BIC Sport Bilbao
Reviewers Paid: $275.00
A tough little kayak with surprising performance...
- Tracks well
- Easy transport
- 100% recyclable
- No storage in standard model
- Light colors stain easily
- Decals peel off
Mention BIC and most people think about lighters and writing pens, but they make so much more. In 1979 BIC Sport was founded by the Bich family, makers of BIC pens and lighters. BIC Sport grew from the family’s passion for water sports and expertise in sustainable manufacturing. By the late 1980s BIC Sport was a world leader in windsurf manufacturing. Since then they have expanded into surf boards, paddle boards, small sailboats, and kayaks. If you're unfamiliar with their water sport products, you can check them out here https://www.bicsport.com/boats.html.
The Bilbao is a small thermo-molded plastic kayak. Thermo-molded boats differ a bit from the more traditional roto-molded plastic boats; namely in that they are stiffer and lighter. They fall somewhere between roto-molded and composite boats in those regards. At 9'10" long and 31" wide, one wouldn't expect much in the way of performance; but reality can exceed expectations.
The Bilbao is fairly lightweight at 46 pounds making it easy to transport. It also has a built-in wheel in the back to make that even easier, though it only works on smooth hard ground. On sand, rocks, uneven ground, etc. it's all but useless and unfortunately that describes 90-100% of the terrain most of us traverse getting our boats to the water. There is a solid, molded handle in front and a rubber carry handle in back. There are small depressions meant to act as handles on each side at the kayak's balance point, but they are unfortunately too shallow to be useful.
There's a net style bungie on the bow and a couple of straps on the stern. It has a bucket style seat, molded in foot braces, and a bottle holder. There is no internal storage on the standard models though I have seen a fishing model that has two hatches. You'll find a small seating area on the bow designed for small children to ride facing the paddler and there's a lifeline all the way around the boat which as far as I know, no other SOT kayak offers. It also sports a replaceable front bumper should you ram it into rocks or drag it about on the ground.
Performance is better than expected given its dimensions and it's fairly comfortable. It tracks exceptionally well and turns easily. It paddles surprisingly smooth and efficiently. It's also extremely stable. I originally purchased it for my 8-year-old daughter and she was able to stand up in it. I often take friends with me and loan out my boats and it's the only kayak I've ever owned that absolutely no one has ever managed to overturn. The photo I've included above is from one such trip during which we logged 25 miles on the Mokelumne River, so it's no slouch.
There really isn't much bad to say about it. The plastic stains easily and the stains are almost impossible to get out. Unlike most plastic kayaks BIC uses decals instead of screen printing the make and model on the sides of the boat and those decals peel off. Pretty trivial stuff really. I deducted a half star for the crummy rear wheel and useless side handles (or lack thereof).
So if you are in the market for a small, lightweight SOT kayak, you should give this little boat serious consideration. While it is a kid and beginner's delight, it offers surprisingly decent performance in a small, lightweight package that anyone can enjoy.
I've been kayaking for many years. Kayaks are one of the most specialized water craft on the planet. I own and have owned all kinds of roto-molded, thermo-molded, and composite kayaks. My BIC Bilbao has held up well and has been enjoyed by my daughter and many friends on countless journeys both short and long. I've owned mine for about 11 years now and it is still in very good condition other than some staining and a few nicks.
Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $275