Concept 2 Rower Review

This the single most expensive piece in my garage gym. At just under $1000 brand new, the Concept 2 Indoor Rower a big cost, that I think is well worth it.

Value: 8/10

Quality: 10/10

Customer Service: n/a

Overall: 10/10

https://shop.concept2.com/indoor-rowers/298-model-d-with-pm5.html

Value

This is the single and biggest drawback to buying a Concept 2 – the high price tag. $1000 is an exorbitant price to pay and is the single most expensive piece of equipment in my garage gym. In fact, you could buy all of this equipment for the sam price:

  • Titan T3 rack,
  • CAP OB-86b barbell
  • A pair of CAP 45lb plates
  • EliteFTS Safety Squat Bar

But to simply see this as $1,000 is selling the Concept 2 short, because this isn’t purely about price, it’s about the overall value of the price to what you get and the Concept 2 is a great piece of gear at this price.

The Concept 2 Rower is not only a popular choice for many home gyms, but in almost every commercial gym I have ever stepped into. In fact, I can’t recall ever seeing another type of rowing machine in any gym; 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness, numerous CrossFit and powerlifting gyms, even the gyms I used to go to in Australia. It was either the gym had a Concept 2 rowing machine or it had no rowing machines. They are that prolific.

The model D comes with a 2 year warranty, the model E comes with a 5 year warranty. I’ve had my rower for about one year and there have been no issues at all. I read the maintenance section of the manual, which is mainly aimed at commercial users and is based on hours used. Recently I have been lagging with the oiling of the chain, however nothing else has been necessary, no tightening of any screws, no wearing down of any handles or bolts. For perspective I use the rower an average an hour a week, so I would say it’s very light use relative to commercial settings. The rower feels just like it did day one.

Quality

The quality of the Concept 2 rower is apparent, especially in a home setting where the unit is completely overbuilt for the application. Not only is it used by one to two people, it is gets a lot of downtime in between uses. The rower doesn’t seem as much abuse as it would in the commercial setting it was designed for. My capacity for rowing speed is well under a lot of people who would otherwise use the machine, so I haven’t been able to ‘test its limits’ via the rowing mechanism. I would also argue that a home/garage gym owner will take better care of their equipment that the average gym goer.

There is nothing much to criticize about the Model D, the unit breaks apart into two pieces for easier (recommended) storage. However, for convenience I tend to store it in one piece standing upright. I haven’t had any issues storing it this way.

I was concerned about the two wheels that are used to move the unit around, however I have moved this thing around lot and there have been no issues. The legs bend a little bit during moving around and taking apart, but once the unit is setup, the unit is solid.

The handle and seat aren’t anything special and get the job done. Sometimes I feel like pad on the seat would be nice, but I haven’t gotten around to it and now I’m used to the hard bench.

The other item that has potential to break are the foot steps & strap setups. This was the only thing I ever noticed at the commercial gyms that would break, and I’m certain it was due to abuse from other patrons. My only little complaint is the foot strap does loosen over the course of a row, it usually starts after five minutes. However, it’s been such a low issue that I haven’t researched how to fix it, until now. Two suggestions are to double loop the straps in the locking mechanism for a tighter lock and second, is to row strapless and adopt a rowing technique that requires no ‘toe pull’.

The computer is neat, it has all the relevant information needed. I haven’t had to replace the batteries since purchasing. The games they place are a great feature and entertained my 8-12 year old cousins on a recent visit (Yes, the Concept 2 held up to some abuse from several children, playing on it and around it). Again, nitpicking, would be the inability to customize the information displayed on the screen. Rather than cycling through the different measurements, I would like to be able to customize the display to only show information that I want to see.

The biggest complaint I have, is not with the rower, but the app that Concept 2 has released to pair with the use of the rower “ErgData”. It’s basically a little app that displays very similar information as that on the PM5 display and has the ability to save your workouts online and to keep a longer track of your rowing history. The app itself works well, albeit clunky. It doesn’t autoconnect to the rower, you have to select connect on the PM5 and then connection with the app. The user interface needs updating as it looks like an app that is more suitable to a Palm Pilot than an iPhone. It doesn’t add much more information than is available on the PM5, other than that it gives you a second screen to show extra rowing information. I don’t think it’s worth the download at this point in time.

Customer Service

I haven’t had to reach out to customer service personally, so have no rating on this aspect of Concept 2.

Overall

There’s not much else to say about the only rower that is found almost everywhere. It is the standard rower for a reason, there are only very minor complaints about it and it feels very nitpicky bringing them up, but for the purpose of a review, every little thing should be mentioned.

The other aspect to think about is the floor plan of your own garage/home gym. This thing takes up a fair amount of space when laid flat, but does have a small foot print when stored vertically.

The only other concept (pun intended) I could raise is how this compares with other rowers. For rowing machines, there are; the Xebex Air Rower 2, ($750), Nordic Track ($650), WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor ($1,560), numerous ‘cheap’ magnetic rowing machines (sub $300) available from big box stores and Titan Fitness. I would stay away from those if possible, due to the different nature of the pulling/rowing motion.

I haven’t had a chance to use any other machines, so I’ll stick with the reason why I chose the higher tier Concept 2 over the other brands. Simply because of how prolific the rower is, I’ve used them in every gym I’ve been a member of and have had nothing to complain about. I wanted to buy a rower that I wouldn’t have to worry about; maintenance or repair wise. I was familiar with how the rowing motion of the Concept 2 felt and wanted to row on the same machine I had rowed on when at the gym.

Another aspect to think about is if you compete in CrossFit. The only authorized rowing machine allowed for the Open and score keeping etc, is the Concept 2 Rower. In a press release regarding the recent CrossFit 2018 Open, CrossFit will not allow any times completed using any Xebex rowers to count for official scores. Whether or not this is due to contractual obligations with Concept 2 or if it is ‘easier’ to row on a Xebex rower, it doesn’t matter, since CrossFit will only allow the Concept 2 rowers to qualify for their competitions.

Extra: Why Rowing?

There are many choices when it comes to cardio exercise, literally anything that makes you short of breath for an extended period of time. So I’ll keep this section to cardio machines. Ranging from the treadmill, exercise bike, rowing machine, ski erg, elliptical machines, steppers and even the weighted sled/prowler.

Out of all the options, I believe the rower to take the top spot for the following reasons:

  • It’s full body, unlike an exercise bike or treadmill or stepper, the rower uses the upper and lower body in unison. If you did want to isolate the lower or upper body, you have the ability to row legs or arms only.
  • It’s easy on the joints – there is no impact at any point of the movement. Which makes it great for people requiring a low impact exercise. It won’t aggravate any injuries that running might.
  • It’s easily scaleable. There is not only a fan block to adjust how heavy the pull is, but the user can row as slowly or as quickly as they want. The great thing with the mechanism of the rower is that the harder the pull, the more wind resistance is encountered making the actual movement harder.
  • It mimics the movement pattern of the squat and deadlift, more so than any other machine. So it provides a great overall warm up before squats and deadlifts.
  • It’s more comfortable to use than an exercise bike… no further comments necessary.

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