Wednesday, March 17, 2021

KCS KY-Pro Explore trolley: test and review, a first look.

 I first bought a Mk 1 KCS Expedition trolley in 2003 and it is still in use at my caravan on the Solway. I have since upgraded my main expedition trolley through various versions and currently use the KCS Expedition trolley Mk 5. I do not just use it for getting the kayak from the car to the beach but use it on expeditions to get on and off ferries, for long road portages such as West Loch Tarbert to East Loch Tarbert across the Kintyre peninsula and for rough off tarmac road tracks such as portaging round the falls of Shiel where the River Shiel pours into Loch Moidart at low tide, the Portage across the Tarbert of the Isle of Jura and the portage from salt water Loch Nevis over the hill into fresh water Loch Morar. So the new trolley has a lot to live up to. KCS can be contacted here.

Unlike the previous incremental changes this is a complete redesign but using similar materials.

The driver for the design was to create a more compact trolley when it is disassembled and in this it is spectacularly successful. 

The previous Mk5 trolley is in the red bag on the rear deck. Admittedly it is not fully disassembled, I just took the wheels off, but it is undoubtedly bulkier than the new model.

The new pads have thicker foam than previous models. A nice touch is the smaller pieces fit right at the top of round kayak hatches and the larger pieces fit at the top of oval hatches.

The parts all assemble without tools. The pads push into place using captive headed bolts which push into retaining slots on the crosspiece. The two axle supports then bolt onto the underside of the crosspiece and this secures the pads. The bolts are attached to the axle supports so you wont loose them and they also have large heads so you can use them with cold hands. The axle spacers are permanently attached to the axle supports. The axle is simply threaded through and the wheels secured with spring axle pins.

Like the previous Mk 5 trolley there is an integrated axle stand. I chose the 10" foam filled wheels and tyres. These do not fit in 10" round hatches. 

However, if you buy the 10" pneumatic tyre option and let a little air out you can "roll" them into the hatch by holding the wheel vertically and pushing one side down into the hatch. Alternatively you can buy 8" wheels but these arre not so good on rough ground.

At the moment I am landlocked due to Scottish Covid travel restrictions ,so I have been unable to test the KY-Pro Explore trolley in the field. So how does it compare with the previous Mk5 trolley? 

Well the good news is that the pads are just as wide and just as long as those of the Mk5 trolley, including the T support pad at the back. This is good news as the trolley should be able to handle rough bumps with a fully loaded kayak without twisting forward if the wheels hit an obstruction. (This was the reason for the extended T pad.)

However, if you are reversing a loaded kayak and it hits a bump, the Mk5 trolley could twist back. I overcame this by cutting a slot beneath the T piece and putting an extra strap through it and right round the kayak hull. Why is this important? When would you want to reverse a fully loaded kayak over a bump? Well an example is on the ferry to the Small Isles. 

The MV Loch Nevis serves the Small Isles. It is not a RORO ferry. There is only a stern door. If there are other vehicles on board and they are not getting off at your stop, you have to reverse your kayak off between them as there is no room to turn. There is a real bump at the ramp so stability when reversing is very important.

On the new KY-Pro Explore trolley I have drilled the rear of the two oval hull supports supports and tied loops of 3 mm cord through. This allows a strap to be threaded through the loops and and then wrapped round the hull to secure the rear of the trolley for reversing over bumps.

This extra strap round the hull, from the rear of the trolley (left in photo), resists the trolley body twisting round the axle, if the wheels hit a bump when reversing the a loaded kayak on the trolley. This extra strap also minimises the trolley twisting so that the axle is not at right angles to the direction of travel, if only one wheel hits an obstruction.

On swede-form kayaks, like P&H which have the wide point behind the seat, I do not bother with a third strap going forward from round the axle then forward on either side of the hull and fastening round the front of the cockpit rim. On fish-form kayaks, like the Valley Nordkapp LV, which has the wide point in front of the cockpit, I do use a third strap, to prevent the trolley slipping rearward on bumpy surfaces.

However, a KCS customer with a fish form kayak was troubled with the trolley slipping back and asked if it would be possible to hook the strap onto the cockpit rim with some sort of clip. So KCS came up with these really neat accessory "S" clips that hold the strap forward. These prevent the strap loosening off if a bump tries to force the trolley back. This makes the strap from the axle forward round the cockpit rim unnecessary.

The photo above is a P&H kayak with a swede form, so the strap would tighten if the trolley was forced back. These "S" clips are not necessary on this type of kayak but will prove invaluable on my Nordkapp LV, which has a pronounced fish form. The clips could be used with any brand of trolley carrying a fish form kayak.

Another improvement with the new trolley over the Mk5 is that the pads sit closer to the axle thus lowering the centre of gravity. This is important with a fully loaded boat on an adverse camber as it makes the trolley/kayak much more stable.

This promises to be KCS's best trolley yet. It is £135 compared to £125 for the Mk5, which is still available. I think the new Explore trolley's  main advantage over the Mk5 is more compact packing. It promises to be equally stable and robust. I just need to get it out for a proper test...until then here are some photos of previous KCS trolleys in action.

The portage across Jura.

The Falls of Shiel portage.

The Loch Nevis to Loch Morar portage.

West Loch Tarbert to Tarbert across the Kintyre peninsula. Frequent kerbs made this more challenging for a trolley than it looks.