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Assembling and First Look at the Vasa Ergometer

Tue, May  29, 2007 - By Mike Muha

Well, it happened like this.

I got talking to Rob Sleamaker of Vasa, Inc. We had a discussion about various cross country ski teams using the Vasa Ergometer and some of the interesting things they were doing, and how swim teams were usng it to replace some workouts in the water.

I've always had a high regard for the Vasa Trainer, considered the Cadillac of rollerboards every since I tried one out at Crystal Mountain many years ago. I said to Rob, "Hey, if you ever want a cross country skier to review your Ergometer..."

And the rest is history.

The Vasa Ergometer is not a cross country skier's rollerboard; it is not like Vasa Trainer which leverages your body weight for resistance as you pull yourself up an incline. Instead, the Vasa Ergometer uses a variable airflow wind resistance system designed around a flywheel: the harder you pull, the more resistance you feel. Think Concept 2 rowing ergometer, and you get the idea.

What attracted me to the Ergometer was the performance monitor: it measures:

  • Current, Max and Average Power in watts
  • Average Power in watts for the left side and for the right side
  • Turnover (e.g., number of doublepoles or swim strokes per minute)
  • Distance in meters
  • Calories

The performance monitor has some additional features, including:

  • A audible tempo beeper, which allows you to set a desired turnover rate
  • Interval timer with pre-set rest between intervals
  • Time or distance countdown.

These various monitors and feature give you the ability to measure your power output over time, or vary tempo and see difference in average watts or distance covered per unit time. The ability to quickly get in an interval session during inclement weather seems a real benefit.

The rest of this article will discuss how to build the Vasa Ergometer. Later articles will go into using it, some sample workouts, and some modifications that can be made to the Ergometer to make it even more cross country skiing ski specific. Plus, we'll take a detour into using it for kayak and canoe training.

Assembling the Vasa Ergometer

The Vasa Ergometer arrived at my doorstep in three boxes over two days. The long box contains the monorail, the large box the flywheel / fan assembly, and the smaller box all the rest of the materials.

The Vasa Ergometer comes in three boxes

The Vasa Ergometer comes in three boxes.

The smaller box has on overwhelming number of parts - a least it seems that way at first. Actually, the parts are segregated into easy to find bags that you open as you need them. Once I read the instructions, I was struck by how well the Ergometer was designed for ease of assembly.

The first box of the Vasa Ergometer contains the most of the pieces.

Parts, parts, and more parts - but all neatly organized.

Step 1: Assemble the seat carriage.

This was a trivial task, consisting of the bolting the seat the the carriage. Vasa even includes the wrench you need.

First step for building the Vasa Ergometer: Assemble the seat carriage.

Step 1. Bolt the seat to the carriage.

Step 2. Attach the monorail to the rear stanchion (leg)

Another easy step. Insert the stainless steel monorail into the leg, and use a couple bolts to secure.

Second step for building the Vasa Ergometer: Take the beam out of it's box and insert into the leg assembly.

Step 2. Bolt monorail to rear stanchion

Step 3. Slide the seat carriage onto the monorail; attach tether cord.

Couldn't be easier. Simply slide the seat carriage onto the monorail, then select one of the three provided tether cords and attach one end to the seat carriage and the other to the rear stanchion.

The tether cord allows the seat to slide up and down the rail, but prevents it from sliding too far forward. The tether cord is elastic; the three supplied tether cords provide three different resistances: light (red), medium (blue), hard (yellow). I put on the hard, yellow cord.

Thrid step for building the Vasa Ergometer: Slide the seat onto the monorail, then attach one of the three tether cords.

Step 3. Slide seat assembly onto the monorail. Attach tether cord.

Step 4. Unpack the front Ergometer assembly.

The main Ergometer unit comes in it's own box. The clever packing material is designed to allow you to remove the unit without scratching it. You essentially drag the unit over the providing packing material until you can tilt the unit up on it's wheels.

Make sure the end of the monorail is nearby and pointing toward the Ergometer assembly: they are attached in the next step.

Fourth step for building the Vasa Ergometer: Unpack the front assembly.

Step 4. Unpack the front Ergometer assembly.

Step 5. Attach the front Ergometer assembly to the monorail.

This was the only hard step for me. You hold the front Ergometer assembly upright in one hand, the lift the end of the monorail and insert it into the sleeve in the front Ergometer assembly. While easy in concept, it turned out the monorail/sleeve fit was very tight. I had to rock the two pieces while trying to pull them together to get monorail into the sleeve. T

his was very surprising given how easy it was to insert the monorail into an identical sleeve on the rear stanchion.

Once the monorail is in the sleeve, you secure with two bolts. The first bolt is also a tight fit - you have to push the flexible plastic out of the way on the front Ergometer assemble before you can fit the bolt through the hole (see below).

Fifth step for building the Vasa Ergometer: Slide the monrail into the front assembly

Step 5. Attach Front Ergometer Assembly to Monorail

A this point, you have the nearly assembled Ergometer, as pictured below:

Here's what the Vasa Ergometer looks like so far.

Vasa Ergometer, getting close to the finish.

Step 6. Attach the performance monitor

The performance monitor attaches to the front Ergometer assembly with a ball joint and two data cables. The cables are inked red and black to match the red (R) and black (L) connector sockets on the performance monitor (see below).

Sixth step for building the Vasa Ergometer: Unpack the monitor. Plug the red and black cables from the front assembly into the color-coded connecton ports on the monitor.

Step 6a. Data cables are color-coded to plug into performance monitor.

The ball joint on the monitor fits into a socket on the front assembly. You tighten a hose clamp over the socket, using the provided screwdriver. This secures the performance monitor to the front Ergometer assembly, but still allows you swivel it in several directions.

Seventh step for building the Vasa Ergometer: Attach the monitor to the ball joint sticking out from the front assembly.

Step 6b. Secure performance monitor to socket on front Ergometer assembly.

Step 7. Attach handles to drive cord

The final step is to clip on the handles to the drive cords on the front Ergometer assembly. Vasa also provides swim paddles and ankle straps as well.

Eight step for building the Vasa Ergometer: Attach a set of handles. Done!

Step 7. Attach handles to drive cord

Optional Paddling Attachment

The Vasa Ergometer can be purchased with an optional kayaking / canoeing kit. Vasa include the kit with the Ergometer for testing. The kit consists of a foot rest that attaches to the monorail with an easy to use knob and a "paddle" that clips onto the drive cords. Setting up the option takes just moments, and it's equally fast removing the kit.

The kit contains instructions for moving the performance monitor from under to the monorail (see the picture in Step 7) to the monorail itself. This does necessitate drilling a hole in the cover of front assembly. I have not tried that (yet).

Biathlete Hugh Pritchard, who used to slalom race kayaks in England, tests the kayaking setup:

Kayaking on the Vasa Ergometer

Size and Mobility

The completed Vasa Ergometer takes up a rectangle 8.5 feet long and 27" wide. The front of the Ergometer is 32 inches tall. It's very easy to move simply by lifting the rear of the monorail and rolling it around on the front assembly wheels. Don't expect to make tight turns with an eight foot long monorail, however!

I could pretty easily pick up the front of the Ergometer and move it to the side.

Adjusting the resistance on the Vasa Ergometer.

Two features affect the resistance you feel. The first is the flywheel speed. The harder you pull, the more resistance you have.

The second feature is wind resistance. You can adjust the wind resistance by changing the opening of the damper door on the front assembly of the Vasa Ergometer. Closing the damper door provides the least resistance; opening it fully provides the most resistance. There are 7 positions or resistance settings on the door.

Although Vasa provides a "fastpin" to secure the open door (see the blue pin in the photos below), the door stays where you put it and you don't need to use the fastpin.

The Vasa Ergometer has a 7-position damper door that adjusts the wind resistance. Closed provides the least resistance; open all the way provides the most resistance.

The damper door provide 7 settings for adjusting wind resistance.

Exercises

The Vasa Ergometer user manual includes a large number of exercises. Please note: the user manual is geared mainly to swimmers! (Swimmers are the biggest market for Vasa). I'll discuss various exercises in later articles, including many not found in the user manual or on the Vasa web site.

Summary

Overall, the assembly of the Vasa Ergometer took roughly an hour, and can be done by a single person working alone. The instructions are a model of clarity. All tools are included, except for the box cutter I used to open the boxes.

Construction is exceptionally sturdy. The Vasa Ergometer is rock steady. According to Vasa, the Ergometer is designed for club, team and gym settings.

More to come...

Doublepoling on the Vasa Ergometer in the kneeling position.

Doublepoling on the Vasa Ergometer.