Comparison of ErgStick and ErgData

This is not meant to be a comprehensive product review.  Instead it is an evaluation of two products to figure out which one is the best for my specific needs.

Those needs are:

  • Record stroke by stroke data from the erg
  • Support PM5 (required), PM4 and PM3 (bonus)
  • Works with iphone
  • No physical connection required to phone (because I use headphones and wear the phone on my bet when I row * )
  • Works with other apps running including wahoo fitness, stitcher, spotify, etc
  • Works with wahoo tikr HR strap
  • provides CSV output for post processing (required)

* Note:  Before you ask, I have tried wireless ear buds and none of them stay in my ears, and all of them are incredibly fiddly.  Maybe someday cheap, reliable BT earbuds will be available that I can screw securely into my ears.  Until then, the phone stays on the hip.

I was going to originally include PainSled in the evaluation, but I am still working through some Beta issues with the developer.  As soon as I have something useful to say, I’ll write that one up too.

First up.  Ergstick.  Check out their website.  It is a USB dongle that is sold for $120.  This is what it looks like.

2016-03-05 21.46.22.jpg

You jam the green thingy into the back of your PM5, or the bottom of your PM3.  I haven’t  tried it with the PM3, but I plan to tomorrow.

Then you fire up the app and I made a horrifying discovery.  To get the single most important feature that I wanted from the software (CSV exports), I needed to pony up for “ErgStick Pro” to the tune of $39.99.  And this did not buy the pro version, it gives a one year subscription to the pro version.  So the cost of ergstick is $120+$40 initially, plus $40 per year.  Wow! Ouch!  On top of that, I can find nothing about this on their website.  The only place where it is defined is in the description of the app in the apple app store.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 9.55.12 PM.png

OK, well I’ve come this far.  Next step is to try it out.  I paid my money (in for a penny, in for a pound) and upgraded.  The app synched right away with the dongle and provided a live screen with nifty data that I don’t look at.

I programmed the PM5 for a time interval session (10′ with 0:00 rest), and off I went.  When I finished, I pushed menu to terminate the workout and checked out my phone.  Here are the cool screen you get.

Pretty nice displays.  On the Heart Rate, Pace and Stroke Rate screen, the cursor should have been showing the values.  For some reason it didn’t in the interval session.  It did for this simple 100m test session that I did without a HR sensor.

2016-03-05 17.37.23

Getting CSV was not as convenient as some other apps, which allow you to ship to dropbox or sync multiple files automatically.  In this app you need to email each file individually.  A pain, but workable.  From there it was simple to modify my ergdata spreadsheet to deal with the ergstick format data.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 5.47.57 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-05 at 6.05.03 PM

ergstick provides 4 to 6 records per stroke, and a huge number of data fields in the CSV.

Total elapsed time (s)

Total distance (m)

Stroke rate (/min)

Speed (m/s)

Current heart rate (bpm)

Stroke count

Stroke power (W)

Stroke calories (cal/hr)

Projected work time (s)

Projected work distance (m)

Split/interval time (s)

Split/interval distance (m)

Split/interval rest time (s)

Split/interval rest distance (s)

Split/interval type

Split/interval number

Split/interval ave. stroke rate (/min)

Split/interval ave. pace (/500m)

Split/interval total calories (cals)

Split/interval average calories (cal/hr)

Split/interval speed (m/s)

Split/interval power (W)

Split/interval ave. drag factor

OK, so on to ergdata.  With the PM5, it’s just the same except it doesn’t cost anything. I started ergdata on my phone, and it immediately synched up with the PM5.  I programmed the same 10’/0 rest interval session on the PM5 and did another L4 steady state session.

After I finished, I pressed menu on the PM5 to terminate the session and checked my phone.  Here are the key screens.

On the logBook screen you can push the sync button and like magic, the session appears in your concept2 online logbook.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 10.11.38 PM.png

Then you can push the little magnifying glass to dive into the workout.  And then this is what you see.  I’ve heard through the grapevine that HR data will be added to the graphs and summaries soon.  The graphs show the selected interval.  There is no choice of units or ability to show the whole workout.  There are apparently some glitches in the way that it calculates pace for interval workouts with rest meters in them.  I assume for ranking distances that they have tested the crap out of it, but if you should check the numbers if you care a lot.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 10.12.28 PM.png

You can see over on the right side, at the bottom there is an option to export stroke data.  This is a much less sophisticated data set than ergstick, but it has all the basics with a single record per stroke.

Stroke Number

Time (seconds)

Distance (meters)

Pace (seconds per 500m)

Stroke Rate

Heart Rate

This was easy to massage into excel.  So easy in fact, that I decided to add a watts graph to the collection.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 6.05.03 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-05 at 6.05.22 PM

So, from my perspective, there is a clear winner.  Ergdata is much, much cheaper, and it provides automatic synching with the concept2 log book.  If you have a PM3 or PM4 and you are thinking of buying an ergstick, I suggest a PM5 upgrade instead because the cost will less after the second year.

There is a specific group of people that I think will prefer the ergstick.  If you are on a team or have a common practice facility with a large number of ergs that have PM4 or PM3 and you want to get workout data in a consistent format, then ergstick will be a very good solution.   It will let you use any erg and get the data you need.  But it is pretty darn expensive.

 

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Comparison of ErgStick and ErgData

  1. sanderroosendaal says:

    Would erg stick be a good choice for frequent travelers or people who row a lot on different (club) ergs?
    RowPro messes up the tcx exports of variable intervals.
    I am tempted to put your info in a comparison table but after reading this I am glad I chose to go for the PM5. Mentioning the PM5, isn’t it true that you can use the erg stick app without the physical dongle on a PM5?

    Liked by 1 person

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      Right now neither of these products supports tcx, although I bet you could run either through a csv to tcx converter.

      They handle intervals differently. Ergdata resets the time and distance to 0 at the start of each interval. ErgStick maintains a field for interval number and outputs both whole workout data and interval data (which I ignored).

      I am planning to bring my ErgStick with me on travel, at least until my $40 subscription runs out. It will let me work on any erg anywhere. I don’t think that’s worth the money though.

      I didn’t know that the software worked without the dongle on the pm5, but I recall seeing the option to connect to it on the connection screen when I fired up the app. I wonder if you get everything that way including the force curves?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sanderroosendaal says:

    Does one of the screens say something like more than 4000 meters in 6 minutes? Damn, you are fast. Reading on phone so cannot write comment and check image at the same time.
    I used to row with earplugs but changed to a standalone radio with Bluetooth connectivity so I can do anything I want from listening to a local radio station to playing soundcloud/Spotify/courses on the phone. I am even going to try mandatory work related e-learning (business ethics, IP protection and other stuff we have to repeat each year) from the notebook to that speaker over Bluetooth. Although I may be forced to interrupt a workout to answer the test questions. 😉
    For me the speaker works better but then my erg basement is located in a place where I don’t create noise pollution for others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      That screen actually shows that I rowed over 4000m in less than 7 seconds. Don’t sell me short! Since I was rowing intervals with 0″ rest, I rolled over into a third interval before stopping. I think it must have confused the summary display.

      I like rowing with speakers, but I don’t have an isolated spot where I can blast them loud enough. I also row in the gym at work, where its headphones all the time.

      Like

  3. Richard says:

    Great write up Greg.

    When you test the erg stick on a PM3 could you see if the Erg data app syncs with the erg stick? And if you can run both apps at the same time so both collect the data?

    http://www.Rowe.rs is the same people as ErgStick does the money you have shelled out for the ErgStick app upgrade give you access to this? Or do you then have to pay again?

    Liked by 1 person

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      I don’t think that the ErgStick can be used to link up with ergdata, at least I didn’t see anything about it in the sparse literature and help for the product.
      Same thing with the website you’ve shown. I’ve heard that there will be automatic syncing to that site, but I bet there will be another charge.

      Like

  4. stelph82 says:

    Great review, from following the development of the ergstick I agree with your conclusion that with the availability of the free ergdata app (especially after they updated it recently), for an individual it’s not so good a deal, however it’s got excellent potential for large teams with all the features they have previously mentioned as working on – like have NFC tags to log in and out of the ergs, wireless syncing and uploading to rowe.rs etc

    Another app I have tried and would recommend if you are on android is BoatCoach, there are costs involved and personally I found the way it sends the .csv/.tcx files when you are done a little annoying and didn’t always work, but as a single app that works both in the boat and on the erg and allows you to review all your training data in one place it is excellent

    Liked by 1 person

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      One thing that I am struggling with is the lack of information on ergstick. No manual, no significant help files. It seems like it should allow you to use an ANT+ HR strap with a PM3, but I couldn’t get it to find my tikr. Am I missing something on the website?

      Like

      • Richard says:

        When seeing the original Kickstarter campaign it did seem that a Bluetooth HR would sync with the stick rather than PM, then this would get relayed to PM and app. I do not remember seeing Ant+ mentioned though.

        Cool that both apps can run at same time, whilst you have your subscription you can record on both. Shame that Ergdata doesn’t see the ErgStick as a BT PM5 connection that would have been good when using PM3/4.

        Like

  5. Paul says:

    Just upgraded to a C2 with PM5 and am looking forward to using it with ErgData. Any idea if there will be incorporation with Apple Watch in order to extract HR data? I hate the idea of having to use a separate chest strap when a very accurate HR monitor resides on my wrist!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      Hi Paul,
      I’m sorry, but I don’t know the answer to your question. I have heard that soe folks have had trouble getting accurate HR readings from wrist sensors like fitbits and apple watches because your wrists are bending a lot when you row. Do you get good readings from your apple watch while you row?

      Like

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