Q&A on EXR Split & its significance to indoor rowing
The April update (EXR version 1.7) introduced EXR Split, a new setting that improves your workouts in many ways. But how does it work exactly and how do its results compare to Concept2 Split?
In this Q&A, CEO Alfred explains EXR Split in detail, highlights its benefits and dares you to step out of your comfort zone.
Q: Let’s start with a simple question: What is EXR Split?
A: EXR Split is a new speed calculation setting. EXR Split uses extra variables like your body weight and your virtual boat’s weight to come up with data that is more accurate than the statistics of rowing machines.
Q: What made you come up with EXR Split?
A: This might sound a bit ambitious right now, but with EXR we want to connect the entire rowing world. By that, I mean that all rowers should be empowered to compare their statistics with each other and have fair races, no matter what rowing machine brand they use. What makes comparing the statistics of different rowing machines with each other so hard is that many brands use their own, sometimes secret split formula. On top of that, the rower’s weight is used differently in these formulas.
You could say that this is the point where EXR Split is some kind of innovative tool: The split calculations of rowing machines and how they use variables might vary, but the erg’s power output is untouched. EXR Split uses this raw data, adds more variables and eventually comes up with more accurate results.
Q: How does EXR Split work exactly?
A: With EXR Split, we only work with a part of the data that a rowing machine displays. That’s because we want to perform our own speed calculations and not rely on the calculations of the machine. More specifically, we take the machine’s strokes per minute and the raw power output, which is the wattage that you produce when you row. Then we use those values in the EXR Split formula and add your body weight and the boat weight (which is set to a single scull because that’s the only shell used in EXR right now). What’s special about this approach is that the body weight and boat weight are usually neglected. Leaving those variables out leads to pretty different performance data when comparing it to the statistics of outdoor performances. So usually you see great disparities between your indoor-split and your outdoor-split.
The EXR Split formula uses the machine’s strokes per minute and the raw power output in combination extra variables like your body weight.
Q: What about rowing machines that calculate with weights, does EXR Split deliver better statistics then too?
A: If rowing machines take the body weight into account, they usually use it to put you into a weight class. The disadvantage of this is that everyone who rows at the same speed has the same split, it doesn’t matter how much they weigh exactly.
We know that Concept2, for example, categorizes you into lightweight or heavyweight. Based on your weight class, they put you on specific leaderboards and competitions. I get that it’s better than nothing, but I think that it also leaves room for improvement. That’s because the splits don’t get adjusted to your weight. Assuming that a heavy rower has more muscle mass than a light rower, they would go faster and produce more watts on the rowing machine. But on the actual water, they would get totally different performance data. If you look at statistics from rowers on the water, you’ll notice that a light rower accelerates faster compared to a heavy rower. The higher the weight, the deeper the boat is in the water and the more mass you have to move, so the weight is an important factor when calculating your speed. That’s why EXR Split uses your exact weight to calculate your statistics and shows more accurate results.
Q: Does EXR Split have other advantages besides more accurate performance data?
A: Yes. Even if rowing machines included data like the exact body weight in their split calculations and delivered comparable statistics, we would still have a problem to solve. Because not only are the statistics sent from rowing machines problematic, but also the ways in which they’re sent. Some machines only transmit data a few times a second, which is too little to synchronize what you’re seeing in EXR with what this data indicates. There’s a delay. As a result, the visuals can be out of sync or in the worst case even pretty much all over the place. More concretely, it is possible that the finish lines are not in the right places and achievements activate at the wrong moments.
With EXR Split, the distance you cover is calculated by EXR instead of the rowing machine, which results in the activation of achievements at the right moments and the visuals being on point. For example, you now pass through the finish line whenever you’re actually supposed to end your sprint. Overall, EXR Split gives you a better and more streamlined experience.
Q: How does EXR Split compare to Concept2’s split?
A: Actually, EXR Split is kind of based on Concep2’s split. To develop EXR Split, we initially looked at the speed calculations of different rowing machine brands. Next, we consulted with trainers to compare the brands’ data to statistics from athletes on the water. We came to the conclusion that although Concept2’s split leaves your body and boat weight out, it's alright, but still differs a lot from the outdoor rowing statistics.
Just take a look at the graph below to follow me here: This graph shows the split times for a rower of 50 kg (110 lb) and a rower who weighs 125 kg (276 lb) in ideal weather conditions. As the blue and red lines indicate, you’re always slower on the water compared to your Concept2 Split.
While on the subject, Concept2 is aware that their speed calculation results in a flat line that does not include the boat weight. To work around this, they have a special calculator on their website, but here the boat weight is set to an eight instead of a single scull like in EXR. So EXR Split is still more precise if you want to know your individual statistics. Anyway, my point is that using the boat weight for split times is actually nothing shocking or ground-breaking.
Q: So why didn’t you just use the formula that simulates rowing on the water?
A: I get that it might seem logical to just use the formula for splits on the water, but we imagined it to be quite devastating for rowers to suddenly have a much slower pace. That’s why we decided against it and instead chose the middle ground: a formula that leads to results that are not too far off from what rowers are used to, but are still fairly realistic. You could explain the small speed boost by EXR’s virtual mother nature giving you nice back winds, making you go a bit faster than what you’re used to on the water.
With this approach, the question was where we let the graph for EXR Split cross the one of Concept2’s split. Eventually, we decided on 74 kg (163 lb) since that’s the limit value for the 2 weight classes used by Concept2. This means that with EXR Split, rowers under or over 74 kg are a bit faster or slower respectively. This also applies to the boat weight: a heavy boat will later go slower than a light one.
Just to sum up, EXR Split delivers results that are closer to real-life rowing statistics, improves the gameplay and forms a step toward fair races.
EXR Split delivers results that are closer to real-life rowing statistics, improves the gameplay and forms a step toward fair races.
Q: So EXR Split prepares us for the upcoming competition mode?
A: Yes, especially with the multiplayer and competition mode on the horizon, where rowers with all kinds of rowing machines will row with or against each other, it is decisive to already think about how to level the playing field.
Q: Is the concept of EXR Split a novelty for indoor sports in general or only for indoor rowing?
A: The latter. Generally speaking, I think that indoor cycling is further developed than indoor rowing because calculations like EXR Split are a normal thing to do in the cycling world. Also, cyclists just trust the performance data that their app displays because most indoor rollers don’t have a native monitors. So you can’t even know which values your hardware uses and consequently you’re unable to compare them to your app’s. You could say that because of the lack of displays, cyclists have it easier with trusting their apps. Just look at platforms like Zwift. There, your body weight is important to your training experience and users really believe the data shown by the app. I think that this is something rowers now need to get used to. I think that it would be ideal if rowing machine manufacturers stepped away from always showing their hardware’s data and automatically turned off their screens when connecting an app like EXR. My dream is that EXR is already installed on the machines and runs on their native displays. Let’s hope that this dream becomes reality soon.
Q: What would you like everybody to know about EXR Split?
A: I understand that depending on EXR Split is outside of your comfort zone. You’re used to your rowing machine always showing statistics you trust in and suddenly being told that you should ignore them can feel strange. And here’s what I want you to take to heart: dare to step out of your comfort zone and have faith in EXR! Even if you have chosen your rowing machine’s data until now, I dare you to switch to EXR Split and see how much better it makes your workouts. I get that it might look like EXR is displaying totally wrong statistics, but keep in mind that it is using your erg’s power output for its calculations. Please try to look away from your rowing machine’s monitor and focus on EXR.
When rowing with EXR Split, you discover how much it improves your experience. Just get into the mindset that by using EXR Split, you are using an innovative function that is reshaping the image we have of indoor rowing and performance data in general.
Want to find out more? Read more about EXR Split on the support page.