Which Rowing Machine?
March 21, 2013 8:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about purchasing a rowing machine to use at home. I've used Concept 2 Ergometers at the gym before, and been very happy. However, the price tag and the size of the machine have made me wonder if I can get by with one of the cheaper kinds. I have seen this question, but it doesn't cover the different types of rowers. What are your recommendations for a home rower?
posted by freshwater to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I have a Concept 2 (older model, craigslist purchased) so I can't really talk about the alternatives. If you don't plan on using it every day the size isn't a huge issue - ours breaks cleanly and quickly into two pieces and we store it in a closet. It wouldn't add more than 5-10 minutes to your workout to set it up and break it down even if you had to do it every day.
posted by true at 8:54 AM on March 21, 2013

I've got a Concept 2 Model E and 5 years on still love it. The thing that swung it for me over any cheaper option is that the resale rates on ebay were so high, even for machines that were 2-3 years old. I figured that, at best, I could lose $300 if it didn't work out, which is trivial when compared to how long the average gym membership runs on for when you don't use it.

I remember using one of the cheaper kinds before and thinking it was awful. You need the pull to be smooth and to match how you row and on the cheaper machines it rarely is. It's instructive that on the first review on Amazon that you link to the person loves the machine initially and hates it after two weeks. My opinion is that they are aimed at people who like the idea of a rowing machine but either don't know what a good rowing machine looks like because they've never used one or just can't afford one. The idea of rowing for more than 10 minutes on a cheapo one strikes me as deeply unpleasant.

I also briefly considered getting a Water Rower, which looks lovely and apparently isn't too bad. What swung me against it is that while a Concept 2 takes about 30 seconds to dismantle and just over a minute to put back together, the Water Rower doesn't (so it depends on how much space you have). And while a Concept 2 is easy to change the settings on to make it heavier or lighter to pull, I think the Water Rower requires you to put water in the cylinder or take it out (i.e. fine if the machine is just for you but less good if you plan to share use).

On cost: you can try before you buy. You can rent a Water Rower for $44/month and I know in the UK you can rent a Concept2 for a reasonable price. I assume the same is true in the US.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:57 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also - you might want to read this. It provides a more compelling and technical analysis of why buy a more expensive machine than I can and also provides a great comparison of the Concept 2 v the Water Rower.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:17 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a water rower that I love. It's beautiful and makes a nice swooshy sound when I row. I used to have a Concept 2 that my husband preferred, but it's hideous and so couldn't be in the house. The water rower is in the den in the basement, and I'm okay with it being there. The Concept 2 had to be relegated to a dank storage room. Neither is cheap, but they both hold their value so you can re-sell either once you're ready to move on.
posted by Capri at 10:56 AM on March 21, 2013

Concept 2 is the standard for a reason. I can't think of any other type of product where one company has been so dominant for so long. I would far rather buy a well-used Model D or Model E than a new cheaper rower.

That said, if I were to buy an erg, it would definitely be a dynamic machine: a little more $ but so much more enjoyable (or less torturous, anyway). Concept II makes one, OarTec makes a very nice one, or, if you have a very long room, you can mount your Model D/E on a pair of sliders.
posted by genug at 11:38 AM on March 21, 2013

I have spent time on both a Concept, a Water Rower, and I have tried one of the cheaper models. Without a doubt, the cheaper piston type rowers were terrible. Terrible! If that was the only rower available, I doubt I would row. I cannot stress enough the difference.

The link MuffinMan posted really is the long and short of it. At the end of the day, I prefer the Water Rower to the Concept, mostly because of the subtle difference in feel and the auditory difference. However, I am happy to use a Concept if that is what I have available.

Take some time, go to a fitness store, and give them both a try!
posted by Silvertree at 12:51 PM on March 21, 2013

Our Concept II is over 10 years old, so I can't speak to the quality of their recently manufactured products, but I can say that they are/were built to last.

I wouldn't mess with a piston rowing machine. I would look for used options. They will be cheaper than new, and likely in good shape, but likely not a lot cheaper because they are likely in good shape.
posted by Good Brain at 3:41 PM on March 21, 2013

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