The Water Rower comes partly preassembled in two large boxes. The assembly instructions are reasonably good, and as long as you take your time and follow them carefully (read all the text) it takes about 45 minutes from opening the first box to trying it out. I bought bottles of distilled water to fill it, which made it easy to fill using the included funnel & hose.

The dense resistance of water creates substantial drag, but on the WaterRower models, this is perfectly tempered by a whippy cord. It coils and recoils with such steady speed that one tester noted how the Classic “eats the rope back up on recovery.” This smooth agility helps balance out the impact of encountering slow water at the start of every stroke.


No matter the resistance we set or the power we applied, the machine remains sturdy, centered, and even. We amped up the intensity for 2000m sprints and found that the C2 supports consistent effort in a way water resistance can’t. The machine assists in keeping your intensity uniform, because it stores up remaining energy in the spinning flywheel. Comments about the ride feel of both Concept 2s were noticeably brief. As one tester put it, “It’s unremarkable because it’s good,” and leaves you free to focus on the effort you’re putting into your workout.

The WaterRower Classic is handcrafted in solid American black walnut, which may vary in color from rich brown to purple/black. The black walnut was chosen due to its marvelous engineering properties, especially its ability to absorb sound and vibration, which enhances the WaterRower's quiet performance and smooth operation. Black walnut, like all woods used in the construction of the WaterRower, is a premium hardwood with incredible longevity and dimensional stability. In addition, the wood is harvested from replenishable forests and is hand finished with three coats of Danish oil to give it a deep luster and warmth.
One downside of the Waterrower for me are the footrests. Whilst they are perfectly adequate if you want to row in shoes, rowing barefoot, which is something I like to do, is impossible. The plastic is completely square at the bottom and has sharp edges that cut into your heels. I also found that my shoes get caught when trying to put them in and out of the holders, which is a bit irritating.

The advantages with air rowers is that there is smooth action; there is only small wear and tear to its mechanism; its automatic feature adjusts according to your rate of strokes; and there is a wide range of the resistance readily available in replicating the feel of rowing through the waters. The only disadvantage of this machine is that it tends to be noise indoors.

Being able to easily store your rower is a huge plus. Make sure you investigate how well the machine stores, if it folds up or comes apart easily to be able to put it in your closet, or in other storage areas. As an example, the Concept2 Model D rowing machine folds up nicely by a simple pull pin located in the middle of the rower. Wheels on the bottom allow for easy moving.
If the machine is to be housed on a wooden floor you will need a mat beneath to reduce vibration and also noise. If space is tight, the hydraulic options are usually the smallest. It's also worth checking your floor can take the weight if you're going for one of the bigger, heavier models. For most, this shouldn't be a problem, if you have any doubts get a surveyor to check as it could be a very expensive mistake!

Outside of resistance type, we found the number-one arbiter of ride feel to be cord quality. Water ergometers tend to employ nylon cords, while air ergometers feature metal chains — a durability factor we anticipated would result in our favoring air. But while all three water rowers aced our expectation of smooth, high-tension strokes, perfecting the chain seems to be more difficult: Some tug with just a slight rumble, others feature bouncy, grinding chains that are incredibly loud, something akin to angry snoring. As for nylon, the best wind and unwind like elastic silk — no slack, no sound, no catching, just perfectly even tension throughout the stroke.
The WaterRower Natural is outfitted with a Series 4 performance monitor that's designed to balance technical sophistication with user-friendliness. The monitor--which includes six information and programming windows, six QuickSelection buttons, and three navigation buttons--displays your workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, zone bar, duration, and distance. Plus, the monitor is compatible with an optional heart rate chest strap and receiver, which helps you optimize your workout and achieve your exercise objectives.
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