Which indoor rower is best?

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Which is best for exercise and indoor rowing? Concept 2 or Water Rower? Both sound good, but local stores carry neither. Are the computer link accessories and/or electronic monitoring devices important or just gimmicks?

-- Bob Gramer (bgramer@wwnet.net), June 22, 2000


The Concept II rower is less expensive, has a reputation for lasting forever, and retains a very high resale value. The Water Rower is prettier, quieter, and smaller; I don't know about durability or resale value. The pull resistance on both rowers can be adjusted, by opening or closing louvers on the C II's fan or by adding or subtracting water to the Water Rower. If you just want to do casual exercise, you should choose the one that appeals to you. For serious workouts, the big difference, however, is in repeatability and the electronics. The C II is gives such repeatable workouts that they are used for competitions around the world. The electronics permit you to be sure that the 1:57 you did today is actually better than the 2:01 you did yesterday. This is useful in gauging your progress. C II compiles and publishes charts and lists of times by sex and age group, so you can tell you good you are. On the C II, it is possible to connect a heart monitor to the display. To monitor real increases in fitness, many rowers like to compare a time against the heart rate required to achieve it.

-- David Stookey (dstookey@openwater.com), June 23, 2000.

David, you seen to have experience with Concept 2. Does it feel like rowing? I tried some of the handle bar machines and they did not give the same sensation as rowing, mainly in muscle movements.

I heard that a rowing machine made by a company in Battle Creek, MI, actually had "oars" that pivoted, so that your arms swung in an arc as in real rowing. Battle Creek was part of the company name of manufacturer of the rower. This device is no longer made. I contacted what is left of the manufacturer a couple years ago, and they have nothing left in stock (even repair parts). They also had NO interest in helping me find one. I hoped that a former dealer might have old inventory. Is anybody familiar with this Battle Creek one? Are any of them available anywhere? Were they good enough to search for one?

-- Bob Gramer (bgramer@wwnet.net), June 24, 2000.

I was able to get list of health clubs from Concept 2. I tried out the device. It is fine, but I noticed that the resistance did not begin until a foot or so of the chain had been drawn out. Concept 2 sells direct. (no discounts) Water Rower people gave me names of local dealers. I tried it out also. In my opinion, it feels more like rowing, so I bought it. The store only had floor demo model ($50 off not enough to buy used one) Nobody sells these at discount either.

-- Bob Gramer (bgramer@wwnet.net), July 07, 2000.

The rower with the independant arms used to be made by a company called "MacLevy". They had them at every health club in the 70's. The oars were on outriggers, made of wood, and feathered. The resistance was in the form of and oiled filled baffled cylinder at the pivot point. I called for a catalog way back when and they were $1200. Later I bought an exact knockoff for $100 in the local paper and still have it. I need to retrofit a modern seat and track to it to get it smoother. I recently tried a water rower....although breifly. My opinion is that it blows away the Concept 2. Much smoother....and I love the sound of the water!

-- Harris (hg@myhost.com), July 13, 2000.

Vendor delivered my new Water Rower (July 7), taken right out of the box and set it up for me. That was nice of them. I sent it back with them, as the fit and finish was not what I expected for a "furniture finish" $1100+ device. This was a brand new unit right out of the box. I saw them unpack it. There were two dings in the wood board at top near where you grab the handle; i.e, I would see the dings every time I exercised. Also, this board was not flush fitting with the vertical foot board. One side stuck out. The slot for the adjust footpad had wood spintered away roughly (no attempt to sand or file the break), like you get when you drill thru wood and forget to back it up. This was on the side facing me, not the back side. There was a scratch deep enough to catch your fingernail when you ran across it on the cross board at the end of the rower. The scratch had stain in it, so I know it happened at the factory. The mechanism is supported by two horizontal wood planks connected to two vertical planks. The horizontal planks were not centered on the verticals, so the left sides of the horizontal planks stuck out about a 1/16 inch beyond the verticals. Needless to say I was not satisfied. The vendor took it back. I will post what happens when it happens. (No word yet from vendor by July 13.) Bob Gramer

-- Bob Gramer (bgramer@wwnet.net), July 13, 2000.

Go for the Concept II Ergometer. You can compare your time with hundreds of people in your weight and age group and even post your results on the internet and compare. I am not competetive but like to keep track of my times, heart rate and calories burned. I have used mine for at least 8 years and it really keeps me in shape. The machine is properly engineered and constructed and reasonably priced. Ed

-- Ed Rogers (paddloar@gis.net), December 10, 2000.

BOB: You can not beat the Concept II Ergometer for price, quality, durability, resale and competition--terrific product and friendly knowledgeable folks on the other end of the line. Open water rowers should understand that these ergs are designed to provide the feel of a flat-water racing shell at high speed. To move the boat in flat-water racing with sustained boat speed above 8 knots, the catch (the beginning of the drive part of the stroke) must be very quick, driving the legs hard. The comment above about no load at the beginning of the stroke is the result of a slow catch. Drive the legs hard and quick at the catch and the load is instantaneous on a Concept II erg. Keep pullin' John Mullen

-- John Mullen (Mullen@connect.net), February 03, 2001.

At the club I use a Concept 2. At home I use a Water Rower.

And when we had to replace a Concept 2 at the club I specified another Concept 2, not a Water Rower, because a) the steel framework will stand up better to abuse b) the 500 metre split second readout is the universal standard of comparison in the fine boat world.

However, when I decided to buy an ergo for use at home I went for the Water Rower because a) it is quieter b) it looks better c) it is easy to stand it up against the wall when it's not in use.

I'd probably say that I have a marginal preference for using the Water Rower, but there is very little in it. They both deliver the nearest thing to being out on the water.

I use a heart rate monitor for feedback. The readout is displayed on the Water Rower monitor eg I do 135 to 150 beats per minute for 30 minutes. This gives me an objective to work to. The monitor also gives the total distance travelled which is very useful. Unfortunately the only immediate feedback that the machine gives is provided by an average speed readout eg 3.4 metres per second ie to only one decimal point. This too coarse to be of any use. But the heart rate monitor overcomes this problem by giving an ongoing measure of workload.

The Concept 2 gives much better immediate feedback ie the monitor readout tells you the minutes and seconds that it would take to cover 500 metres at your current speed. This is sensitive and very useful if you are trying to achieve a target of, say, 5000 metres in 19 minutes. Of course, you can also use a heart rate monitor with the Concept 2 (Well worth the money).

In short I would recommend the Concept 2 if you have lots of floor space, are going to look at it often, have understanding (or deaf) friends and family, will race fine boats or participate in indoor rowing competitions.

But if you don't have lots of floor space, are training for open water racing and cruising, want a machine that's going to look good in your house and that isn't going to annoy the hell out of your nearest and dearest, I'd go for the Water Rower.

Demand is good for both machines so depreciation is not an issue.

By the way, I've found the after-sales service for Water Rower in the UK to be excellent.

-- Richard Gooderick (richardgooderick@hotmail.com), April 27, 2001.

I just bought an used waterrower. I tried it at the store and fell in love with it the moment I heard the water "under the boat". It has good looks, is silent and can be stored away. I have also experienced the gap in the catch of the concept II. This doesn't happen with the waterrower. I agree the electronics could be improved, but I can live with it.

-- Cristobal Zepeda (czepeda@hotmail.com), July 31, 2001.

If you want a rowing machine for indoor competitive rowing, I cannot help you. However, if you want a rowing machine for exercise, I built one based on one which I used in the late 60's when I was a member of the Melbourne Rowing Club in Melbourne Australia. I have tried the Ergo type rowers and find that the combination of weights, rope and pulleys provides a much smoother action. You can see some pics of it at the following URL: http://www.members.tripod.com/armstrong_norman/ It cost me about $200 in materials to build, not including the weights. If you are interested in learning more, send me an email and I will provide any assistance I can.

-- Norman Armstrong (normana@postoffice.utas.edu.au), August 25, 2001.

After using both the Water Rower and the Concept 2 at my health club ( I had to drive 20 miles north to another club in the chain to use the WR) I decided to buy a WR this week. A brand new C2 is not a bad thing but the ones at my club got alot noisier and buzy with age. Im sure that a new chain and/or sprocket and some lube would set things straight. IMHO the water rower is such a smooth realistic sensation that is a pleasure to use just for the sensation and sound. Read the WR www.waterrower.com website. All of there comparison claims are true. It may be subliminal, but I feel that the C2 tires you out from the mechanical sensation....which is totally absent in the WR. I think that just using a nylon strap instead of a chain would improve the C2 100%

-- Harris (hg@myhost.com), December 21, 2001.

Also the WR has a soft foam covered ovalized aluminum "oar handle". The C2 has a somewhat large diameter round wooden handle. It seems that the C2 handle makes my hands numb and gives me wrist pain. Certainly try both and then decide. The WR is also $250 more expensive.

-- Harris (hg@myhost.com), December 22, 2001.

Another UK poster here. I have found the reverse to be true on cost between the two machines over here. The C2 retails at 939, and I have just purchased (today) a WR for 800.

All my experience has been with a C2 in the gym, but I thought it to be just too noisy for home use, (I have two young children in bed by 7), not to mention the length of 8ft length being a bit obtrusive for the average British home.

I tried the WR out in a local sports shop, and found the smooth, quiet action to be just what I was looking for.

I would say the monitoring devices were pretty important, if only to help you guage your progress, and to give you something to look at while training. I would guess the computer link stuff was more for the very serious or competitive rower.

Good Luck !

Bill Dickson.

-- Bill Dickson (alfie70@hotmail.com), January 10, 2002.

IMHO monitoring is very important - helps with motivation, performance and technique improvement.

If WaterRowers are your thing, check out

RowH2O WaterRower Software at: http://www.rowh2o.com

Also there is a lively WaterRower Users Group at:


-- RowH2O (info@rowh2o.com), March 03, 2002.

I have tried both and prefer the Water Rower. I like the sound, the immediate pickup, looks and easy storage. While the electronics aren't quite as sophisticated as I think they should be I heard they are working on it.

I am a real begginer and way out of shape. My best 2,000 meter time after a week is 11:37 with 19 liters. How bad is this time?

-- Peter Cini (covey620@comcast.net), December 13, 2004.

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