The Concept 2 ergo has been the standard on land training kit for rowers for a number of years now with the Performance Monitor (PM) being its most useful part as it translates the effort that you put into every stroke into your wattage/average split, however although the PM has evolved over the years (with the most recent PM5 having a number of new features like Bluetooth smart HR and garmin support) the Concept 2 has always lacked a robust way to log your workouts for later review. Ergstick (whos kickstarter began yesterday) looks to try and correct that
The Ergstick is a USB B stick that inserts into the concept 2 Performance Monitor and allows you to connect your smartphone wirelessly to your PM to setup your workout on your smartphone and then wirelessly transfer it to the performance monitor, then record and share the workout with your smartphone (and your coach). The stick supports both Bluetooth smart and ANT+ so the majority of HR belts out there will be able to connect to the ergstick without another adapter
The main benefits to individuals therefore is the time saved on the admin of each workout (setting up workouts, writing down scores) and also means you have a handy to use training log available on your smartphone where you can compare the same workout done over time and see the effect your training is having.
Personally I currently use the ErgData app and Concept 2 USB adapter with my iPhone to log my workouts and although using the cable is a neat system and it is great being able to record the data to my iPhone to review later, the system currently isn’t ideal as I find issues such as
- The app occasionally “disconnects” from the erg meaning I am unable to record the workout
- The iPhone isnt that secure on the mount and so looks fairly wobbly ontop of the PM during hard workouts
- You can’t set workouts up on the phone and send it to the PM, the app is recording/display only
- Although the workouts are logged and you can review each workout, you cannot compare two or more workouts to see improvements over time
- There is no easy way to export workouts to do a more detailed review, other than to the C2 online logbook which doesn’t really add any additional workout analysis features than the app
These are all things that the Ergstick look to help resolve.
Probably themost interesting potential is the benefits for coaches/athletes who are part of larger teams, as Ergstick are developing a Team feature where the Ergstick would be permanently left in the ergo, and instead of using your smartphone the athletes will log on and off the ergo using RFID tags, then once the athlete is warmed up, the coach wirelessly sets up all the connected ergo’s with the workout and can then track the workout and then download the results in one go rather than having to check each ergo, which would be a big timesaver and is also a pretty similar idea to what a lot of Gyms have set up with Cycling Ergos. You can read this review of a Wahoo Kickr gym workout setup for example to see ideas on how networking and live review of athletes like this will make it easier for coaches to keep an eye on their athletes and make sure they are all working at the right intensity (i.e. not too hard and not too light) to get the benefits intended.
In summary then I think the Ergstick is an interesting piece of kit (and I am a happy backer of the kickstarter), I do share some of the concerns about the design which, although pretty relevant for rowers, does mean the stick pokes out quite far below the screen and could get damaged if the handle gets in the way, and I am not yet clear on how some features like the “stroke by stroke” level of detail will be of use, but the potential for the ergstick to cut down on the administrative side of training and allow a more detailed review of how performances in workouts is (hopefully) improving over time means I feel its well worth investing now given the potential savings!
ADDITIONAL THOUGHT – I note that the Ergstick is proposing to use the USB B socket in the Concept 2, because the Rowperfect has a USB B port as does the Oartec slider, potentially meaning that with the correct software/app support there is no reason why the ergstick wouldn’t also work with those products, so I hope the Rowperfect and Oartec reach out to Ergstick to help make this happen as being able to wirelessly connect to other ergs as well would be another big plus for the product and would help owners of those other ergs as well
(NOTE ON KICKSTARTER – With regards to kickstarter, the way it work’s is you select the “reward” you want and then the payment is taken only if the kickstarter clears the amount of money they are aiming for (£71,337), also ergstick aim to have the product out by December but with kickstarters in general it is best practice to expect a delay of some kind! Although Ergstick does look to be in a good position with a working prototype and app already available and working it is worth keeping this in mind)