Welcome to my Concept 2 RowErg review.
It’s one of the all-time great rowers and the one I currently own and use (I own the Model D which was a previous iteration).
It’s the industry standard rower and thus the go-to model for indoor rowing enthusiasts since Concept2 makes the machines you’ll find in rowing clubs, gyms, CrossFit studios, and indoor rowing competitions.
So you know, effective 2021, the Model D was renamed “RowErg” and the Model E was named, “RowErg with Tall Legs”. All info in this review applies to the RowErg and Model D.
In short, the Concept2 RowErg is the best all-around commercial-grade rower made for home use. All versions offer the same high-tech monitor, provide the same workout, and will last a lifetime.
While made for use at home, the RowErg is a piece of commercial-grade fitness equipment, meaning it’s equal to gym equipment in being able to endure continuous use. So, it’ll provide a lifetime of great workouts and maintain a great resale value should you choose to sell it later.
Finding a deal that includes shipping will save the most money. You can check for the best prices here.
In this review, we’ll go over the benefits of the RowERG indoor rowing machine, what it lacks compared to more expensive models, and how it compares to other rowers in the same price range.
Quick Note: Concept2 RowErg vs Model D
One common question is, “What is the difference between Concept2 RowErg and Model D?”
The Concept 2 RowErg is the Model D with standard legs and a 14-inch seat height. Before 2021, the Model D and E were available, with seat heights of 14″ and 20″, respectively. Hence, the Model E is now called the ‘RowErg with Tall Legs’.
(I think Model E was catchier, but they didn’t ask me, haha).
So, instead of marketing the Model D and E as two different rower models, the base model RowErg has two leg height options. (So you know, the leg height has nothing to do with the user’s height).
Other small differences did exist between the D and E but they were cancelled out upon being merged into the RowErg.
Also, while the Concept 2 Model D/E came in black or tan, the RowErg comes in black or matte.
The odd-looking Dynamic RowErg is a highly-specialized machine meant for on-water rowers.
So, the Model D and RowErg are the same and, of course, provide the same great full-body workout.
Concept2 RowErg Rower Review
Rowing Resistance Type
The RowErg like the Model D rower is classified as an air-resistance rower.
Air resistance functions by pulling a handle that spins a fan flywheel. As the flywheel spins, it must displace the air in front of it, which causes the resistance.
The faster you spin the flywheel, the more air the fan must displace, and the more resistance you will feel.
In other words, your resistance level is determined by how hard you row! The faster/harder you row, the more resistance you will feel.
This is how water resistance operates, but is different from magnetic and hydraulic-piston rowers. Hence, why air rowers more accurately simulate rowing on water.
You can check out my full breakdown of resistance types here to learn more about each type.
You can also read my air vs. magnetic resistance article for a more detailed description of how the air resistance mechanism works.
Air resistance rowers provide a smooth overall resistance and are the preferred resistance type among rowing athletes.
For example, Olympic rowing teams have long used the Concept2 Model D and E for their off-water training because of how closely the machines mimic rowing on water–and how accurately their monitors track data.
If that’s not a great endorsement for a rowing machine, I don’t know what is!
The RowErg air resistance provides a rowing motion that is very similar to rowing on the water without lag throughout the rowing stroke.
Meaning, you will feel smooth, even resistance from the start of the stroke all the way to the finish!
As mentioned above, the resistance level is determined by your rowing intensity. The faster you row, the more intensity you feel.
This automatic resistance adjustment is known as ‘variable’ resistance.
It’s not like a treadmill where you set it to level 5 and you have to keep running at that speed until you change the setting. Unlike a magnetic indoor rowing machine where you set the resistance to level 5, you feel the same resistance no matter how fast you row.
The Concept2 RowErg resistance allows you to row at your own intensity/pace and the resistance will adjust accordingly.
This ‘variable’ resistance is perfect for HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercises because you can row fast or slow and the resistance adjusts to your speed without you having to stop and change any settings. This is why you see Concept2 rowing machines in every Crossfit style gym.
Another great benefit of the RowErg resistance is that minimal maintenance is needed and how easy it is to fix if there is a problem.
So, since the Concept2 Row Erg operates via ‘variable’ resistance, maximum resistance is achieved with max rowing speed. But, users can still adjust the “feel” of the stroke with the adjustable damper setting.
Higher damper settings let more air into the flywheel housing which (1) makes it more difficult to spin the flywheel against the air and (2) slows the flywheel down on the recovery, making it harder to accelerate on the next stroke.
Lower damper settings allow less air to enter the flywheel housing, making the flywheel easier to spin.
Users can change the damper settings from level 1 to 10 (as seen above) The numbers don’t represent different resistance levels, they represent the amount of air going into the flywheel, which affects the “feel” of the stroke.
Like gears on a bicycle, the different “gears” will give you a different feel when you’re rowing. The higher settings (6-10) give you the feeling of a slower, heavier boat, whereas the lower settings (1-5) give you the feeling of a sleeker, faster boat.
It really depends on your preference and it’s easy to figure out once you experiment with the different settings.
There are many YouTube videos and articles online that can explain this in more detail once you have your Concept2 Rower.
Like the Concept2 Model D rower (and all air rowers), the RowErg noise level is a bit loud for some users.
You will hear a ‘whooshing’ noise every time you row, which is just the wind created inside the flywheel and the accompanying chain noise. You can listen to me row on my Concept2 Rower with and without a TV on.
Most users just listen to music or turn the TV volume up to drown out the noise. The Concept2 noise level should not be loud enough to disturb anyone in your house unless you are in an apartment rowing at odd hours.
The resistance on the Concept2 RowErg is one of the best on the market. It provides smooth, strong, variable resistance and has the ability to adjust a damper setting.
Seeing it is the chosen rowing machine by Olympic athletes, who can say anything bad about it?
As long as you have the space requirement and can handle the Concept2 noise level, you will love the resistance provided by the RowErg rowing machine.
Here is a great video that shows the Concept2 RowErg in action (actually a Model E but they are virtually identical and have the same resistance flywheel):
Concept2 RowErg PM5 Monitor
The Concept2 RowErg comes standard with a PM5 (which stands for “Performance Monitor 5”) monitor which is the poster child for rowing machine monitors.
It’s really hard to believe that a fitness company made this mini-computer. It’s simple to use but is loaded with options.
Out of all the features of this rower, users rave about this one the most!
Fitness Data Tracking
The Concept2 Row Erg PM5 monitor is advertised as a ‘training partner’ and they aren’t joking!
It tracks distance, 500m split (speed), time, strokes per minute (stroke rate), calories burned, watts, and so much more. It can also calculate the averages of all these metrics.
You have plenty of options when it comes to your workout preferences:
- Immediately start rowing (as soon as the flywheel starts spinning the monitor will power up and provide data)
- Select one of five preset workouts
- Customize your own total body workout routine
- Play a game and receive a brief rowing lesson with animation showing you the proper technique.
The display is big and the data is easy to read, whether you’re at the starting (catch) or finish position. It’s also backlit so you can see the data in low-light settings.
The Concept2 PM5 monitor shows you everything you need to know while rowing.
The top section provides the total time, stroke rate (strokes per minute), distance rowed, and 500m split time.
You can choose from five different graphic displays for the bottom section:
- All Data (shows additional data).
- Force Curve shows a graph for how force varies between your legs, back, and arms during the driving motion of your row (it basically tells you if your stroke is smooth or not).
- Paceboat that shows a graphic display of your boat against a pre-programmed boat; you can also set a previous workout of yours as the paceboat so you can race against yourself (compete with your performance from a previous session). You can also race online with other C2 users.
- Bar Chart provides a graphic display in a bar chart format of the total watts of power generated during each phase of the workout.
- Large Print shows data with larger font.
- Click here to see the full breakdown on the Concept2 website.
Heart Rate Monitoring
In addition to the multiple display options, if you have a compatible chest strap and a heart rate attachment (around $50), your heart rate will be displayed on the monitor with the rest of your workout data!
The PM5 supports ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart for wireless heart rate monitoring. However, Concept does point out that “Bluetooth Smart” is a different technology than “Bluetooth”.
From what I could gather, they are technically the same thing. “Bluetooth” is a protocol used in more powerful technology with an enhanced data rate. “Bluetooth Smart” is used in devices for recording smaller, specific data like heart rate and blood-glucose meters.
Just make sure your heart rate monitor is Bluetooth Smart compatible!
Tracking your heart rate gives you additional benefits like the ability to stay in target heart rate zones while exercising.
The PM5 monitor has programs that display a bar graph of your heart rate every 10 seconds while rowing and also stores heart rate data before and after workouts.
USB Drive & PC Connection
Another cool feature of the PM5 is the USB Drive. The USB Drive lets you save and store records of your workout data.
This comes in handy if you use more than one Concept2 RowErg rowing machine because the drive will allow you to record your workouts on different machines.
For management and further data analysis, you can transfer the data from your USB to Concept2’s online logbook called ‘Concept2 Utility’.
On top of uploading your data, other third-party programs are available that do even more while your Concept2 RowErg is connected to your PC.
One particular program shows a graphical representation of what you look like rowing in a rowboat at the same rhythm and speed you’re currently rowing on the rowing machine.
There are so many different 3rd party features for the Concept2 PM5 monitor – this section barely scratches the surface. You can find a ton of information on the Concept2 website.
The PM5 Monitor looks and feels durable. The buttons feel like really tough rubber that can take a lot of abuse and even the lettering on the buttons look like they won’t fade away.
It is attached to an adjustable monitor arm so you can move it up or down. It automatically turns on when you start to row and is powered by 2D batteries.
One additional bonus is the Concept2 RowErg comes with a power-generation feature that provides power to the monitor while you’re rowing, which helps preserve battery life.
PM5 Monitor Bottom Line
Overall, the Concept2 RowErg PM5 is an outstanding monitor that doesn’t receive any complaints. It is the best monitor on the market and it has an incredible amount of features.
If you are a data nut and love tracking progress, this is the rowing machine for you!
Here is a quick video that highlights some of the main features:
The Concept 2 is more than a reliable rower. Though mostly used for indoor training, this machine can take some wear and tear and can hold its own outdoors as you can see from the image.
Like the Model D, the Concept 2 RowErg is a commercial-grade quality machine that uses an aluminum I-beam monorail, a durable stainless steel track, and a near-maintenance-free nickel-plated steel chain (a nickel-plated chain resists both wear and corrosion).
So, it’s built to withstand the punishment of constant use at gyms and Crossfit centers.
While the Concept 2 Model D came in black or tan, the RowErg is available in black or matte.
Anyway, don’t worry about it breaking on you any time soon, no matter how hard you try to beat it up!
Nothing on the machine feels cheap (there are no cheap plastic parts). The base has steel rear legs, aluminum front legs, and an aluminum monorail with a stainless-steel seat track.
Multiple users of varying strength levels have used this rower regularly for over 10 years and have mentioned it still performs like it did when they first bought the unit.
This speaks volumes about the Concept2 RowErg’s durability and longevity. You will get stronger as you use it, so it’s important the machine is strong enough to handle the increase in workload it will receive.
Based on its design, you will hear common noises such as the rolling of the seat, the pulling of the handle, and the fan. However, you will not hear any creaking and other annoying noises most commonly found on cheaper rowing machines.
Concept2 RowErg Noise Level
I know I mentioned this earlier but this is such an important issue to some users that I wanted to highlight it again.
The noise level of the Concept2 RowErg is what you would expect from any air-resistance rower.
The harder you row, the louder the fan gets. However, this can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.
A good number of users actually like it when the noise is “loud” because it’s a sign they’re working out hard and it’s motivating!
You can read my noise level article here to actually hear me rowing my RowErg with the TV on & off.
Just know that 99.9% of users have no issue with the noise level on the Concept2 RowErg.
What good is an exercise machine built tough enough to withstand millions of meters of abuse but doesn’t make for a comfortable workout?
Luckily, you won’t have to worry about that issue.
The motion when rowing with this machine is smooth and provides an experience similar to rowing on water. That’s one of the main reasons professional rowers use it.
The seat glides effortlessly on the monorail and the chain that pulls the flywheel doesn’t snag. This leads to a smooth catch, drive, finish, and recovery motion.
The only maintenance needed to ensure your machine maintains its performance is to keep the chain lubricated and clean the monorail periodically.
These actions are extremely easy to do and there are instructions in the RowErg manual to walk you through the process.
The seat on the RowErg is contoured and padded, making it comfortable for most users.
However, depending on your weight and the average length of your workout, you may need to make some minor adjustments.
I’ve heard from super active users over the years how the seat gets harder over time. So expect some tweaking with your seat a few years down the road.
A few users fold a towel and place it over the seat for extra cushioning. Others have mentioned a removable seat pad has worked really well for them.
I wrote an article that highlights some of the best Concept2 seat pads here.
Handle Provides a Natural Grip
The handle is ergonomically designed and is covered with molded rubber grips. As far as the actual design of the handle (whether pulling the handle hurts the wrist, etc.), I’ve yet to hear a complaint.
The manufacturer states that new rowers could expect to get a few blisters on their hands during the first few weeks of use.
This is due to the handle being molded of rubber, which allows for a more efficient rowing stroke.
To help with the issue, I recommend wearing gloves to make the handle feel softer in your hands. See what gloves are the best in my rowing glove breakdown article.
I don’t think the handle is too hard, but if you aren’t used to gripping things on a regular basis you will have to give your hands a few weeks to adjust.
The machine comes with adjustable footrests that are flexible with a unique design that allows the rower to get their “shins vertical” even if they don’t have flexible ankles.
You won’t encounter any issues with your feet slipping out while rowing either!
One user even commented that he believes the heel rests were made for barefoot rowers because it feels so comfortable when he rows without shoes!
Whether you row barefoot or with shoes, the footrests appear to be comfortable for either preference.
The RowErg Rowing Machine folds for easy storage. So while it has a large footprint when in use, the size is basically cut in half when folded.
To save floor space, all you have to do is separate the monorail and the flywheel portion of the rower. Then rest the flywheel portion of the rower on its “head” and make the monorail section “stand up”.
It’s extremely easy to do and I’m honestly surprised that something so durable and big can be put away in a matter of seconds!
Users commented the process could take between 10-20 seconds to pull apart and another 10-20 seconds to put back together.
One user says when in “storage mode” the rower is equivalent to half the size of a standard refrigerator.
Stored Dimensions (L x W x H): 25.0″ x 33.0″ x 54.0″
You can also store the Concept2 RowErg rower upright if you have a tall enough ceiling. Many gyms (commercial and garage gyms) store their Concepts Rowers this way because it is fast and saves a ton of space.
The Concept2 Rower has two caster wheels on the front end of the unit. Since the rower weighs less than 60 pounds it’s not that difficult to move around if needed.
The Concept2 storage feature is an excellent benefit, especially for a rower with this size footprint.
Per the instruction manual, the weight capacity for the unit is 500 pounds.
Many users well over 300 pounds have used this rowing machine with no problem and still felt the rower was strong and sturdy.
Some rowing machines are not fit for shorter users, so I decided to give Concept2 a call to make sure there were no height limitations.
Each representative I spoke to said they never heard of any size restrictions for shorter people and mentioned they know children who use the machines regularly.
For taller users, it’s difficult to determine what “too tall” would be for the rower because the key issue is leg inseam length and not overall height.
According to Concept2, the monorail length is 54.0″ (137cm) and can fit an inseam length of up to 38.0″.
A few users that are 6’8″ and 6’9″ were able to use the machine with no issues and claim they had a couple of inches to spare on the monorail.
In addition, to further ease your concerns (if there are any), Concept2 offers an add-on that extends the monorail by another 5.0″ for an additional cost of ~$250.
So unless you’re literally 9.0′ tall, this rower will work just fine!
Concept2 RowErg Dimensions
- In-Use (L x W x H):
- 96.0″ x 24.0″ x 14.0″
- 244cm x 61cm x 36cm
- Seat Height:
- Stored Dimensions (L x W x H):
- 25.0″ x 33.0″ x 54.0″
- Machine Weight:
- 57 Pounds [26 kg]
- Space Recommended for Use (L x W):
- 9.0′ x 4.0′
Just remember the Concept2 rower length is 96.0″ but you will need extra room for when you lean backward during your stroke (unless you are short!).
The Concept2 dimensions are fairly large so just make sure you have adequate room to row comfortably!
The Concept2 RowErg is easy to assemble and only requires eight screws and washers. Everything can be put together with the included wrench.
Not one user mentioned they had a difficult time assembling the Concept2 Row Erg Even people with no prior assembling experience were able to put this rower together!
The instructions are extremely easy to follow and most users are able to put the rowing machine together in 10-25 minutes.
When I got my Concept2 Rower I couldn’t believe how fast I put it together. I actually went over every step twice because I thought I was missing something.
Don’t believe me!?
Watch this video and see a man put together the rower in under 3 minutes. You can bookmark this page to refer back to after you receive your rower.
Pros and Cons
- The Concept2 RowErg is made by one of the most respected brands in the rowing industry.
- It’s solidly built for commercial use and requires a minimal amount of maintenance to keep it running smoothly for years.
- Its reputation for being a solid rowing machine allows it to hold its value very well. You can resell it on Craigslist for only a small percentage less than the list price.
- The rowing motion is very fluid and fits almost any user size.
- The included PM5 monitor is one of the best workout monitors on the market!
- It’s easy to assemble and takes seconds to store away.
- Concept2 has a dedicated online community. Easy to find workout tutorials and instructions.
- Its popularity allows for easy finding of spare parts and service companies.
- The manufacturer provides a great warranty.
- 30-Day Money Back Guarantee (see warranty for full details)
- Best overall rowing machine on the market.
- The unit is approximately 8 feet long so a lot of space is required to use this rower.
- The seat can be uncomfortable for some people and it gets harder after years of use.
- The handle can be a little rough on the hands.
- The fan can be too noisy for some people. It will get louder the harder/faster your row.
Concept2 RowErg Warranty
- Frame: 5-Year Limited Warranty
- All parts : 2-Year Limited Warranty
- Warranty is transferable to new the owner if you choose to sell or give away your rower.
- The effective start date is the date of purchase.
- 30-Day Money Back Guarantee
- Unsatisfied customers can simply pay to ship it back and their money will be refunded.
- Double-check with the retailer that this option is available.
- Concept2 states, “This offer applies to factory direct sales to our customers in US and Canada only.”
Concept2 RowErg Price
The price for the Concept2 RowErg rower with PM5 monitor is around $1300 for the machine. This would be the total price if shipping were included. If shipping is extra, you’ll pay around $1500 (or more) in total.
This is why I recommend going with a major retailer since they often offer free shipping.
So, the price equals that of the previous Concept2 Model D indoor rowing machine with PM5 performance monitor. If you choose the “RowErg with Tall Legs”, the price is around $1500 for the machine which is about what the Model E went for.
So, the price is about on par with other commercial-grade exercise equipment.
Earlier, I talked about (in great detail) how durable the rower is and how it will last you a lifetime. Adding to that, Concept2 Rowers have an extremely high resale value so if you decide to sell in a few years, you will have no problem recouping a good chunk of your original investment.
Concept 2 RowErg Model D Review – Final Thoughts
Now you know what all the hype is about. The Concept2 RowErg and its predecessor the Model D rower, offer an effective workout for people of all ages, sizes, and fitness levels.
Beginner and hardcore rowers have used this machine for over a decade and it’s still going strong!
The bottom line – I highly recommend this indoor rower!
The Concept2 RowErg will last you a lifetime, it has the best performance monitor, an extremely high resale value, and gives you a superb full-body workout!
I hope you enjoyed my Concept2 RowErg review! If you have any questions please leave them in the comment section below.
Rowing Machine King Founder and Author.