Damper Setting 101

Damper Setting is…

SkiErg DamperThe damper is the lever on the side of the flywheel housing, or fan cage, that controls how much air flows into the cage. The fan cages on our SkiErgs are numbered so you can set the damper lever to a particular value from 1–10, indicating how much air is drawn into the cage on each pull:

  • Higher damper settings allow more air into the flywheel housing. The more air, the more work it takes to spin the flywheel against the air. More air also slows the flywheel down faster on the recovery, requiring more work to accelerate it on the next pull.
  • Lower damper settings allow less air into the flywheel housing, making it easier to spin the flywheel.

Damper setting is similar to bicycle gearing: it affects how skiing feels but does not directly affect the resistance. A lower damper setting on the SkiErg is comparable to easier gears on a bike.

Damper Setting is Not…

Many people confuse damper setting with intensity level or resistance. Instead, the intensity of your workout is controlled by how much you use your core, legs and arms to move the handles—in other words, how hard you pull. This is true regardless of where the damper lever is set: the harder you pull, the more resistance you will feel. Because our SkiErgs use wind resistance (which is generated by the spinning flywheel), the faster you get the wheel spinning, the more resistance there will be.

Think about skiing on snow. Regardless of whether you are skiing in fast or slow conditions, you will need to increase your intensity and apply more force to go faster. The difference is in how it feels to go faster in different conditions. Increasing your speed in fast conditions requires you to apply your force more quickly. Increasing your speed during slow conditions also requires more force, but the speed at which you apply the force will be slower over the course of the pull.

At a damper setting of 1–4, the SkiErg feels like faster snow conditions, flats and down hills; at the higher numbers, the SkiErg feels like skiing in slow conditions or uphill. Regardless of the setting, you will need to increase your effort to increase your intensity.

Drag Factor: How True Effort is Calculated

You might be tempted to think that skiing on the highest setting will result in your best score. This is where the Performance Monitor comes in.

Between each pull, the PM measures how much your flywheel is slowing down to determine how fast or slow your “conditions” are. This rate of deceleration is called the drag factor. On your next pull, the PM uses the drag factor to determine from the speed of the flywheel how much work you are doing. In this way, your true effort is calculated regardless of damper setting. This self-calibration is what allows us to compare scores from different SkiErgs, making things like racing and the online world rankings possible.

Different SkiErgs can have different drag factor ranges. A damper setting of 3 on your home machine may feel like 4 on the machine at the gym. Differences in air temperature, elevation—even how much lint is caught in the flywheel housing—can all affect the drag factor from machine to machine. When using different machines, you may need to adjust the damper setting to achieve the drag factor and feel you prefer. See How to View Drag Factor for information on checking the drag factor on your machine.

What Damper Setting to Use

With a little experimentation, you will find the damper setting and drag factor that work best for you. We recommend starting out on a damper setting of 3 or lower. Resist setting the damper lever too high; this can exhaust your muscles before you reap the full cardiovascular benefit skiing provides. The Performance Monitor will give you immediate accurate feedback on each stroke so that you can monitor your performance and determine where you get your best results.

You can also vary your damper setting to achieve different types of workouts. In general, lower damper settings are best for aerobic workouts, while higher damper settings make skiing more of a strength workout.