Kayak Ergometer Question

I would like those using ergs to tell me what are the major differences in feel,simulation and workout intensity between erg and on the water training.

I read Erik’s article over on the Epic site and it got me thinking, again…


Kayak on the water vs erg
I think the main difference is that an erg is usually at a higher stroke rate, compared to the water. My boats are a “slow” K1 (Stiletto), Nelo FW2000, or and Epic 18x. This may be part of the difference - my having relatively slow boats.

My erg is the KayakPro Speedstroke, and is 3 years old with about 2000 miles on it. There is definitely a stroke difference between it and a real kayak, but it is pretty close.


– Last Updated: Mar-19-09 10:56 PM EST –

Erik here, I'll try to answer your questions as specifically as I can.

I'm using a Speedstroke that's about 5 yrs old. I don't think it's any different from the current version - though the new Gym is different.

The speedstroke feels quite a bit different from water, but the differences aren't deleterious to on-water paddling. For instance, when you place your wing paddle into the water, it has some natural buoyancy so you don't have to hold it up against gravity. The wing also takes a natural path out from the boat. The exit of the paddle from the water occurs at a certain point - if you go beyond it, the wing catches or dives. In contrast, on the erg, you have to supply the "buoyancy" of the paddle throughout the stroke and learn which hand (or both) to hold it up with. You have to learn the path of the stroke for both the top hand and the bottom hand because, on the erg, there is much more freedom to decide where the water level is, and thus, whether your paddle should take a higher or lower or wider or narrower path. You have to decide where the stroke begins and ends. All these factors take some getting used to but I think that they help to teach you how to paddle. On the erg, since there are no balance issues, you will naturally learn to use your legs and torso rotation more, and, this will carry over to the water.

If you get on an erg for the first time, you'll feel uncoordinated and you probably won't like it. 10-20 hrs later, you'll be going well, though.

The resistance of the speedstroke is about right for a racing ski or a K1 at speeds of 7 mph and higher, though it's tough to get a superfast, 10 sec sprint, cadence on the erg and hit the 10 mph area without pushing the physics of the ropes, pulley wheels, etc. Below 7 mph, at speeds that feel easy on the water, the speedstroke feels a bit harder like you've got less momentum carrying you along. You can overcome this by simply covering the fan/flywheel. On water, you can change cadence more quickly than you can on the erg. You also have to learn to pause momentarily at the catch (on the erg) to allow the ropes to get taut, before you can start your pull. I think this is a good thing, though, as it's what you should do on the water, i.e. pause the torso at the catch, drop the blade into the water, then unwind the torso with the pull. It's just about a tenth of a second or less that I'm talking about here.

The erg feels best when you develop a metronome-like rhythm with full strokes and equal pauses at the catch(es). The erg also shows you any asymmetry in your stroke regarding timing and stroke length. The erg shows if you're leaning back, leaning forwards on one side pull or the other. In essence, it's hard to cheat on the erg and, at least on the speedstroke, it's hard to develop bad habits - and I think quite the opposite will happen - your bad habits will come to light on the speedstroke and, with the erg, you'll straighten them out eventually. I (almost) look forward to winters so that I can work on technique on the erg. Each winter on the erg, I think I understand finer details of muscle sequence firing and force vectors a bit better and I think that most all of what I learn on the erg translates to the water.

As far as intensity of the workout, I think it's about the same. On water, you use a small bit of energy in maintaining balance. On the erg, balance isn't a problem (unless you rig instability into the seat) so you can put a few more heartbeats towards pulling on the paddle. As an example, on the erg, I do long intervals at a registered 7.7 mph, stroke rate of about 85 (total per min), and HR of about 165. I get these identical numbers on flatwater in a ski. The same is true for my LSD pace and for my 2 min sprint intervals. And, after a long and hard workout on the erg, I'm tired in the same places as on the water. But, most importantly, I just spent 4 months on the erg with some de-training, ( no water time), and then did an 11 mile race on the water (2 wks ago in Fla) and finished in virtually the same spot as if I had been "on water" all along. That, to me, is proof that the speedstroke, while different in feel from water, simulates the important performance aspects of on-water paddling incredibly well.


I have heard from some that there is more “jarring” to the joints using an erg- any noticable soreness that’s out of the ordinary?


Dem Bones

Hmm. Was that me complaining again? Erik’s take on the Speedstroke is the most comprehensive I’ve seen. Gray should employ him to write copy/owner’s manual. It’s all true, based on my experience with the one I purchased this past fall and used all winter.

Initially, I found the catch to be much more sudden as compared to water. The tenth of a second pause he refers to as the rope becomes taut is more pronounced than in the boat, but I agree that if anything, it’s teaching you to pause to bury the blade and then ‘Bang!’ unwind the torso. Good stuff, and I did get sore in different places initially, then acclimated.

The paddleshaft is a bit strange; I’d prefer an actual carbon shaft like on my paddles-the anodized aluminum slips and gives you blisters in strange places. Beyond that, the tiny numbers on the readout are really difficult to read; perhaps the more $ gym unit has a larger screen. I padded out the pullbar and the footplate/rest where my heels contact, and ended up building out the footplate itself so you can drive with your heels like in a surfski.

What a fantastic training tool this is. With this and/or a Concept II; you’ll be an animal, and we’ll all shout: “GRAPESCOTT! He’s off the front AGAIN!”

– Last Updated: Mar-21-09 1:12 PM EST –


I did not want to say who I heard the complaining from....but since you said it.....!

Tribolite was complaining about joint pain- "oh my poor elbows hurt..whaaa"......lol

I am still refining my homemade erg. I wanted to know if the feel I have been getting is what I should be expecting- with Erik's summery, I am right on.

I am gunning for you at the races this year!!!!

I hope :)


I don’t get any jarring to my joints, but like I said, you need to wait a tenth of a second just before the “catch”, pay attention to the rope becoming taut, and then the catch and pull will be smooth and free from jarring. That’s part of the erg technique that you discover and learn during the first 10-20 hrs on it.

I agree with Mark, the shaft isn’t the greatest. Mine is aluminum and feels pretty stiff and “dead” but it’s an older unit and not really that much of an issue. If I could rig a more flexible composite shaft to replace the aluminum, I would. I use thin full fingered gloves that have a fake leather palm - NRS sells a similar model.

The newer Gym looks close to perfect. Mine is quite unprofessionally customized as you can see in this short video.


Paddle Shaft

– Last Updated: Mar-22-09 9:02 AM EST –

Had the older, heavier shaft when I bought it, but the end plug that secures the rope disintegrated and I needed a new rope, so popped for the new shaft when I ordered. It's a three piece adjustable and must use the same twist lock hardware as SRS paddles, as it's cracked already. That's just whining, though (elbows...), as what a great machine this is. Mark W. had one for sale a couple months back.

As to whining, this is actually a variation on the 'Disclaimer Game', where all your paddling buddies try get the first disclaimers in, the idea being, if you do poorly,you work the sympathy vote: "Oh, poor so and so has a hurt back/strained hamstring/rickets/ (insert ailment of choice) and there's your excuse, and if you place strongly, well, that's just gravy, suffering the way you are. Smile.