Considering rowing is one of those activities you do sitting down, why do so many manufacturers put seats on their machines that wouldn't look out of place on top of a stool in a cheap diner? I appreciate that the budget end of the market has to keep costs down but surely even a few extra dollars would make a big difference.
Of course, the human butt comes in all shapes and sizes so it would be impossible to have a 'one-size-fits-all' seat, but surely it's not beyond the bods that design these things to come up with something that's comfortable for at least half the population.
So why do I get so worked up about seats?
If you read my reviews I make a big thing about rowing position and the comfort of the seat. This is because if you want to get a good workout you can expect to be on your machine for at least half an hour a day. If the footrests don't hold your feet secure and they keep slipping, that will ruin your session. If you have to keep stopping to refit the straps it's a bind. But at least you can carry on.
But if your butt aches because the seat is uncomfortable, or parts of you are hanging over the edge, then it's difficult continue. It's also not a good incentive to row in the first place.
A good seat is well-padded, made of rubber or equivalent, and supports where needed or as close to where it's needed in the form of a sculptured surface. It should also be fixed securely to the housing so it slides up and down the rail in a smooth action without any sideways or rocking motion as this could in the long term cause lower back pain.
Some like a seat to have a back support, First Degree's top models have this as an optional extra, but I must admit that I'm not a big fan. You're on the seat to workout and not put your feet up to read the paper :0)
A bad seat has minimal cushioning, or worse still a thin piece of foam with a plastic covering that snags at the first opportunity and then absorbs your sweat and beings to stink! A bad seat also rocks and wobbles and doesn't slide as smoothly as it should.
So What Can You Do?
It's ironic that the brand with one of the best seats (the Concept2), has a wide choice of rowing machine seat covers available. Yes, this is because it's one of the most popular, but in our view, anything you put on the Concept2 seat actually spoils it.
There are a number of generic rowing machine seat covers available. These are either made with gel, foam or more recently memory foam to soften the seat. However, when these cost anything from $40 up to over $100, if you've just spent a little more on a budget rower, then suddenly it looks like an expensive solution.
So is a home-made solution at hand? I do know many rowers who have taped a thin sofa cushion to their inadequate seats and have been perfectly happy. The one disadvantage is that you will need to wash this on a regular basis because hygiene may become an issue after a month's worth of sweat has soaked into the material - phew!
Or you can buy a thin square of foam very cheaply from a craft or DIY store and cut out the shape that best fit. Often, you won't need to attach the foam to the seat as your weight will hold it in place. You don't need to wash it, just throw it away when necessary and replace it.
Of course, it would be better if they just but a half-decent seat on in the first place, but I don't think we should hold our breath waiting :0)
Roy Palmer is an athletics coach, teacher of The Alexander Technique and a rowing fanatic.