We picked the brains of rowing coaches, fitness experts, and physical therapists to learn what features make for an exceptional rower. Based on their input, we searched the market for air and water resistance rowing machines, then tested the best for ride feel and design. We found one model of each type — air resistance and water resistance — that felt truly superior to the others.

Assembly was challenging. One of the rails could not be attached because the embedded screw in the cross-beam was too crooked to fit into the hole on the rail. I had to place a nut on it to protect the screws and tap until it was true enough cap nut to be attached. The foot board is slightly wider than the top board. I will sand this to match when I reapply the finish. This will need to be done because the wood has a dry, ashy appearance. The wood is beautiful and mostly uniform. This rowing machine is a nice product, but the build quality of the unit I received was disappointing. I felt lucky that the gashes in the carton did not damage the product as the packaging was optimistic. The leading competitor I use at the gym seems to provide slightly more resistance. It is beautiful and useful, but with room for improvement.
The WaterRower Classic is handcrafted from solid American Black Walnut wood, finished with danish oil. The WaterRower's patented WaterFlywheel has been specifically designed to emulate the dynamics of a boat moving though water and is unsurpassed in its simulation of the physical and physiological benefits of rowing. WaterRower will not provide support or documentation for any product transported outside of the original country of purchase

Don't know why, perhaps due to rising demand and production bandwidth, but be forewarned quality control is an issue. Assembly is easy enough, though have gap where back separator does not fit snugly after tightening nuts as firm as they will go (see pic). No water level sticker on tank received, so had to measure water manually according to calculations (4 gallons). Siphon was not air tight (even though release valve closed firmly), so had to manually pump instead of siphon. S4 monitor only flashes, not working as of yet and now have to take a apart top of unit to figure out why, currently not resolved after verifying connections and looking at simple solutions on website.


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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.

From a fitness perspective, the WaterRower Natural works 84 percent of your muscle mass, helping tone and strengthen your muscles while burning far more calories than most other aerobic machines. The exercise is also low impact, as it removes all the body weight from the ankles, knees, and hips, but still moves the limbs and joints through a full range of motion--from completely extended to completely contracted.
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