NK updates their calibration tool

Over Henley Royal I found out that NK had updated their calibration tool, basically to make it considerably more durable than the original one, which as I was already on my second one (which I had also broken) was great news!

The photos below compare the old (left) with the new, you can see that the A,B,C,D markers are all in the same location but that rather than the original thin plastic they have now thickened the plastic throughout so the new tool should be hardier

Good to see continued innovation and support of users with small tweaks like this to make the product more durable, I was getting worried I might start spending a fortune on the original ones!

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Autofollow Drone and sculling

I have already shared this video on social media, but felt it is worth writing a short post about as well.

Before I start talking about using a Drone, I will say make sure to check you local laws on drone usage, and also emphasise to err on the side of caution – Personally I always go out of the way to make sure I don’t film anyone else (these were filmed at stupid o clock before anyone was awake) – to be safe the smartphone controller is on a mount on my usual NK strokecoach mount meaning I can quickly stop and take control if I think I need to

The Bebop 2 is actually an “older” drone (there are several more modern ones out there like the DJI Mavik for example) but what the bebop does have going for it is good third party development support which has ended up meaning there are a number of smartphone apps that add a number of additional features that the official app does not – and the app I used for this video (Bebop Pro) is one good example of this as it adds a number of features like VR support and follow/track me.

Drones  are excellent at getting unique footage, and there are countless videos now of rowing squads using them – but they are always launched and controlled by someone on a launch/on the bank and being a single sculler I had neither of those options, so I had wondered about using a follow me function to get the outcome I wanted.

The Follow me feature is pretty standard and is usually what I ended up using for the following shots – basically it tells the drone to just follow behind and it is as easy to start as launching the drone, getting it into position and then pressing the button (note you have to be within 25m for it to work) – it doesn’t matter if the drone isn’t directly behind you when you start the drone will eventually take up position behind you

Track me is slightly different in that the standard track me keeps the drone in the same relative position, so if the drone is infront of you when you press track me – it will try an stay there – this is what I used for the other type of shots – it is also possible to pan the shot as well where you can set a speed and the drone slowly pans around keeping you in shot.

Another note – the bebop 2 doesn’t have collision avoidance, so it will quite happily fly into a tree if it gets the chance! So you need to keep an eye on it.

I am very happy with the video and think the Bebop 2 and app is a great option for drone footage – however just to note that the follow me feature does use the battery power very quickly (I suspect due to the fact it is trying to follow the surge and slow of the boat through the stroke) and, as mentioned, it doesn’t have any collision avoidance – but if you take this into account, have a quiet stretch of water which is clear of trees and are able to find one for a good price it is well worth a look

Before I start talking about using a Drone, I will say make sure to check you local laws on drone usage, and also emphasise to err on the side of caution – Personally I always go out of the way to make sure I don’t film anyone else (these were filmed at stupid o clock before anyone was awake) – to be safe the smartphone controller is on a mount on my usual NK strokecoach mount meaning I can quickly stop and take control if I think I need to

The Bebop 2 is actually an “older” drone (there are several more modern ones out there like the DJI Mavik for example) but what the bebop does have going for it is good third party development support which has ended up meaning there are a number of smartphone apps that add a number of additional features that the official app does not – and the app I used for this video (Bebop Pro) is one good example of this as it adds a number of features like VR support and follow/track me.

Drones  are excellent at getting unique footage, and there are countless videos now of rowing squads using them – but they are always launched and controlled by someone on a launch/on the bank and being a single sculler I had neither of those options, so I had wondered about using a follow me function to get the outcome I wanted.

The Follow me feature is pretty standard and is usually what I ended up using for the following shots – basically it tells the drone to just follow behind and it is as easy to start as launching the drone, getting it into position and then pressing the button (note you have to be within 25m for it to work) – it doesn’t matter if the drone isn’t directly behind you when you start the drone will eventually take up position behind you

Track me is slightly different in that the standard track me keeps the drone in the same relative position, so if the drone is infront of you when you press track me – it will try an stay there – this is what I used for the other type of shots – it is also possible to pan the shot as well where you can set a speed and the drone slowly pans around keeping you in shot.

Another note – the bebop 2 doesn’t have collision avoidance, so it will quite happily fly into a tree if it gets the chance! So you need to keep an eye on it.

I am very happy with the video and think the Bebop 2 and app is a great option for drone footage – however just to note that the follow me feature does use the battery power very quickly (I suspect due to the fact it is trying to follow the surge and slow of the boat through the stroke) and, as mentioned, it doesn’t have any collision avoidance – but if you take this into account, have a quiet stretch of water which is clear of trees and are able to find one for a good price it is well worth a look

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Recommended Podcast – Browshowpodcast

With thanks to Sander who helped me stumble across it, I wanted to write a short post to strongly recommend you check out the browshow podcast (link below)

Featuring Rod Siegel (sports scientist) and Bill Tait (rowing coach and technology enthusiast) the podcast shows some great insights into what sports science can bring to rowing and coaching without getting too overly technical, with two of the last podcasts focusing on planning the perfect training plan and also using Power meters in rowing, its defiantly worth a listen if you have any interest in rowing tech and how they’re able to get coaches and sports scientists working together to get the most out of the athletes.

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Concept 2 logbook now exports to Strava, TrainingPeaks and FitBit

Previously an issue with the concept 2 ergo was that although it was very easy to upload the data to their logbook (either using the C2 logbook card or more recently their ergdata app), moving that workout data along to another training plan site (like Strava or Trainingpeaks) was more challenging making it hard to log your land based rowing workouts in those sites.

Thankfully as of the 7th May C2 have now made it easier to integrate with other sites so you can now log your workout using the ergdata app (and keep adding up those meters towards the million meters challenge) but also automatically export it to one of the above sites, or even as a .fit file if your site of choice isn’t listed

https://log.concept2.com/blog/integrating-with-other-platforms

Its really good to see C2 make this update, its perhaps not as intuitive as enabling the automatic sync via the ergdata app, but since you only need to set it up the once and it then automatically will upload your workouts from then on its a great step!

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Rowe.rs workshop – why use biomechanics

An interesting post by the training platform site for rowers Rowe.rs where they describe a presentation made by guest speaker Connie Draper to talk about why to use biomechanics

https://rowe.rs/why-use-biomechanics/

One of the main focuses in the article is the mention of measuring not just the forces used when driving the boat through the water (i.e. the NK Empower Oarlock), but also the forces involved during the recovery – where you will both pull on the footplate to bring the boat towards you, and also push on the footplate as you approach the catch and prepare for the catch and drive off the stroke – this sequencing is one of the hardest challenges rowers have to learn and is something discussed in more detail by Rowing in Motion previously  and also Drew Ginn

Measuring of footplate forces is possible with the high end systems like Peach and Biorow, perhaps the next stage for the affordable range is to add sensors for measuring footplates as well to measure where we are wasting boat speed during the recovery

 

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NK Empower wireless oarlock rowing power meter review

After announcing they were working on a power meter last year, NK have now released their empower oarlock onto the market bringing a power meter that promises to be accurate, easy to use and – most important of all – affordable. I have been using mine for the last few weeks and so feel it is a good time to outline my thoughts – both the positive and the negative and also some thoughts of where I hope to see NK go with the product over the next few months and years.

If you’ve bought anthing from NK recently then the packaging will probably be familiar to you with their simple but effective plastic bag holder – saves having to break out the scissors!

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Inside the bag we have the empower gate itself, the magnetic plate (for measuring catch and finish angles), plastic inserts to help the gate fit snugly on your pin, the calibration tool, manual and in my pack some NK stickers.

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The NK gate itself is clearly larger than a standard gate but not overly so, the bulk itself is mostly in the back of the pin where the sensors and battery pack live.

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Generally this extra bulk at the back could be an issue for a bow rigger, and NK have a useful table that shows compabaility for most of the boat manufacturers out there – and yes, my single is a Fluideisgn which means the gate wouldnt fit….this isn’t a major issue however as NK have worked with Fluid to produce C-Cups that are larger than the standard ones, so luckily for all you fluid owners you also get your own special installation step.

Installing the gate

NK have a useful video and I have also noted my own installation findings.

Comparing the two C-Cups you can see the new one is considerably roomier

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One new C-cup installed, second to follow

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Now with the new C-cup as they are longer it will mess up your footplate position and also your span, so you have to re-adjust your span and also move your feet. Now the cup is around 3cm longer than the old ones

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So you can either move your rigger around that much to keep your boat trim the same, or you can move your feet one hole which is around 3 cm as shown.

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Now install the plastic washers into the gate and slot onto the pin with the magnetic plate below, make sure there are no washers between the gate and the magnetic plate.

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Now you need to make sure the plate is straight to make sure your angles are correct its recommended to get a long straight edge and line it up across both pins, making sure that it is at 90 degrees to the centreline of the boat.

Once done, tighten with the hex key. And with that, youre installed! Next you need to calibrate the gate

Pairing the Empower gate and the GPS

Again – more useful videos from NK

Firstly go into your speedcoach settings and setup,

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then go into “Accessories setup”

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“Oarlock Setup”

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Now you will see the following screen, currently blank as you are not paired.

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Press the enter button again and you will see the following screen and you select connection

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And now pair.

Now press the button on the side of the oarlock and it will begin to flash green slowly until it connects when you will see this on the screen and the oarlock will show a solid green.

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Note that you only have to do this pairing once, once they have been paired the first time then the speedcoach will remember and in future once you turn on the oarlock the speedcoach will automatically spot and pair with the oarlock without you needing to do anything.

A cool thing to note is on the pair page now where you move the gate you can see the angles change in realities like below

however the angles are not calibrated yet so that leads us to….

Calibrating the Empower gate

Even more NK Videos!

Going back to initial setup – in this setting pages it’s a good idea to clarify the blade lengths and inboard (essential for working out power as it has to know how much leverage you have on the oar to calculate your power) as standard its 288/88 but if you don’t have this then adjust, zero the force on the gate and then next zero the angles.

To do this, take the natty oarlock tool

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And fit it to the magnetic plate as shown making sure that A and B are at the top to begin with

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And select “zero angles” on the GPS

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The speedcoach will take you through the calibration

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Complete!

And now you’re getting accurate angles and are ready to boat

Note that the manual mentions you should occasionally calibrate both angles and force, this is pretty normal for power meters as outside conditions sometimes mean the values “drift” over time. A quick calibration can make sure that the numbers stay accurate.

In use the gate is impressive in its simplicity, as mentioned once you have calibrated it initially then it will automatically connect to that same speedcoach once it has been turned on, so it really is as simple as turning it on and away you go – if you are familiar with the speedcoach GPS then you will be immediately familiar with setting up the various screens on the speedcoach to show your data – except now you can also see

  • Catch Angle
  • Max Force Angle
  • Finish Angle
  • Force
  • Slip
  • Power
  • Wash
  • Average Power
  • Stroke Length
  • Work per Stroke
  • Effective Length
  • Avg Work per Stroke
  • Max Force

The NK GPS allows you to select up to 4 different screens in the classic view which showing any combination of the above which I find most useful during a workouts or you can set a detailed screen which lets you focus on a singe technical point like angles – better for technical outings

Why is training with a power meter important?

There are many advantages to using a power meter over a heart rate monitor or rowing on ‘feel’ – it’s for good reason that a power meter has become the most popular training tool in cycling after all!

The main advantage is that using a power meter takes out all the guess work involved in estimating how well you are rowing. With a power meter on your boat, there is a quantitative number that tells you exactly how much power you are putting out – or, in other words, how well (or badly) you are going – in short, a power meter doesn’t lie, whereas heart rate and boat speed can be affected by a number of external factors, such as fatigue, hydration, wind, stream and temperature. By using power you are seeing exactly how hard you are working and how well you are propelling the boat.

One thing to note – it’s not proposed that a power meter replaces a heart rate monitor – its best to use both since they are actually telling you different things. Power is the input of effort to move the boat and Heart rate is a relative figure which measures your body’s response to that effort. Using a heart rate monitor and power meter together will allow you to see how your body is responding to training.

Downloading your workout
Once you have finished your outing the workout will be recorded on the GPS – you can extract it from the GPS either by the android/ios app  or via windows or MacOSNote that at the time of writing if you export via a mobile app then the data file doesnt include the data from the empower gate (e.g. power, angles etc) – this is being worked on by NK at the moment and will hopefully be corrected soon. Exporting by Link means you end up with a .fit and a .csv file – the reason for two files is because of the challenges around support for rowing – currently all the main training sites have rowing as an “extra” sport and is not the main focus, so they don’t include the concept of rowing metrix like force curves and catch angles – to get around this the GPS produces two files

  • the .fit file which is formatted to be is fully compatible with all the main training log sites out there at the moment in the same way as .fit files are for cycling – so like cycling you get cadence, power, GPS route etc and all that information

strava page

  • the .csv file which a complete list of all rowing metrix in one place – not recognised by most sites out there but luckily one site is and that is rowsandall which has been configured to display the rowing specific metrix for your review

rowsandall curve

There are some points that are worth highlighting that are outlined in the FAQ on NK’s site

  • NK have used Bluetooth to connect the gate to the monitor – although this is a widely used connection method, it does have the drawback that it is only capable to create a 1:1 connection between the master and slave device – by that I mean that a gate can only broadcast to a single screen – if you think that through then it means with the current gate and GPS it is impossible for a coach and a rower to see data at the same time from a single gate, or even two people in a pair seeing each others power output at the same time.
  • The Empower gate cannot display a force curve either during the outing or from the data at the end of the workout – the closest you can see is a rough “curve” using the data points of the catch and finish angles and the peak force angle – NK does justify this however as they point out “Even after years of looking at and coaching with force curves, there is still no agreement on what makes a “good” curve” which is a solid argument
  • For scullers – Currently you can only use a single empower gate with a single monitor, you cannot connect two gates to a single monitor – i’m not aware of a technical reason why it wouldn’t be possible gates to a single screen over bluetooth but until this is activated this means the same drawbacks of a single side power meter in cycling apply to the empower gate and if you have a power imbalance (which most of us do) you may get incorrect power readings as your gate is doubling either your weaker or your stronger side to get the average power – again this is justified by NK as it cannot be that larger otherwise you wouldn’t go in a straight line! But again its worth paying attention to
  • Currently  I am seeing occasional drop outs when using the gate with a bluetooth heart rate belt which requires the NK GPS to be powered off and on again to reestablish connection and this has been confirmed by at least two other users – I have found that not connecting a HR belt to the GPS keeps the Empower connection stable  and I know NK are aware and are working on a fix
  • Wear could be an issue over time -the all in one build is excellent as a waterproof/lifeproof device, however over time I would see the plastic parts that come in contact with the blade would wear which would eventually mean it would need to be replaced – it will be interesting to see if NK could replace the plastics for you or if you need to buy a whole new gate?
  • Currently the GPS only allows 4 panes of data – personally I would like to be able to see some more since some points are better in context – for example catch angles, finish angles and overall angle are related but to see them all you would take up 3 panes – better to either have one pane scroll through the data points or have catch and finish on the same pane as the overall but smaller so it’s easier to see all in one
  • Price – the elephant in the room is price – at £600 for the empower gate and £389 for the GPS you are looking at nearly £1000 all in – on paper a lot of money but genuinely adding power to your training is the number 1 best way to improve your training efficiency and make sure that you are getting the most out of your workouts on the water as I have discussed before and how others have discussed before  – and remember that in cycling £1000 is common for a power meter so NK have actually done well to hit a lower price point with their empower gate despite the lower potential market – and compared to other power meters available today it is priced very well.

Conclusion

All in NK have produced a great piece of kit in the Empower oarlock, producing a power meter that’s easy to install, use and export the data for analysis – yes there are a few drawbacks currently, particularly the minor bugs mentioned above (although I have no doubts they will be fixed) – but NK has finally made an affordable power meter available to all,  and in my mind is the first thing that someone should buy if they are looking for something to help them reach their maximum potential.

 

Posted in Biomechanics, Gadgets, Rowing software, Rowing Telemetry | 4 Comments

C2 static watts vs NK Empower Oarlock watts – A personal comparison

Just a short post on some findings using the Empower Oarlock – I am working on a review and I promise I will try and get it out as soon as possible! In testing the gate I had been wanting to compare two  equivalent workouts on a concept 2 ergo and the water to see whether it is possible to use the information on one to use the other – for example if you have set training wattages on the erg, could you use the same wattages on the water? To test this I decided to run a common FTP test to see how each compares to the other.

For those of you that aren’t aware of FTP (functional threshold Power) – it is basically an invented value that is described as the power that you are able to hold for an hour, and is closely correlated to a 4mmol blood lactate level (read about lactate testing here) but as it doesn’t require the costly blood testing method so is a cheap way of getting a similar result and to then be able to set training zones.

A workout for an hour flat out doesn’t sound like much fun however, and so in cycling it is common to run a 20” test and to then use 95% of the power for your FTP – rowing however is slightly different, I don’t know about you but I know my 6K score and my hour score are not 95% of each other! More commonly its around 80-85% and so one recommendation is to do a 20” at rate 20 and use 100% of that value to get your FTP.

Below is the table which shows the outcome of the two tests

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As you can see I averaged 30 watts more on the water than on the erg which I wasn’t expecting – the conditions for the water workout were challenging (head wind and chop) so I thought I would see an impact on power with me battling the conditions as well as the workout, also interestingly other users of the Empower gate are seeing lower values on the water than they are seeing on the erg

https://twitter.com/RodSiegel/status/831184158609190912

As a side note the difference in wattage between on the water and on the erg that I am seeing is a similar value to the difference I used to see when I was comparing rowperfect and static ergo scores – so using lactate testing an sticking to 2mmol I would see 20-30 watts more on the dynamic than the static

Conclusion

It is too early to conclude what this means as of yet – just from my data and Rod Siegal’s it does seem to suggest that the comparability between the empower watts and ergo watts varies person to person so you can’t use training zones set on the erg on the water (and vice versa), it would be recommended to run the tests on both to work them out.

EDIT: another thing to add is that as I am sculling and the NK is recording one side power only (bow side in my case) and then doubling it then this could be skewing the results I favour if the water session – i.e. If I am putting more power out on bowside then I could be getting a false high result for the overall

My previous experiences do seem to suggest that the rowperfect may be a better tool for hitting the same watts as you would see on the water. Of course the only way to test this is to repeat the 20 min test on the rowperfect….. great….

Posted in Biomechanics, Rowing software, Rowing Telemetry | 12 Comments