Owned this boat for 3 years and spent the first two not liking it. It was slow, wet in II+s, didn't track well, and not very roomy for my slightly big boned frame (6'2" 215). I primarily used it for slow rivers when duck hunting. More recently I pulled the seat and put in a foam ped two inches back. This raised the front; a little dryer and more maneuverable now. I also worked on my strokes and have no problem holding a line.
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.This is a great boat! I got it 6 weeks ago, and couldnít be happier.
It easily plays in Class 2, and with flotation & proper skills, will probably be capable of some Class 3 runs. It responds very nicely to slight adjustments in paddle strokes, and is just plain fun!
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!I've had my Guide (Freedom Solo) since 2000. I bought it to do lakes and Class II. It's been a great little boat. Pros: It takes a beatin' and keeps on tickin', beaver dams, rocks, drops - no problem. It hauls a mountain of gear (my barrels fit nice and snug) It's so stable I've never fallen out of it while paddling (clearing rivers doesn't count) It will slide, of it's own volition, down the portage from Mountain to Crooked Lake in Sylvania. It has enough rocker to do great on the small rivers and trout streams I love and with enough current it's like a motorcycle on a winding road. Cons: It cannot do Class II as claimed unless you've got lots of room.
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.I bought my Freedom Solo in 2005 and my first ride in it was a good January swimming lesson twice in one day. As my other boat is a Freedom 16, I was not used to the responsiveness of the Freedom Solo!
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, formerly the Mad River Guide, is designed as a river running canoe but it also serves well in a recreational role for fishing, nature watching, etc. It is very stable in that it leans easily but quickly comes to rest and remains firm. You can actually hang a leg over the gunwales to cool yourself off on a hot day-it's that stable. There's lots of room for gear or to move around and stretch. It has the feel of a bigger boat.
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.