row2k Features
Training Hack
Handle Height Tape
February 27, 2013
row2k hackers

Two takes on the tape trick: athletic tape and some retro red electrical tape

contributed by John FX Flynn

We've all seen this during a long winter on the erg: folks who get in the bad habit of dropping their hands on the drive so low that the chain scrapes the bottom of the rectangular chain guide up at the catch. We've probably all seen the hack that helps fix this one, too, because it has been around almost as long as the erg itself, and we especially like this one because it features our favorite hack tool: tape.

A horizontal piece of tape across the chain guide, just under where you want the handle height to be, does wonders for athletes who have gotten used to dropping those handles. The tape reminds the rower to keep the handle up and keep the chain parallel to the floor, which means the hands--and shoulders--are much better prepared to get connected right at the catch. For taller rowers, the tape might be as much as halfway up the chain guide, so this hack usefully addresses a bit of technique that the erg itself, with all that extra space to carry the chain low, provides little feedback on.

Tape not tough enough? Check out how one coach went heavy metal with this hack
Tape not tough enough? Check out how one coach went heavy metal with this hack

The bad habit of letting the hands drop comes from an innocuous enough place, of course: folks want to make the erg feel like a boat, so they drop their hands around the finish end--just like they would, and properly so, on the water. The problem, though, is your typical gunwale-free, not-down-to-port erg has no way to remind the rower not to keep dropping their hands, so down they go, right along the shins and, in some cases, as close as they can get to the body of the erg itself. The result can be some pretty inefficient posturing up at the catch and, in the worst cases, a catch that is all shoulder-swing and very little connection or power, all because the poorly prepared rower is trying to get the handle back to a good drive height.

We have it on good authority that this hack started as an off-season use for that old stand-by, electrical tape, and we know you have plenty of that lying around the boathouse. We actually like athletic tape for it, though, because a fresh piece of the white tape will, over the course of the workout get blackened--or even ripped--in direct proportion to how well the athlete is doing at keeping those hands up. Heck, you can even have a "clean tape winner" after the session, which might be as good a way to pick a bow seat as any. This trick even works when you are tape-less, if you happen to work at a place with a good supply of paper cups on hand: just jam a dixie cup into the chain guide and you have an instant height setter that, as a bonus, won't rip or fall off.

How useful is this hack? Well, you do see it all over, and we know of erg rooms stocked with tape so that every rower can doctor his/her erg for daily. We've even spotted a (heavy) metal version of this one--at least one program out there has aluminum straps bolted to its ergs so that the handles are always up (and, if they are not, you can hear the offender from across the room). Well hacked!

Have a great training hack that's making your erg warriors better rowers this winter?Share your tips--and hacks--in the comments below.

Have a great rowing hack to suggest for future inclusion here? Send it to us!

If you enjoy and rely on row2k, we need your help to be able to keep doing all this. Though row2k sometimes looks like a big, outside-funded operation, it mainly runs on enthusiasm and grit. Help us keep it coming, thank you! Learn more.


Log in to comment
05/08/2013  12:44:55 PM
I prefer the more durable metal solutions. (Bolt, wire, aluminum bracket) but I always protect the chain by using a piece of pvc as well. This can be easily slipped over a bolt or wire and with a slot cut in it, the pvc would slip over the aluminum bracket as well. Not only does it protect the chain, but it also softens the grinding sound.

03/02/2013  8:52:16 PM
I used a thin gauge of wire (coat hanger like stock) to go around the slot after trying cardboard and paper which was ripped off soon after application. The wire can slip between the rubber guard and the metal framework for the slot that is closest to the fly wheel. Along the same lines, I understand that the highly regarded coach and former employee of Concept2, Larry Gluckman, drilled a hole across the slot and put a bolt through to achieve the same end.

02/28/2013  11:10:26 PM
I would agree with Isaac- I typically tape a 2cm thick strip of paper over the opening. It doesn't gum up the chain, but it doesn't tear quite as easily as tissue.

02/28/2013  10:09:43 AM
FX: We went one further and ran a piece of tape from the edge of the monitor straight down to the beam below to keep rowers, especially smaller, younger and less flexible rowers, from over-reaching.

02/28/2013  9:37:28 AM
Metal? Good way to destroy the chain. Tape would get tiresome after repeatedly putting it on after blowing through it with the chain (not to mention chain would eventually gum-up). Best solution that doesn't ruin the chain is to put a mark on either side of the entry point. If you swing low you'll know it, but you won't ruin the chain.

02/27/2013  8:04:11 AM
My coach puts a tissue instead of tape, and if we rip through it he comes up with some form of torture for us..

Get our Newsletter!

Support row2k!

Tremendous thanks to our
row2k supporters!

Get Social with row2k!
Like row2k on Facebook Follow row2k on Twitter Follow row2k on Instagram Follow row2k on Youtube Connect with row2k on LinkedIn

Get the row2k app!

row2k rowing store!

Get our Newsletter!
Enter your email address to receive our weekly newsletter.

Support row2k!

Advertiser Index
Advertise on row2k