Solo Advice - Bell Rockstar

Joined
Oct 15, 2015
Messages
92
Location
Central Wisconsin
TL;DR - I'm trying to decide if I should keep my Rockstar or attempt to trade it out for something smaller.

As I'm starting to gear up for the season, I'm having a hard time deciding what to do about my solo canoe. I picked up a Bell Rockstar in kevlight a few years ago knowing that it's a "big boy" solo, but wanting something that I could load both of my small kids into and day paddle as well as solo trip. Shortly after, some circumstances changed significantly and I haven't had a lot of chance to paddle it, much less trip in it. (I went from homeschooling my kids to teaching full time if you're curious, we've done plenty of paddling in other canoes with their mom.) Because of this I never got around to installing a footbrace or any of the other outfitting I've been meaning to do.

This year my daughter is old enough to paddle a tandem with my wife so it looks like I will be paddling solo on our family trips until my son is big enough for a second tandem. Before I go putting the $$ and effort into outfitting this boat, I'm wondering if I would be better off trying to trade it out for for a smaller solo. I'm 5'9" and currently weigh north of 180, but my pre-covid weight is closer to 160 and I'll get back there over the summer. The width doesn't bother me, but it has a good bit of extra shear which I think is noticeable in the wind. I do like the way it handles as long as I have at least 40-50lbs of additional weight in it with me. (but it's normal for a tripping solo to be a bit twitchy unloaded, right?)

Are these boats desirable enough that I could likely trade it out for a Merlin II or Magic in similar condition? Am I over thinking this? I really don't have enough experience in different canoes to judge how much I would benefit from a smaller boat, but this thing certainly beats the hell out of paddling a tandem backwards.
 
Joined
Dec 1, 2012
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404
Location
Altoona, Pennsylvania
I have a Rockstar in Black Gold layup and am 6’-1 x 220# before I put on my paddling clothes. I have most recently used it for a 2 week trip without a dog. I think over the long haul at your size and tripping weight a smaller boat would be more efficient, especially if you can only have one.

I've never paddled a magic but I have paddled a Merlin II. I was paddling it empty and loved it. It would be too small for a tripping canoe for me but perfect for your volume requirements. I don’t recall the exact specs of the Magic and Merlin II but would say they are more tailored to flat water river/lake travel.

I have Bells in black gold, kevlight, and RX. I love tripping in my Northstar kevlight with a dog. It’s held up well over 10+ years but I mostly use it on flat water trips. I paddle the rockstar in BG on class II rivers regularly and it’s definitely more substantial.

I would guess there are plenty of people who want to trade up to a big boy solo for the same reasons you are considering sizing down. As always, it’s good to try out boats before you commit.

good luck,
Barry
 
Joined
Oct 15, 2015
Messages
92
Location
Central Wisconsin
Waterdog Thanks for the reply, I'm thinking I'll have to at least attempt to swap it out for something smaller.

yellowcanoe I'm worried most about this, I'll start by looking for someone who wants to trade. It may be a long shot but I don't want to be left without a boat, especially in the current market.
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2017
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807
Your Rockstar is a desirable solo and you'd have no problem selling it.

I have both a Merlin II and a Magic. Both are considerably more narrow than a Rockstar so if you have any concerns about twitchiness you might be careful about going with a more narrow boat. It's true that both Merlin II and Magic are good in the wind due to their low sheer and lack of rocker (Merlin II and Magic are best on flat water like lakes and slow rivers while Rockstar is a more maneuverable boat with high capability on moving water).

Bell solos came with either short seat drops for kneeling like my Merlin II or long seat drops for a low sitting position like my Magic. I would not want to be sitting in my Merlin II on a super windy day...it is MUCH more stable kneeling.

You'd notice an improvement in cruising speed with a Merlin II or Magic but I wouldn't be too quick to swap out that Rockstar. If it has the high seating position you might try kneeling in it...or changing to the lower seating position and adding a foot brace if you prefer sitting. If you have the lower seating position you might want to install a foot brace before getting rid of the boat since it will add stability and let you apply more power.

If you decide you want to swap it I'd say shop for a used boat more suitable to your wishes and buy it if you find a decent deal knowing you'll be able to sell the Rockstar pretty easily in most parts of the U.S.
 
Joined
Oct 15, 2015
Messages
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Location
Central Wisconsin
gumpus I have a foot brace which I haven't gotten around to installing yet, so unless something else comes up quickly it will get one soon. I'm usually 50/50 between sitting and kneeling in a tandem. This particular boat I think has the worst of both worlds with seat drops that are higher than low, but not quite high enough for me to comfortably get my feet under the seat. If I keep it I'll play around with the seat height. I usually glue foam down for my knees, so that's another bit of outfitting I'm not keen to do if I'm not keeping it.

I'll only ever paddle this boat or whatever replaces it on flat water, so tracking/efficiency and not getting blown around too much in the wind are my main concerns.
 
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TL;DR - I'm trying to decide if I should keep my Rockstar or attempt to trade it out for something smaller.

Are these boats desirable enough that I could likely trade it out for a Merlin II or Magic in similar condition? Am I over thinking this? I really don't have enough experience in different canoes to judge how much I would benefit from a smaller boat, but this thing certainly beats the hell out of paddling a tandem backwards.

As Bell’s “big boy” solo I’d think the Rockstar is desirable, and from observation I’ve seen more Merlins and definitely more Magics than Rockstars.

I don’t remember the history of the Rockstar. Produced towards the end of Bell’s existence, with fewer made/sold?

A sale of the Rockstar would probably be easier than finding a trade partner, but I understand that might not be in the cash cards. A trade offer is worth a shot, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

If you keep the Rockstar, even as a short term solution, I agree that playing with the seat height, and adding a foot brace for paddling seated will help, although neither will do much for tracking or windage on flatwater. For my purposes I would not object to a used canoe that came with a properly installed foot brace, and if you make new drops at your desired depth including both sets with a sale would be value added.
 
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Oct 15, 2015
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Central Wisconsin
Mike McCrea The used market looks good for selling right now, my big concern would be an inability to find a suitable replacement once it was sold. I don't think my wife would tolerate me buying another solo before selling this one.
 
Joined
Feb 14, 2015
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Iowa
Jim Dodd I'm in Central Wisconsin. Which layup is your Wildfire and how old is it? It's smaller than boats I've been looking at, can you comfortably pack for a week+ trip?

It's an early one, glass lay up. It is in very good shape. Well cared for, with original trim. Blue in color.

Me ? It would be on the heavy side for tripping.
 
Joined
Jun 18, 2020
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Paddling lite solo a lot of freeboard can be a big problem. I reciently sold s liteweight solo for that reason. I'm a little heavier than you with a lite kit. i often paddle My 13' flashfire on trips. My big lake canoe is a colden nomad and even with it's low freeboard, it is noticibly more affected by the wind. low freeboard and short length is the least wind affected.
 
Joined
Aug 29, 2020
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I have paddled the Magic a lot and the Rock Star enough.

You should test paddle a Magic. It is super efficient for sit and switch with a bent paddle, and is relatively unaffected by windage. It takes some getting used to. It is long and low, and the lack of freeboard is a bit disconcerting at first. Tracks hard, so not great in current.

The Rock Star is versatile. A rare classic. Works sitting, kneeling, bent or straight. I would keep it and make it work at 180 lbs, but, yeah, I don't think 160 lbs is a good fit.

Best of luck with your decision.
 
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Joined
Oct 15, 2015
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Location
Central Wisconsin
DaveO My wife asked what I was laughing at when I read this. She was much less amused by the idea that the simplest solution to my problem is to not lose any weight, ha! Sadly, even 160 is heavier than ideal for me. In my late twenties when I was eating well and biking 100+ miles a week, I was under 140.
 
Joined
Nov 29, 2012
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southwest Indiana
If we are just talking Bell canoe models, I have not paddled a Rockstar. I had a friend who had one but never got to try it. I do own a Black Gold Wildfire and a White Gold Merlin II and I have paddled Magics a number of times.

The Magic is an excellent flat water canoe although the width between the gunwales in front of the paddler's legs limits somewhat the types of packs or barrels that it can carry. It is less desirable as a moving water boat. The Wildfire is an excellent moving water canoe that has pretty tolerable efficiency on flat water. The Merlin II does somewhat better than the Magic on moving water but not quite as efficient on flat water, and does somewhat better than the Wildfire on flat water but not quite as maneuverable as the Wildfire on moving water due to its differential rocker.

The Rockstar was basically an upscaled version of the Bell Yellowstone Solo which also has differential rocker, with another 1 1/2' of length, another 1 - 1 1/2 inch of beam at the waterline and another 1`" of depth amidships.

Of course, there is no such thing as the ideal boat. A boat that is ideal in one situation and one weather condition is not in another. Having said that, unless you plan to use your canoe solely for tripping with a load, a somewhat smaller boat with less free board would probably suit you a little better. But you might not have the luxury of being too choosy as to model if you are looking to acquire a nice, lightweight composite boat in good, used condition.
 
Joined
Oct 15, 2015
Messages
92
Location
Central Wisconsin
Thanks everyone for the input, I sold the Rockstar. Now I just have to find a replacement in this seller's market. Wish me luck, I'll need it!
 
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