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When is the right time to rotate out ergs?

As my club grows, we’re setting up goals for how long we hold onto equipment. For example, we’ve … read more

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As my club grows, we’re setting up goals for how long we hold onto equipment. For example, we’ve set the goal to keep our hulls for 10 years and then cycle them out.

So the question is…when is the right time to rotate your ergs? 10 years? 15 years? Until a rower dies on it?


Nice question. You have two situations.

  1. Athletes love NEW STUFF. So they’ll always use the new gear and abandon the old.
  2. The useful life of boats, ergs, and oars is long. Really long. If you service them and if you repair them.

When should you replace ergs?

For ergs, if you are the type of program that is a high performance, has athletes recording and sharing data, for example, you’ll be wanting to use the Concept2 PM3 and PM4 monitors. Old ergs don’t have these and some can’t be retrofitted. I think this gives you an answer.

For Rowperfect ergs – they live long, very long. They are repairable, refurbishable and can feel like new with a new elastic bungee and new bearings. Plus you get the new Android tablet app and it updates off the Google Play Store free so you don’t have to buy anything else to keep the gear useful (like forever).

Mike Davenport’s book Buy it right is good on 2nd hand gear and how to buy well.

Replacement equipment cycle for a rowing club

I suggest you plan on a 8-year replacement cycle for ergos – buy 2-4 new every year until you have the ideal number for your training headcount. Then replace 2-4 every year and retire or sell the old ones and use the money to fund new purchases topped up with fundraising.

Ideally have a hierarchy for new boats as well – the top racing squads get them first (just for racing). They use the 3-4 year old boats for winter training.

Then after 3 years, the boat drops down into the winter training for top squads and summer racing for the second string squads. Then they go to the juniors and then they go to the Masters. A pecking order of priority for a high-performance club. There are exceptions – the top boats are available for the juniors and masters as they come up to their key racing dates (but for a short time only, then they go back on the shelf).

So if you have 8s, 4s and 2s (my old club mostly had 8s and 4s) and each year we buy a new boat for men and a new boat for women, alternating 8 and 4 if we can afford it.

That gives a 12-15 year cycle for boats through the club.

Ergs and weights, trailers, electronics are bought on an as-needs basis.

Repairing rowing boats

The key underpinning to all this is servicing and repair.  You must, must stay on top of looking after your equipment.

Last almost forever, 13 steps to help your rowing equipment last an eternity is a worthwhile book to read.

Repair and check over your gear pre-season (another helpful book from Mike Davenport – 43 simple actions you need to take before the racing season starts) and have a budget for erg servicing and boat refurbishment.

I instigated an annual boathouse clean up day when each boat was taken out, washed, the rig checked, any spares or repairs noted and then actioned.  It helped all members feel invested in the equipment and for them to value taking the time to look after it.  You can do this too.

About Rebecca Caroe
Rebecca is the host of RowingChat podcast and is a masters athlete and coach. Passionate about helping others enjoy the sport as much as she does. View all posts from Rebecca Caroe

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