Live Science Verdict
While it is neither the prettiest nor the fanciest machine, the Concept2 RowErg is the best and most reliable all-rounder for both beginner and experienced rowers
Great value for money
Reliable and durable
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It’s no surprise that the Concept2 RowErg (formerly the Concept2 Model D) appears in gyms and rowing clubs around the world - with its sturdy, reliable design and workmanlike function it has earned its stripes as the most popular and one of the best rowing machines out there. A classic air resistance machine, it uses a flywheel and has a damper with 10 settings so you can adjust the airflow.
You might expect it to be noisy - and it’s certainly not as quiet as a magnetic rower - but at 70-100 dB it’s not going to bother the neighbors.
The Concept2 RowErg is the industry standard machine used in indoor rowing competitions, and it’s the one that nearly all rowers (from beginners to Olympians) have at their clubs and in their homes. World rankings are all set on the Concept2 RowErg, and we reckon it deserves its place in our round up of best workout equipment for home workouts.
Resistance settings: 1-10
Display: PM5 display shows pace, watts, stroke rate, calories and an optional pace boat or force curve
Dimensions: L96" x W24" x H50"; Seat height: standard legs 14" / tall legs 20"
Folding: Can be split in half and stored on its head
Heart rate: Bluetooth and wireless ANT+ connectivity so the PM5 monitor can be synced with your heart rate monitor
App compatibility: No built-in app - connects with its own ErgData app and many third party apps
Compared with some of the fancier models on the market, the Concept2 RowErg is pretty no-frills. You won’t find a touchscreen, live classes, animations, or interactive workouts, but don’t be fooled by the basic design of the PM5 monitor - it provides plenty of data. There are numerous options for programming workouts and analyzing your data, which can be synced with Concept2’s own ErgData app and transferred to the Concept2 logbook.
You can also rank yourself against users around the world over standard distances (from 100 to 100,000m). If you track your workouts in the Concept2 logbook, you’ll be able to enter regular challenges (solo or in a team) and will be rewarded with a certificate when you reach landmarks such as a million meters.
The Concept2 RowErg gives you a comfortable row. It’s smooth, it’s ergonomically designed, and has an adjustable footrest (some cheaper models put your body at uncomfortable angles and have a less smooth motion).
It’s made to last and has genuinely impressive customer service (Concept2 even replied to one query well after hours), and you can always get spare parts.
Concept2 RowErg: Design
The Concept2 RowErg is a machine designed for function, not form. It has neither the sleekness of the solid wood water rowers nor the elegant curve of the Hydrow Rower, but it’s built by rowers, for rowers, and is designed to last.
Every part of the machine is solid and well-made - there are no flimsy weak points and there’s very little to go wrong (though some criticize the PM5 monitor for being the least robust part).
The footplate is adjustable - essential for getting into the correct body position - and the handle is angled for a more ergonomic feel. The handles are smooth plastic and will get slick with sweat in a hard workout, though the plastic finish does make them easy to clean.
The seat is hard plastic and although it is shaped, some users find they need to invest in a seat pad for extra cushioning.
The rowing action is smooth (especially if the monorail and chain are kept clean) and the monitor is backlit and at a comfortable height. Newer models come with a smartphone or tablet holder so you can track your workout stats or watch something while you row.
Concept2 RowErg: Functionality
The Concept2 RowErg is simple to assemble: The two main parts are attached with a simple hook that fits over a bar.
Once assembled, it’s straightforward to use. You control the resistance with the amount of effort you put in, but there’s also a damper (with 10 settings) controlling the airflow. You can adjust the footrest according to the size of your feet, by moving it up or down.
The PM5 monitor is backlit so it’s easy to see and has a simple “Just Row” function so you can get started immediately, as well as offering both preset and programmable workouts.
Although the sound of the flywheel means the Concept2 RowErg is louder than, say, a magnetic rowing machine, it’s not terribly noisy - though if you’re listening to something while you row you may need headphones. The machine produces around 70-100 dB while in use.
The RowErg easily splits into two so it takes up less space - each part can be stood on its end to save space, though the optional cover only fits the machine when it’s in one piece. The heavier flywheel end has wheels so you can move it more easily.
This rowing machine is easy to maintain. Concept2 recommends that you wipe it down with a cleaning spray and soft cloth after each use, oil the chain after every 50 hours of use, and perform a more detailed check after 250 hours, but it provides clear instructions and videos to explain the process.
Concept2 RowErg: User reviews
Amazon reviewers award the Concept2 RowErg an enthusiastic 4.9 out of 5 stars, with 95% of reviewers giving it full marks. The small number of critical reviews tends to focus on issues with assembly (although most users find it easy to put together) and on the quality of the monitor.
On the whole, reviewers are impressed by the solid construction, the availability of spare parts, and the value for money.
Should you buy the Concept2 RowErg?
If you’re looking for a solid, reliable, expertly designed machine without too many bells and whistles, this is the model for you, especially if you intend to enter indoor rowing competitions (in which case it’s the only one worth considering). You can be confident that it will last for years, and the ready availability of spare parts and outstanding customer service are other advantages. It’s a popular choice in gyms and clubs because it can withstand heavy use.
If you are looking for a membership-style online, interactive community, it might not be the right choice for you - you’d need to take the extra step (and often additional investment) of signing up for a separate online program. Equally, if you want a stylish machine that will look good in your living room, this is unlikely to fit the bill.
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Patricia Carswell is a freelance journalist specializing in health and fitness. She has written for a huge variety of national newspapers, magazines and websites, including Healthy, Top Santé, Women's Fitness and fitandwell.com, and writes a monthly column for British Rowing's content hub. She's the founder and host of rowing blog and podcast, Girl on the River, where guests have included Sir Matthew Pinsent and multiple Olympian Frances Houghton MBE. She keeps fit by rowing, walking, and wild swimming, and is at her happiest when on or in the water.