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for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power
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   I rowed as an undergrad for 4 years. A few years after graduating, I started biking. I've been biking for about 3.5 years. In other words, I'm about as experienced in cycling as I was in rowing.

I was playing around with some numbers, and I noticed that my max power output for a 2km erg test (low 6:20's), was very close to my max power output on a bike for 6min (within 5% of each other).

For the ex-rowers out there: Have you noticed this too, or is it all just a coincidence?

And for the exercise phys nerds: Is there a physiological reason for this, or is it just a concidence?



Thanks,
Doug
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [macleandougj] [ In reply to ]
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For shorter durations aerobic activity (probably 500m+ for rowing and equivalent time for cycling), rowing is pretty close to cycling in my experience as well. But like my one hour power for rowing is MUCH less than one hour power for cycling. But I imagine your experience in each helps a lot. I.e., I was never as experienced rowing as I am in cycling now.

The fall off isn't really surprising. As a rower, you train for 6min. As a triathlete, you train for 60min+ on the bike.

"Non est ad astra mollis e terris via." - Seneca | rappstar.com | FB - Rappstar Racing | IG - @jordanrapp
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [macleandougj] [ In reply to ]
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My power for a max effort 2km row (6:53 / 317W) is lower than my cycling power for the same duration (351W). This may be because I don't train at rowing, I just do it very occasionally to put a time in the online rankings. For 500m it's closer - 1:32.6 / 441W for rowing vs 455W for cycling. But this is a bit deceptive because I've never done a 1:32 max cycling effort, so my mean max power curve falls off a lot after a minute, which I do sometimes test (606W). I was undoubtedly better trained for cycling when I did that minute effort than I ever have been for rowing, the rowing is just something where I seem to get a reasonable ability to do it as a side effect of my swimming and cycling training. I've done better at rowing since doing both cycling and swimming than when I only did swimming.
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [macleandougj] [ In reply to ]
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The two are related in the sense that both involve how much O2/blood your body can deliver to the working muscles. In theory, identical athletes with roughly equal training in both sports would produce roughly equal numbers due to equivalent delivery capacity. . .

BUT rowing is much less efficient, and much more technique dependent, then cycling. On the other hand you utilize much more muscle mass. On the other hand I've also seen some studies that seem to indicate that the power algorithm on the C2 ergo is about ~20-30 watts low (saw this a few years ago and haven't been able to find it since) so that leaves me with a big "maybe" regarding the two efforts being comparable.

So I'd say in theory yes, but in practice, who the heck knows. . .
Sam

PS- regarding longer efforts. . . I'd bet if you tested Nat'l team rowers, who tend to do a huge volume of aerobic work (much more so then the average college athlete) you'd see those 1hr numbers be very close. . .
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [macleandougj] [ In reply to ]
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Incidentally, if anyone knows their time but not their power, the formula the machines use is:
Power(W) = 2.8 x speed(m/s) ^ 3

This also lets you derive power figures from rowing record times to compare against what we know top cyclists can output. E.g. the World Record of 5:36.6 for 2km is 587W. He apparently weighs 103kg, so this is a PWR of 5.7W/kg, a fair bit lower than top cyclists output for 5 minutes (7.6W/kg according to WKO+).
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [samtaylor] [ In reply to ]
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You'd figure that in a given human body only has so much capacity to convert stored potential energy into kinetic energy....the rest turns to heat. Now the question is whether cycling offers a better mechanical advantage for the conversion than rowing. Arguably rowing uses more muscle mass, but the question is how well does one sport convert energy to mechanical work using the various muscle groups vs the others. Given that rowing uses more muscles, you'd think rowing would more easily offer a high cardio load.

This one is an interesting discussion for me, cause I am intrigued by what goes on in XC skiing vs cycling. XC skiing involves much larger body mass. I feel I can load my cardio much better on a consistent basis on XC skis than biking cause I "run out of legs" more often riding and my legs just need more recovery time between hard sessions. Between hard XC ski sessions, where I am always cardio limited, I can always bounce back the next day and go hard again.

The only other sport where I can go "that hard that often" is swimming, but even then I can never do a 15 hour week of swimming only (because I am technique limited)....on XC skis I can....and I'd imagine in rowing you can too.
Last edited by: devashish_paul: Jan 22, 10 16:49
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [Rappstar] [ In reply to ]
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For shorter durations aerobic activity (probably 500m+ for rowing and equivalent time for cycling), rowing is pretty close to cycling in my experience as well. But like my one hour power for rowing is MUCH less than one hour power for cycling. But I imagine your experience in each helps a lot. I.e., I was never as experienced rowing as I am in cycling now.

The fall off isn't really surprising. As a rower, you train for 6min. As a triathlete, you train for 60min+ on the bike.


Hmm...the elite rowers in NZ (ie those at the top of the WORLD) seem to train about as much as any pro cyclist might (ie 20-30 hour range). Row training 3 times a day, weight training as well, then maybe even some cycling. They are, of course, training for a 2 km race, but they are also doing massive amounts of aerobic training.
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [fulla] [ In reply to ]
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For shorter durations aerobic activity (probably 500m+ for rowing and equivalent time for cycling), rowing is pretty close to cycling in my experience as well. But like my one hour power for rowing is MUCH less than one hour power for cycling. But I imagine your experience in each helps a lot. I.e., I was never as experienced rowing as I am in cycling now.

The fall off isn't really surprising. As a rower, you train for 6min. As a triathlete, you train for 60min+ on the bike.


Hmm...the elite rowers in NZ (ie those at the top of the WORLD) seem to train about as much as any pro cyclist might (ie 20-30 hour range). Row training 3 times a day, weight training as well, then maybe even some cycling. They are, of course, training for a 2 km race, but they are also doing massive amounts of aerobic training.

I agree. But the specifics of the training are different. As someone who has trained a lot with ITU-focused athletes, I can attest that the key workouts for an ITU olympic distance race are different from the key workouts for an Ironman, even if the weekly volume is not so different. I'd also not be surprised to see much less fall off among the elite rowers as distances got longer anyway. You see this even among college rowers who progress to the elite level all the time. The relative performance on 6k tests is much worse for most collegiate rowers (compared with the elites) than it is on a 2k (by percentages). And even more dramatic when you went out to do "hour of powers." And of course there is also the general trend - in many sports - towards longer distances as you become more mature. But you'll likely never see anyone train at that level for both rowing AND cycling. It's impractical to say "train for ten years as an elite rower" and then "train for ten years as an elite cyclist" and then compare them. In any case, I doubt it's too surprising that the power is "similar" in any case. They are both aerobic sports that rely on "pushing" muscles to do the bulk of the work.

"Non est ad astra mollis e terris via." - Seneca | rappstar.com | FB - Rappstar Racing | IG - @jordanrapp
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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Good College/Nat'l team rowers regularly train 15-20 hours a week; although from what I've seen of the national team training schedules they rarely exceed that (some exceptions; the NZ folks, the Romanian women). I know the US women's team (arguably the most successful national squad right now) is between 15-20 hours year round, with ~80-90% of that being aerobic base work (based on a presentation at this years USRowing convention).

I've seen the dichotomy between the W/kg in rowing vs. cycling as well. I think it's better to look at the lightweight record (5:58.5, presumably at ~75 kilos as that's the weigh in for most indoor competitions) as the biggest rowers are huge and skew the W/kg. Still, that's only 487 Watts for ~6 minutes, about 6.5 w/kg. Much better then the big heavyweight rowers, but less then in cycling. . .

I'd guess a few reasons why the power #'s are lower. First, cycling is more popular worldwide and there's a big professional rank- more talent development at the very top end. I'd also bet we never see the top rowers (the truly best talent) pull their very best scores- the erg numbers we see are usually mid winter to early spring, and after that the best folks are into the boats exclusively in preparation for worlds/olympics (essentially the same as testing cyclists during their base building period). Rowing is different then pulling the erg . . . similar, but different. The force curve isn't the same and the muscle recruitment is a little different; rowers may be putting out more watts in the boat, although the equipment to test for that is still relatively uncommon and very expensive. There's also the question of efficiency loss-- cycling is highly efficient (legs moving in circles, locked into pedals) while rowing is highly inefficient (feet pushing, then trying to link that to the handle through the whole kinetic chain of the body while minimizing power loss). The smaller muscles of the core/lower back/arms may, in the end, be a force limiter in a way that they are not in cycling. No, I have nothing to back this up with.

You do see higher HR's for a given level of lactate in rowing and XC skiing vs. cycling or running, as more muscle mass is utilized. What that means in the end is above my pay grade but Dev, this is why you feel greater cardio load.

Don't know if I answered any questions but it's fun to ramble about work (rowing) and play (cycling).
Sam
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [samtaylor] [ In reply to ]
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I didn't realize the 2km WR was now sub-6. That is phenomenal. I do think it's debatable about the WR being set by rowers who are off peak, though. Erging has almost become it's own sport. IIRC, the former (maybe current) WR holder for the men doesn't make the boat in Germany. Rowing the erg is a skill. As you said, it doesn't always translate into moving a boat, but the same can be said that other way, some folks who move a boat can't move an erg. Especially with sweep, there are notable differences between the erg stroke and the rowing stroke. In addition, the load is also always higher, so I think the erg is biased towards heavier rowers. I.e., 75kg for a LWT is starting to push the envelope, especially if you want to talk about guys being off peak, since I doubt they get faster dropping ~5kg. I certainly didn't...

"Non est ad astra mollis e terris via." - Seneca | rappstar.com | FB - Rappstar Racing | IG - @jordanrapp
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [samtaylor] [ In reply to ]
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and
much more technique dependent,

On the water, yes. On a CII erg, little technique required. I've seen some guys pull <6:00 with technique that would plain sink the boat if they were on the water.
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [Rappstar] [ In reply to ]
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The chap who pulled the LW record is a member of the Danish Nat'l team squad. I'd bet if you asked him he'd give up his erg performance in a day to do better on the water. Might be wrong.

And the HW world was held by the big German who couldn't move a boat. . . but before that it was held by Rob Waddell and only a second or so slower, who I think most anyone would say knew how to row pretty well.

Yes, indoor rowing has become by and large it's own sport. I'd think, though, that the very best talent still gravitates towards the boat- and I bet that if the best rowers in the world decided to JUST row the erg, and trained exclusivly for it, the current records would go down pretty quick. I might be wrong, but that's my 2 cents.

Regarding technique-- yes, it's bad ROWING technique, but it's still technique. And I'd argue there's still a lot of potential power loss in the kinetic chain, much more so then in cycling.

Sam

PS- regarding weight. . .75 kilos is not that far of 72.5, max FISA weight. . . though you need some light dudes to help average you. If you're pulling the erg in February and don't have to be at weight till the first World Cup in June, not so bad.
Last edited by: samtaylor: Jan 22, 10 18:25
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [samtaylor] [ In reply to ]
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Here is an interesting recent N=1 observation on the cardio load of XC ski training training (using more muscles) vs cycling. Last weekend in the middle of XC ski race prep training I entered a 10K run with no actual 10K focused speedwork over the past 9 weeks. I'm 6 lbs over my tri race weight. During the fall running season I ran 37.15 in warmer weather with shorts and a singlet and very little wind. I feel my cardio fitness right now is better, even though I lack specific run fitness and I'm 6 lbs overweight. Race day was minus 3C, way more clothes and quite windy on a hillier course. I ended up running 38.01. I was actually surprised to be that close to my fastest time from last year...between clothes and body mass, I hauled 8 more pounds around the course. I can only attribute it to just training harder more often in the winter than what I can handle in the summer/fall.

I would imagine that rowers can tax their cardio more often at higher intensity than cyclists or runners. That still does not mean they can put out better 1 hour power, because of the mechanical inefficiencies that you point out.
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [samtaylor] [ In reply to ]
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The chap who pulled the LW record is a member of the Danish Nat'l team squad. I'd bet if you asked him he'd give up his erg performance in a day to do better on the water. Might be wrong.

And the HW world was held by the big German who couldn't move a boat. . . but before that it was held by Rob Waddell and only a second or so slower, who I think most anyone would say knew how to row pretty well.

Yes, indoor rowing has become by and large it's own sport. I'd think, though, that the very best talent still gravitates towards the boat- and I bet that if the best rowers in the world decided to JUST row the erg, and trained exclusivly for it, the current records would go down pretty quick. I might be wrong, but that's my 2 cents.

Regarding technique-- yes, it's bad ROWING technique, but it's still technique. And I'd argue there's still a lot of potential power loss in the kinetic chain, much more so then in cycling.

Sam

PS- regarding weight. . .75 kilos is not that far of 72.5, max FISA weight. . . though you need some light dudes to help average you. If you're pulling the erg in February and don't have to be at weight till the first World Cup in June, not so bad.

2.5kg is significant, since most guys are cutting to 75, then cutting further to 72.5. I'm just saying that I doubt times would be faster if you measured guys in season, because even though they might be fitter, they are still lighter, which the erg penalizes. So I think that those guys are pulling best times. I don't doubt that they'd be faster on the erg if they trained exclusively for it, of course.

I agree with your point about Waddell, but it's also interesting that you have a guy who beat him (on the erg) who would never beat him on the water. I also wonder what Waddell weighed when he set the record vs. what he weighed at the Games. I dunno. Obviously not every guy who ergs well rows well. Or vice versa. But there definitely is correlation, which is why good erg scores are of interest to coaches. But there is also clearly some ability to "row the erg" well even if you don't row well.

Regarding the Danish fellow, the erg carries a lot of psychological power though. I.e., coaches are definitely motivated to work with him, polish him, give him chances, etc. because of his obvious capacity. So in that sense, the erg is a gateway. And that is really what I meant by it has become a sport in some ways. I.e., pulling a solid time has a lot of benefits in terms of getting you noticed. It makes coaches care, which has HUGE value. From a development standpoint, a 5:58 guy who needs work on the water is probably more appealing to a coach than 6:08 guy who is really slick, because the 5:58 guy has all that "what if" behind him.

As with all things, I think that it's a bit of a self-fulfilling cycle. Guys with big ergs generally get good coaching, which makes people value the erg, which leads to faster erg times, which is why the records keep dropping (among other reasons).

"Non est ad astra mollis e terris via." - Seneca | rappstar.com | FB - Rappstar Racing | IG - @jordanrapp
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [Rappstar] [ In reply to ]
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Granted and true on all points. I think the point I was trying to make is that best erg power doesn't necessarily relate to best bike power at the top end. It's like putting Geb on a treadmill and saying, well he ran at xyz watts. . . he'd probably be good, but most of us would say in the end that's a poor test of running ability. On the other hand if you treadmill testing was the ONLY running discipline, I'd bet Geb would pretty quickly rise to the top of the treadmill marathon ranking. . .

What I find fascinating is that as far as I know rowing is the one of the only sports that regularly holds up testing on an indoor, artificial machine as the be all/end all of talent. . . although from my experience/knowledge it's much more true in the US then internationally. It's actually kind of strange (sick?) when you think about it.

What skews the power debate when you compare sports is that we actually can test on the bike, in real world conditions, with some accuracy. Not true in any other sport I know of (equipment exists in rowing but doesn't take into account transfer of force to the water, and I don't have comprehensive knowledge of other sports).

In the end, in rowing, it doesn't matter how many watts you can put out- it matters how fast the boat goes down the course. Those things are highly correlated (all the guys in the 1x at worlds pull damn good ergs), but not absolutley related.

Sam
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [Rappstar] [ In reply to ]
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You wrote: As someone who has trained a lot with ITU-focused athletes, I can attest that the key workouts for an ITU olympic distance race are different from the key workouts for an Ironman, even if the weekly volume is not so different. I'd also not be surprised to see much less fall off among the elite rowers as distances got longer anyway.

I checked Olaf Tuftes homepage http://www.olaftufte.com/new/default.asp
His average week is 30 hours of training. I guess that is around the same as the top ITU and long distance triathletes. What is also interesting is his use of xc-skiing. It works in rowing and in triathlon (Rasmus Hennig). Tufte was just 3.14 behind the winner of Vasaloppet, a 90k xc-skiing race with the best long distance skiers competing. Conclusion, good rowers kick ass (sadly I am not one of them).
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [samtaylor] [ In reply to ]
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What I find fascinating is that as far as I know rowing is the one of the only sports that regularly holds up testing on an indoor, artificial machine as the be all/end all of talent. . . although from my experience/knowledge it's much more true in the US then internationally. It's actually kind of strange (sick?) when you think about it.

No, it's true in Europe too. Winter erg test determine the crews composition, at the club and national level. It can be modified over the course of the season depending on performance, but the erg gives the primary seeding. And a bad erg time will follow you, always.

Sorry, off-subject.
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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You'd figure that in a given human body only has so much capacity to convert stored potential energy into kinetic energy....the rest turns to heat. Now the question is whether cycling offers a better mechanical advantage for the conversion than rowing. Arguably rowing uses more muscle mass, but the question is how well does one sport convert energy to mechanical work using the various muscle groups vs the others. Given that rowing uses more muscles, you'd think rowing would more easily offer a high cardio load.

This one is an interesting discussion for me, cause I am intrigued by what goes on in XC skiing vs cycling. XC skiing involves much larger body mass. I feel I can load my cardio much better on a consistent basis on XC skis than biking cause I "run out of legs" more often riding and my legs just need more recovery time between hard sessions. Between hard XC ski sessions, where I am always cardio limited, I can always bounce back the next day and go hard again.

The only other sport where I can go "that hard that often" is swimming, but even then I can never do a 15 hour week of swimming only (because I am technique limited)....on XC skis I can....and I'd imagine in rowing you can too.
In theory it would seem that one should be able to achieve higher power rowing than cycling because of the higher muscle mass involved. A couple of problems I see is the period of time the legs are doing nothing, when the upper body and arms are completing the stroke such that the average muscle mass used per unit time may actually be lower. In addition, because of the higher speeds, cyclists may be able to cool better, allowing higher sustainable power.

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Frank,
An original Ironman and the Inventor of PowerCranks
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [Frank Day] [ In reply to ]
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i know it's a bit off topic, but one of nz's world champion rowers did tauranga half recently....one of the LWs

http://www.sportzhub.com/...id=8863&Itemid=1

He ended up going 4.24.
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [macleandougj] [ In reply to ]
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I have a question for some of you. I rowed back in the dark ages before rowing ergometers. I don't have a clue what my power was while rowing. However, I do have a question regarding the ergometer contests. I have an idea as to how to increase rowing power substantially by making a small change to the set up (this would work as well for the shell (although it would not be as easy to do in the boat) as well as the erg rower). Do these ergometer contests allow any changes to the set up?

If any of you who compete in these things would be interested in trying my idea PM me and I will tell you what it is. I would be interested in someone (or several of you) doing a trial and seeing how much the power can be increased.

--------------
Frank,
An original Ironman and the Inventor of PowerCranks
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [Frank Day] [ In reply to ]
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The only adjustments allowed are changes to the damper setting, which has a similar net result as changing gears on your bike, i.e., you can make it "heavier" or "lighter". You can get more distance per stroke on a heavier setting, but the trade-off is that you'll probably require back surgery if you try to do a 2k test with the damper at it's heaviest setting.

The range of damper settings on a C2 erg is from 1-10 (which is just an arbitrary scale with no units), and the general consensus is to set the damper anywhere between 1-5, which feels most like the resistance you'll experience in a boat. For purposes of standardization across all C2 ergs and to account for temp/humidity, you can also check each machine's "drag factor".

One of my teammates, just for kicks, once covered the fan cage with a layer of cellophane. This seemed like a pretty good way to "trick" the erg, as he then did a 500m piece in under a minute, which is completely ridiculous and unrealistic under normal conditions.
Last edited by: macleandougj: Jan 23, 10 9:02
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [macleandougj] [ In reply to ]
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Any idea on Rebecca Romero's numbers here? Olympic rower to olympic track cyclist... (no relevance to Tri, but all the same...)
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [macleandougj] [ In reply to ]
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In Reply To:
The only adjustments allowed are changes to the damper setting, which has a similar net result as changing gears on your bike, i.e., you can make it "heavier" or "lighter". You can get more distance per stroke on a heavier setting, but the trade-off is that you'll probably require back surgery if you try to do a 2k test with the damper at it's heaviest setting.

The range of damper settings on a C2 erg is from 1-10 (which is just an arbitrary scale with no units), and the general consensus is to set the damper anywhere between 1-5, which feels most like the resistance you'll experience in a boat.

One of my teammates, just for kicks, once covered the fan cage with a layer of cellophane. This seemed like a pretty good way to "trick" the erg, as he then did a 500m piece in under a minute, which is completely ridiculous and unrealistic under normal conditions.
I am not talking about actually making any changes to the machine, as I said my idea should also work in the boat. The idea involves making a simple change to the slide. There are actually two ways of doing this (one would probably be a little better than the other but involves a bigger change, especially if done in the boat). Since it should also work in the boat I would think it would be legal but I doubt anyone has ever tried it. If it were as powerful as I think it could be then, even if illegal, might be worth an attempt at a WR sort of like seeing what one can do using the superman position.

--------------
Frank,
An original Ironman and the Inventor of PowerCranks
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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [macleandougj] [ In reply to ]
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I rowed in college for 4 years and I am an exercise physiologist. I always felt rowing for 5000 meters and cycling a 10 mile time trial were pretty similar efforts. Both sports are very leg dependent as you know from rowing.... shorter efforts of max output will be similar to shorter all out efforts for cycling, although when I used to pull 6:40-6:50 I often would crawl off the erg and be very near "puke" threshold. I am probably jaded from those workouts, don't quite work up a good puke feeling for a 6-7 minute interval on the bike, those efforts are slightly sub LT for me.
You develop alot of power in your leg and back muscles from rowing and cycling will stimulate similar nervous system recruitment patterns for muscles tissue. Most of the people I rowed with are very good triathletes, particularly on the bike. Cycling always seemed to be my best event of the three.

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Re: for ex-rowers and physiologists - rowing power vs. cycling power [jen-g] [ In reply to ]
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First, I am a totally out of shape, overweight guy that used to do triathlons. Now, I just bike for fun when weather allows. I never swim and casually run sometimes in the winter for variety. I have been rowing for 6-8 weeks, 2-3x a week. I just went 10k in 43:06 this morning. In no way was that an all-out effort, but it was a record for me. That comes out to about 162 watts. I am pretty sure for 43 minutes, I can still average over 200 watts on my bike even in my sad state of fitness.

My slight understanding of the erg, which could be totally wrong, is that the power is only measuring the power on the fly wheel. Thus, it does not measure the power it would take just to slide back and forth on the erg without every rowing. That in itself is probably worth 30-40 watts when I sit my big butt down on the erg.

So, there will always be some difference in the erg compared to cycling. I guess that is one of the "inefficiencies" mentioned by others.
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