The Thousand Dollar Question
Are the top brand rowing machines worth the price tag?
We all know the manta 'you get what you pay for' and it's usually spoken when we're talking budget rowing machines. That is, you can't expect much if you're not prepared to lay out the cash. But what about the other end of the argument?
What do you get when you spend big? Does digging deep into your pockets guarantee getting a really good model?
Or is it a case of the emperor's new clothes and we're being hoodwinked into believing the hype surrounding brands such as Concepts, WaterRower and First Degree. Well if there's one thing I've learned in the world of fitness equipment, it's you won't get away with charging more than your product is worth for long. Yes, some have tried it, but in these days of online forums the buying public will soon bring down a rowing machine that's doesn't deliver for the money.
So what do you get when you spend over $1,000 or even $2,000 if you're thinking about the awesome First Degree Vortex-3. Well one thing is for sure, you're going to get a machine built to last. The top brands pour hundreds of thousands into research and development just to keep up with their competitors. It can take years for a brand to earn a reputation, but only a few poor models and a year or two to lose it. So they really can't try to pull the wool over the customer's eyes.
So what do the big brands spend their research and development budgets on?
This could be anything from materials for the frame such as stainless or brushed steel, materials for the components that are likely to wear and tear, or new designs for the resistance mechanism, better rails that reduce friction, or more advanced electronics for the performance monitor. At more recently, the development of online functions and software to deliver more advanced features for their clients.
As a buyer of top brands this means you'll get a rowing machine that requires minimal maintenance (a real bug bear for many users of home fitness equipment) and one that should, and I say should, give you longer, trouble-free service. A good measure of just how reliable a model you can expect is the length of the warranty. You can expect many to have periods of 10 years or even a lifetime for the frame, 3 to 5 years for the tank (if a water resistance model) and at least two years on all parts.
This by itself is great for peace of mind when spending in excess of $1,000. But another benefit is the real expectation that the machine should not breakdown for years. Many budget machines do. And even if still covered by the warranty, you'll still have a week or two when you can't use your machine because you're waiting for parts. Not good if you're on a strict training schedule.
A top brand machine will also give you a smoother and more comfortable ride - essential if you're planning on spending 30 minutes plus per workout. You ain't going to row if your uncomfortable.
More recently, you can expect far superior performance monitors (and accurate!) This can make a big difference when it comes to motivation. Many monitors are either PC-compatible with the ability to download your workout data and use the software to see your progress. Others now have online features for monitoring your performances, suggesting workouts and now even online racing against other rowers!
So to summarize.
What you can expect with a top-brand rowing machine:-
Which in turn should mean you get fit and stay in shape for longer! So that in my view makes it worth spending more to achieve your ambitions.
Roy Palmer is an athletics coach, teacher of The Alexander Technique and a rowing fanatic.