My Toys for Rowing on Water

I use a number of hardware and software tools for rowing.  I thought I would share what I use, how I use it and how well it works.

My Boat

2013 Fluidesign EL Intermediate. (Blue Clear coat)

2014-03-01 10.14.16It is a beautiful boat.  I upgraded from a 2004 Wintech Competitor and the difference is clear.  This boat sets well and I’m very happy with it.

my oars

Concept2 – Fat2 ultralight vortex edge.

  • Length: 278cm
  • Span:160cm
  • Inboard: 89cm


Speedcoach XL2, which appears to now be discontinued on the NK web site.  I picked this unit because I wanted to track HR, along with rate and impeller based speed.  It turns out that it has a good deep memory and a tool to enable you to transfer data to excel for analysis.  I’m not sure how the new Speedcoach GPS units do for that.

I usually save readings for every 20m.  The saved data is transferred to my PC by using the USB connection kit and the speedcoach utility.  This utility can export the data as an excel CSV file.

I have an excel workout which produced plots of pace/rate/hr versus distance or time.  It also calculates time in each HR training zone, and can be used to pick out intervals from the data.

In addition to the Speedcoach, I always have my iphone in the boat.  The stretch of river that I row on can be kind of lonely at times and having a phone is a good idea in case I get in trouble.  But since it’s there, it gives me the opportunity to capture more data.  For that I have used 2 apps.

CrewNerd.  CrewNerd is an iphone app that displays pace, rate, HR, and a bunch of other stuff,  You can also program workouts into it and it will save all your workout data.  The app is very well done and the display is very clear.  The only issue I have had with it is the lag in pace readings caused by the slow (1Hz) GPS update rate of the iphone.  You can buy a widget that increases that up to 10Hz, but I think going and buying a Speedcoach GPS would be another way to fix that problem.  Anyway, the good thing about using GPS is that you get more accurate readings on still water.  On the impeller driven Speedcoach, there is always an accumulating error over long workouts.

Rowing In Motion.  I have used Rowing in Motion for at least a dozen outings.  It is a very different app from CrewNerd and probably a better app for in the boat.  It seems to do a better job tracking changes in speed than CrewNerd, but I’m not sure why.  It also provides real time acceleration curves on the display for each stroke.  So if you are working on technique, you can use it to see if you are actually improving the way you go through recovery into the catch.  It also has a feature called “sonification” which uses the speaker on the phone to emit a tone.  The pitch of the tone is related to the instantaneous acceleration of the boat, so you can work on technique without even looking at the display.  I never go the hang of using that feature, but it was fun to try.

The data from RIM is typically analyzed in the RIM on line tool, but can also be exported to Excel, although I haven’t done that.

GoPro Hero2.  Video feedback is very useful to try to figure out what you are doing wrong, and I use a GoPro waterproof camera to do that.  I use it in one of two locations.  First, I have a mount on my stern deck.  This view provides a view toward the bow and shows me and my oars out to the ends.  You can see issues with balance and oar height, but you can really see body mechanics all that well.  This is also a good mount for races where you want something relatively unobtrusive.

2013-09-18 06.37.38

This creates video like this:

For side view video, I was sent a gift by a friend in Canada.  An old backstay.  He had previously improvised a mount to put this on the end of his rigger to get the camera about 4 or 5 feet out to the side of the boat.

I modified the way to attach the gopro to the rigger. The end of the rigger is a 1 1/2″ OD aluminum pipe 3 1/2″ long welded to the rigger tube vertically. This tube is drilled on the stern side to mount the oarlock. Looking at it, I decided the easiest way to mount the backstay to the gopro was to put a bolt through the pipe and hold each end with a 1 1/2″ OD fender washer. It worked like a champ!

With this mount, I get videos like this:

Notice the pace, rate and HR?  I’ll do another post later about how to do that.

11 thoughts on “My Toys for Rowing on Water

  1. sanderroosendaal says:

    Nice. I have actually ordered the SkyPro XGPS 160 with the idea that it will give more precise readings and a more responsive pace info in CrewNerd.

    What I think the RIM guy is doing is fusing the acceleration data with the GPS data in a smart way. Actually, in our Honeywell labs in Brno we have a couple of smart engineers who do just that for Airplane navigation. Pace is just one integration step from the acceleration graph, and combined with GPS position data you can really improve the accuracy and reliability.


  2. sanderroosendaal says:

    You know how the RIM app is very picky about how you fix the phone to the boat? I have had CrewNerd working with just the phone lying on my footplate, tilting together with my feet. I also had CrewNerd on a phone holder for use in a car, which starts to wiggle because of the speed variations in rowing. RIM protests in all those conditions. You need to really fix the phone to the boat to be able to use acceleration data.

    I agree RIM is a very good tool and I should use it more often. Perhaps tomorrow.


  3. stelph82 says:

    Nice equipment list Greg! On the NK, I’m not sure if you’re aware but the new NK GPS2 basically looks to fix all the issues that there was with the original one (not being able to set workout pieces, recording and downloading to PC in CSV and FIT files for analysis or uploading to training peaks or equivalent) so that’s probably why it’s replaced the XL range since it now does all the things the XL does other than the transmission feature of the XL2 / XL4. I’ve picked one up and will be reviewing it in the next few weeks so can let you know what it’s like


    • gregsmith01748 says:

      I may have to put that on my wish list. It would be nice to have the gps and impeller based speed on the same unit.

      When you try your out, would you mind sending me a .csv file? I’d like to adapt my workbook to accept data from the speedcoach gps2.


      • stelph82 says:

        Sure, I’m expecting delivery today (hopefully the delivery driver will be able to drop it off as I am at work) with outings tomorrow so if I work it all out ill send you the file

        Liked by 1 person

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