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Ergo showdown

August 21, 2013

I have clocked-up many thousands of kilometres on the Concept 2 rowing machine, both in the gym and in my own garage. It is surely the king of ergos – rugged, gutsy and pretty much the best piece of exercise equipment on the planet. But I have heard a great deal about the Water Rower – its good looks, its realistic feel, its precision. Is the Water Rower a pretender to the throne, or a real contender.

Whilst I was in Cambridge a few days ago I had the opportunity to see a Water Rower, so now I am in the position to compare it with the Concept 2.

Firstly, it looks great. A study in walnut; a cross between a piece of Victorian furniture and a piece of modern art. It has clean lines and pleasant bulges. Like a shapely siren it flirts and lures, begging to be… well, sat on!

The seat is pleasantly padded, a long way from a Concept 2 or a racing boat. The handle too is padded, feeling like the sponge that is found on some sweep looms. The shape of the handle is elongated, rather like an ellipse. Whilst it feels nice initially, after a long row the narrowed profile will cause problems.

So, what about drag, resistance and feedback? Fans of the Concept 2 will know that a performance monitor will provide excellent feedback, tracking stroke rate, dampner, time, splits, etc. Even, if like me you are blind, a free programme can be downloaded from the Concept 2 website in order to make the PM more accessible. To my knowledge the good people at Water Rowers haven’t taken this step.

But this, to the casual user is a minor point, as resistance can be set with a handy lever on a Concept 2, thus setting the drag. It is a whole new ball game with a Water Rower. In order to change the resistance, one must manually adjust the level of water in the tank. A bit of a fag to say the least. But, not necessarily the end of the world.

So, with an approximately half full tank I took my seat, clamped my feet in the footplates and had a little row.

The first thing that occurred to me was that the height of the seat exceeds that of a Concept 2, and of course a racing boat. This means that the feet and bum feel slightly at odds. Of course, this is something one can get used to so I don’t want to be over critical about that aspect.

The double rails are much wider than those found on a Concept 2, and the seat moved very easily and smoothly.

The catch is satisfying – it feels “watery” and on the drive the water in the tank bubbles and mutters reassuringly. The finish and recovery feel a little springy – maybe that’s because there are far more pulleys than in a Concept 2.

The experience of erging on a Water Rower is a very pleasant one. The machine is smooth but spongy, creating a slightly odd feel. The machine is very quiet, which is great, but it lacks the angry throat of a Concept 2. There is something satisfying about driving hard and hearing that noise and feeling that air.

Whilst the Concept 2 is far more “industrial” it makes you work hard because it feels alive. It shouts at you, the catch jolts your arms, and the seat sounds as though it is labouring up the rail.

The Water Rower is brilliant, but in my opinion it is little more than an expensive executive toy. Wonderful for the casual rower, but lacking the physicality and balls of a Concept 2.


From → Fitness, Rowing, Sport

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