Connecting the Concept2 Rower/PM5 to your Garmin Watch

About a year ago, I bought a Concept2 Rowing Machine but until recently have struggled to find the best way to connect it to my Garmin watch to record activities. It turns out the best way to connect your Garmin to the PM 5 is to use Concept2’s tools rather than Garmin’s.

I find this, by the way, incredibly disappointing; I feel like Garmin has really missed an opportunity to make this seamless!

To set this up:

  1. Create an Online Logbook at Concept2
  2. Connect your logbook with Garmin and/or Strava.
  3. Install the ErgData app on your phone
  4. Log in to your online logbook in the ErgData app.

Then, for each workout:

  1. Connect your heart rate monitor (either watch or chest strap) to the PM5.
  2. Connect the ErgData app to the PM5.
  3. Sync the workout from the ErgData app to your online logbook when you’re done!

Concept2 handles the rest and even uploads an “image” of the PM5 to accompany the workout on Strava! So cool! Bravo Concept2!

Photo

I initially tried connecting things by way of my Fenix 3 HR via the ErgIQ app:

PM5 ➡️ ErgIQ app (on watch) ➡️ Garmin Connect ➡️ Strava

Getting the watch / ErgIQ app connected to the PM5 is a little tricky, but when it works, it gives me rich set of data about the workout. This approach has two main problems:

  1. The ErgIQ app crashes at the end of every workout and sometimes during the workout. The resulting activity appears in Garmin Connect as a “Trail Run”; I can change it and see the ErgIQ metrics, but this is by no means a seamless experience.
  2. The ErgIQ app isn’t authorized to modify the “real” workout metrics, so collecting data is useless except for viewing it in the Connect app. I see two graphs of things like stroke rate. The “real” one looks particularly broken:


    This behavior is the same for heart rate as well! I’ve found wrist-based heart rate to be particularly inaccurate while rowing so I use the Garmin HRM-run monitor. Activities report the “real” HR using the wrist-based data and the other from ErgIQ (which has the HRM data from the PM5). This seems to happen whether I connect the HRM to both the watch and the PM5 or only the PM5.

    Then, when syncing to Strava, Garmin sends only the “real” data, so stroke rate, number of strokes, HR, calories, etc. all appear in Strava with incorrect values. One workout showed 34 calories burned over a distance of 0m, speed of 0s/500m, and an average HR of 69 bpm.

Another approach I tried was to use the built-in “Indoor Rowing” Fenix 3 app. This works well for getting accurate HR data in both Connect and Strava. The watch is able to figure out stroke rate reasonably well but I (obviously) miss out on the richer metrics around power, distance, etc.

The Concept2 integration solves all these problems. It’s “authorized” by Garmin, so Garmin reports a single set of metrics for the workout. Details about the intervals show up correctly in Connect. Strava’s view of the workout not only has the fancy image of the PM5 but reports all the data – distance, cadence, speed, heart rate, power – correctly.

My only complaint with the Concept2 integration is how it handles rest intervals. In both Strava and Connect, all the metrics (even heart rate) seem to drop off during rests. This is evident in both the tabular interval data visible in Garmin Connect as well as in the graphs in both Connect and Strava.

I suppose I can understand the problem for the non-HR metrics, but I find it especially surprising the HR drops off during this time.

All in all, I’m quite pleased with this integration. It saves me a whole lot of headaches in getting things set up for each workout, the data set is complete across both Strava and Garmin Connect, and I no longer need to take a photo of the PM5 and attach it to my workout.

If you’ve gotten this far and are wondering, “where’s the watch?”, you’re absolutely right! I rowed this afternoon without my watch, and got all these metrics. In this approach, the watch’s value is limited to providing HR data, which, again, I’ve found to be quite inaccurate. Would I buy my Fenix 3 HR again (or maybe the Fenix 5)? I’d consider it – but not for its usefulness as an HR monitor. The battery life is amazing, and it’s convenient to get notifications on my wrist.

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