What is the Incus Nova? – Triathlete

Review Review






Base

Triathletes are known for their love of gadgets; they are also known for (usually) not being the best swimmers. The Incus Nova may be something that many struggling triathlon swimmers are suddenly incredibly curious about. While it may look like a baby TV remote, it’s actually an incredibly smart device (weighing 30g) and is designed to sit in the back of a vest (well, it’s more of a crop top actually) that you wear while swimming . It captures all sorts of data (across nine different axes of motion), most of which you could never get your hands on unless you were in a swim tank for some extensive video analysis with some expert eyes on you. More on that later.


Pros

Easy to use and set up

Provides comprehensive data and analytics like no other device on the market

Can be used for swimming and running (requires sport specific kits for each)

cons

Pricey

It’s easy to get lost in the data – there are many – and you may want a coach/expert to help you get the most out of it


Weight

30 grams

Price

$257


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The Incus Nova is the creation of British product engineer Chris Ruddock, who has designed bicycle frames and equipment for British Cycling, among others. Rewind to his teenage years and he was a competitive swimmer who lost hearing in one ear in his late teens. This led him to become interested in finding other (non-verbal) ways to get feedback during training, and he became intrigued by maximizing the analytical and numerical data you can get while swimming. The basic concept for the Incus Nova started when he taped homemade electronics to his back and went swimming. After many years of refinements – and some 140+ prototypes – the device is sleek, smart and incredibly easy to use. It also gives you more information about your swim than you’ve ever seen.

For a more in-depth feature breakdown, check out our in-depth review of the Incus Nova.

Incus Nova review: the basics

Before you start your swim, don the Incus vest (a crop-top-esque thing that looks like something Faris Sultan raced in 15 years ago), which zips through the front. At the back of this garment is a sleeve/pocket designed to hold the device (very snug). You turn it on with the push of a button (there’s a small button on the side of the device), and before you start your session, press that button again, and it vibrates three times to let you know that it is recording. All very simple. You then go for a swim and almost forget it’s there. You must press the button again to end the recording.

Once home from the pool, you can download the workout to the Incus Cloud app (this requires pre-setting on your phone, but is easy). This is where the fun really begins, because once the device is synced with the app, you’ll find your workout and a labyrinth of data in the overview section. Data includes:

  • Total distance swum
  • Session duration
  • Average pace/100
  • Average Stroke Rate/Minute
  • Average split time (per lap)

Under the “Session Breakdown” section, you’ll see an interactive chart with a stroke and split breakdown for each round (color coded by stroke: light blue is freestyle, purple is flying, red is backstroke, dark blue is breaststroke). Below this info you can also see data for each completed set (if you were swimming sets, say four rounds of 5 x 100) so you can compare and contrast times.

Below that, you’ll find the “Pacing & Splits” section, which shows your average pace per 100 and the average set time. However, it’s the next section, “Swimming Economy,” where the Incus really comes into its own. Sure, you can find a lot of the data mentioned above on other wrist-based swimwear/smartwatches, so it’s the swim economy feature that really sets this device apart from anything else we’ve ever seen or used.

Its placement on your spine allows the device to capture movement and data from your left and right sides independently (whereas a smartwatch measures one side of your body and assumes the other side does the same). This provides information such as punching power to both your left and right sides, as well as the pitch and roll of the body. In short, it can really highlight asymmetries that you may not have known existed and trust me, as someone who has had shoulder surgery due to overuse and asymmetries, this is information that can be really helpful, not just to improve swimming efficiency, but also to help prevent injuries.

RELATED: What is the ideal stroke rate?

Anvil Nova rating: The is good

When I first unpacked the Incus, it seemed like a lot: a vest to wear under your suit (what really?), a small device, an app with an almost overwhelming amount of data, but in fact it is remarkably easy to set up and use. It’s a very smooth, integrated experience and it’s clear that a lot of thought and intelligent design has gone into the user experience.

The standout feature of this device is undoubtedly the level of information and analysis it provides. My first session highlighted that my left stroke has an economy score of +15% while my right side showed a score of +45% (the closer you are to 100%, the more efficient your stroke is – so the Incus didn’t like my left side not at all). The body angle data is also invaluable and incredibly interesting. I’ve been competitive swimming for over 30 years and I’ve never seen such accurate data on my body rotation (both left and right) or lean angle. (For those curious, my body roll on my left was 49 degrees on my first dive, 68 degrees on my right).

RELATED: The four pillars of the freestyle swimming stroke

Anvil Nova Review: the OK

As you can probably tell from the data above, the level of information and analysis this device spews out is unbelievable. It can also feel a bit overwhelming, and that’s coming from someone who’s used to digging into the weeds with nerdy workout data. My word of caution with this device would be to use it with the help of a coach or swimming expert who can really help you maximize and interpret the information to make tangible changes to your stroke. Yes, there are tips and advice in the app related to your scores for each section, but for the beginner or intermediate, you might want to have a few more eyeballs on it.

I have to say I wasn’t a big fan of wearing a crop top under my swimming trunks either. The old-school purists among you might think the same. But it’s really not that bad and you get used to it quickly. Men may also find it unusual. However, you want to make sure it’s sleek and snug. And be very clear about pushing off and hitting the wall to get the most accurate split tips/lap data. The device may be sensitive.

Anvil Nova Review: conclusions

The Incus Nova is unlike anything else on the market today when it comes to swimming tech and wearables. It’s a cliché all too often thrown around by marketing wizards when new products hit the market, but in our expert opinion, this device – and all the data it gives you – is a game changer. Not only will it change your swimming for the better, it’s going to change the world of swim tech wearables.

If you’re someone who is committed to improving your swimming, there’s probably nothing quite like it that can help you improve your game (well, you also need to do a lot of consistent training and ideally work with an experienced coach too). When used in conjunction with a smart, sustainable training program and a coach who knows what they’re doing, the Incus Nova is sure to help you swim faster, more efficiently and with more knowledge than ever before.

RELATED: A Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming

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