Many people like to discuss the topic of stroke rate (number of strokes taken in any given minute) when it comes to canoe racing but until the past couple of years the only way to track this information is to manually count strokes for a given amount of time. The real issue with this becomes that you are very focused when you are counting and you have only a guess to what your rate is when you are not counting. For some this might be adequate but for the elite of marathon canoe racing the variations in stroke rate are much too small to leave to guessing and what ends up happening is this data gets misrepresented.
I have personally been using a Garmin VivoactiveHR the past couple of years to measure stroke rate and from my first hand experience there is usually a difference of at least a couple of strokes per minute from what I count and what the watch has recorded. For example if I believe I am paddling at 70spm (strokes per minute) I am usually actually averaging around 66-67spm. This difference can mean a big difference over the course of a 2hr or longer race especially if DPS (distance per stroke) is equal.
This is where the Coxmate GPS comes into play. This is a GPS unit with internal accelerometer originally developed for rowers to measure important data such as speed, stroke rate, distance per stroke, and HR (When chest strap is used). This measures the acceleration of the boat and that is how it calculates stroke rate and uses corresponding GPS data to determine DPS. When I found this I thought this could be a great tool for the paddling community so we can actually get recorded data to start having a more organized discussion on the topic of stroke rate/DPS and what ranges are more optimal for better performance.
Last week I had received my unit and I was very excited to get this tested to see how good of product this could be for the paddling community.
The unit comes with a carrying case, a lanyard, a charging cord (USB connector) and a couple of mounting brackets. The initial quality of the product seems pretty nice and the unit is smaller that what I had expected which is definitely a good thing (us canoe racers are always thinking about weight).
It takes a little while to get the unit set up as you have to adjust the sensitivity, and units, and you can also program workouts which is a cool feature for those of us that structure our training sessions. I would allow some time to play with the unit before you hit the water as the user interface is not the most user friendly one that I have used and takes some time to become comfortable with it.
At the time of this writing I have only had the chance to take this out once on a very small creek that has lots of turns and varying current and depth. These are not the ideal conditions to try and evaluate how this machine works in regards to stroke rate of DPS as these will both change very regularly due to the ever changing variables of the river. At first it appeared that it was not registering any of my movements but then realized that the averaging was not set correctly and I also adjusted the sensitivity to very high. Once I did this it seemed to be much more accurate. I will need to re-test this on my normal water as that has long stretches of water with predictable current and stable depth. I plan to do a follow up review of this on my youtube page so make sure to subscribe to be notified once that video hits.
The one thing that I will have to get used to is that even when you change the units to miles and speed to MPH the distance per stroke shows in meters. I am used to reading in feet from my Garmin experience so I was struggling to realize how long the DPS was measuring. Although this is a little bit of a nuisance once I spend more time and learn how to calculate meters to feet in my head this will become a non issue.
This unit also comes with a 1 year subscription to analytic software which is nice for post workout analysis but has some of the same hang ups with measurements as on the software speed is only measured by m/s or 500m pacing.
The verdict is still out on this piece of equipment but I am still very optimistic about it and think this will be a great addition to the training arsenal and could help a lot of paddlers become more efficient and faster paddlers.