneuvers. It is a very responsive boat. I use it when I just want to play around or when I will be taking a slow leisurly day trip. I have a hard time keeping up with some tandem canoes when in the Wildfire. It is very stiff when heeled over on its side, good secondary stability. I want to try the ABS version someday.
08-27-2000Submitted by: DaveT
- Rating: 10 of 10 Just received an ABS prototype Wildfire from Bell a week ago. It is a superb canoe! They kept most of the speed and quick handling that the composite Wildfire has. Being a bit heavier (although it is still light for an ABS boat!) than the composite counterpart, it is a little slower on the acceleration. It handles class I & II's with ease. Ted said that it should handle III's just as well. It is designed for a week's worth of gear on a II-III river. I think the guys at Bell Canoe Works hit a home run with this canoe!
04-30-2000Submitted by: ---
- Rating: 10 of 10 I've had my Wildfire for a year, and I love it. It's very responsive and agile, yet it shows a remarkable ability to track well when I don't get sloppy with my strokes. Bell craftsmanship is unsurpassed. No problem with a week's worth of gear, although admittedly I pack lighter than most. Great boat!
04-27-2000Submitted by: Jon_L
- Rating: 9 of 10 I love my Wildfire too. If I am not mistaken, mine is TF's old one (is that you?), which I bought (carefully) used last Fall. A classy ride!
04-23-2000Submitted by: TF
- Rating: 10 of 10 The Bell Wildfire is a fantastic solo canoe for freestyle paddling, daytrips or week long camping trips. I have had three Wildfires (upgraded each time) and their constuction, design and performance are unsurpassed. I have been on week long camping trips with gear and found that it handles waves and weather extremely well. It is also once of the best freeestyle boats available being very responsive. I own many other canoes, but if I could only own one canoe, it would be the Wildfire.
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