Home » WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine Review

WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine Review

Welcome to our WaterRower Oxbridge rowing machine review. It’s in their ‘Original’ line of rowers, standing out as being made of Cherry wood. The various models in the Original line differ mostly in the type of wood they’re made of.

Compared to their other lines (Performance, Hybrid, Metallic, etc.), the original rowers are solid wood (no aluminum monorail), come with the S4 monitor (not the A1 or GX), and don’t use a phone or tablet arm.

I’ve used the WaterRower Oxbridge and liked it a lot.

waterrower oxbridge cherry - indoors
Notice the darker shade that sets in with light exposure compared to the featured image above. Beautiful machine!

I’ve used the Ash and Oak Original rowers, and the A1 with the aluminum monorail. So, I have a good idea of how the Oxbridge compares to other models.

In short, the WaterRower Oxbridge is functionally equivalent to the cheaper rowers in the ‘Original’ lineup (e.g., the Oak and Ash) but is made of Cherry, which is premium wood. As such, it comes with the brand’s best monitor, the S4. Recently, it’s been renamed from “Oxbridge” to “Cherry Rowing Machine”.

At major retailers, it’s still called the WaterRower Oxbridge. But on the main website, it’s called the “WaterRower Cherry Rowing Machine with S4 Monitor”.

Cherrywood has special properties. It varies in color from a deep red to reddish-brown. As is common, it darkens over time with exposure to light. They’re stored in dark conditions, so the initial color will be quite light when you first get it. Expect the color to darken over time, ultimately reaching a rich reddish hue.

In the end, if you could do without the cherrywood, you can save money by going with the Ash or Oak version. All ‘Original’ WaterRowers offer the same top-tier performance monitor, the same great resistance, and an equally-effective full-body workout.

Table of Contents
(click a title to jump ahead!)

1. Resistance Type
2. Monitor/Control Panel
3. Build Quality
4. Comfort
5. Storage
6. Capacity
7. Dimensions
8. Assembly
9. Pros and Cons
10. Consumer Reviews
11. Warranty
12. Price

Resistance Type

Like all their models, the WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine in Cherry with S4 Monitor is a water-resistance rower.

Instead of creating air drag like the Concept2, this type of rower uses a “water flywheel” with paddles (instead of fan blades). The paddles are suspended in a tank of water where they spin around creating resistance drag.

So, when a rower pulls the handle on the Oxbridge, it causes the paddles in the water tank to spin. The paddles must displace the water in front of them, thus causing resistance.

To find out more about how water resistance works in greater detail (in addition to the other resistance types), click here.

Endless Resistance

As mentioned in the ‘rowing machine resistance types’ article, the resistance level–how heavy the stroke feels–is determined by the user’s rowing intensity.

So, the resistance and difficulty level you’ll get with the Oxbridge far exceeds what you’d get with magnetic and hydraulic-piston rowers since there’s no maximum setting.

Changing the Difficulty Level

WaterRower Oxbridge Resistance

Controlling the resistance is all about controlling the drag. When rowing on water, drag is determined by rowing speed and paddle depth.

Similarly, drag is determined by how quickly the paddles move through the water tank and how much water is in the tank.

By Adjusting the Rowing Pace

The resistance on the WaterRower functions much like that of an air rower in that the resistance level is determined by the rower’s rowing intensity level. But, there’s a big difference…

Since water is thicker than air, resistance goes up far more quickly with increasing speed. This is known as the ‘Rule of Cubes’. A doubling of the speed of the boat will require an eight-fold increase in resistance. So to row a little faster requires A LOT more power.

So, to gain more resistance, all a user has to do is row harder. On the flip side, for an easier resistance, just row slower.

By Adjusting the Water Level

By adding more water to the tank you can make the rowing stroke feel heavier like rowing a boat with more people.

Users commented the resistance is suitable for all fitness levels and it feels extremely smooth!

There were almost no negatives about the resistance of the WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine. The only downside is having to fill the tank but this only has to be done once!

Quiet, Smooth Operation

Because the Oxbridge uses water resistance, it won’t make the loud noises produced by noisy fans. The noise produced is somewhere between magnetic and air rowers, but closer to the former.

A lot of folks find the noise that is produced to be meditative. I know I enjoy rowing while listening to the soft sounds of splashing water.

With the WaterRower Oxbridge, you can row and watch TV at a normal volume level.

It’s also quiet enough to use in an apartment where people may live above or below you.

You can read more about air and water resistance and how they operate in this article.

Resistance Overall

Overall, the resistance on the Oxbridge is excellent and is the same as all the other WaterRower models.

It’s strong, smooth, and quieter than air resistance.

Monitor/Control Panel

waterrower oxbridge s4 monitor - close view

The WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine comes with a S4 (series 4) multifunctional performance monitor.

The S4 is not only the brand’s best, but it’s widely thought of as the best performance monitor on the market for water rowing machines. It’s kinda like the Concept2 PM5 equivalent for water-resistance machines.

The monitor tracks the following fitness data:

  • Workout Intensity
  • Stroke Rate
  • Heart Rate
  • Duration
  • Target Fitness Zone
  • Distance

All of the tracked fitness data can be seen on the home screen of the monitor simultaneously in separate “windows”.

WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine S4 Monitor

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s in each window on the main screen:

Intensity window:

  • Displays rowing speed in meters per second, miles per hour, minutes per 500 meters, and minutes per 2 kilometers
  • Also displays power and calories burnt per hour

Stroke rate window:

  • Displays the number of strokes per minute

Heart rate window:

  • *Option is available when optional heart rate monitoring equipment (Cardio Sport ANT Digital) is used with the fitness monitor (not included)
  • Displays beats per minute

Target zone [bar] window:

  • Displays target zone readings for intensity, heart rate, and stroke rate

Duration window:

  • Displays time rowed in hours, minutes, seconds, and decimal seconds
  • Can also display the time remaining in the current workout (if a predetermined time for the workout has been established)

Distance window:

  • Displays distance rowed in meters, miles, kilometers, or strokes
  • Can also display the distance remaining in the current workout (if a predetermined distance for the workout has been established)

Program window:

  • This window is used to help the user navigate through the monitor’s advanced functions

Other Features

There are 9 total buttons on the face of the monitor, 6 shortcut buttons, and 3 navigation buttons. 

The display isn’t backlit so you will need some light to see the workout data while you’re working out. It’s powered by 4 AA batteries, which are included.

With an optional monitor cable, the S4 can connect to your computer to upload workout data. Also, this option allows you to train and race against other WaterRower owners from around the world.

Popular S4 computer software includes We-Row (WaterRower’s own software), NetAthlon, UltraCoach, and Rowyo.

Here is a quick video displaying some of the monitor features:

The S4 monitor is simple to use, contrary to what you assume given it has 9 different buttons. Negative feedback on the S4 monitor on the WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine is hard to find.

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Build Quality

Water Rower Oxbridge Build Quality

The WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine is handcrafted from solid cherry wood and finished with 3 coats of Danish oil.

Wooden machines are often made of high-density particleboard–which is allowed to be labeled as “solid” by modern furniture standards. WaterRowers are made of natural wood which is solid in the everyday sense (not particleboard).

It’s why these machines are not only beautiful but offer incredible longevity, dimensional stability (they don’t warp), and sound/vibration absorption.

WaterRower is really serious about taking care of the wood for its rowers. The Cherry wood pieces are kept away from the light to protect them from shadowing. As mentioned, the color will settle into a dark reddish hue over time.

I own/use the Concept2, so I’m used to steel frame rowing machines. When I’ve rowed on the Oxbridge and other WR models, it’s always caught me off guard how the machines never moved no matter how fast I’d row. During a 30-min workout, the Oxbridge didn’t even budge.

The wood is ideal for absorbing sound and vibration and besides the normal sounds you’d expect to hear while rowing (wheels on the seat gliding, water in the water tank), you don’t hear anything else such as creaking and other annoying noises often heard on cheaper rowing machines.

The water tank is made out of polycarbonate, a durable type of plastic. Though it happens, reports of cracking and leaking are pretty darn rare even after years of use.

Like most in the ‘Original’ line of machines, the WaterRower Oxbridge has a simple design and thus few moving parts, overall. So, fewer things can go wrong, wear out, or need replacing over time. Even the recoil belt and pulleys don’t require any lubrication or maintenance.

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WaterRower Oxbridge Comfort

The WaterRower Oxbridge’s molded seat is heavily padded and comes with dual rails with four corner wheels that keep the seat stable, not to mention it reduces sweat buildup.

The handle is light, durable, and is ergonomically shaped to fit comfortably in your hands.

The heel rests hold your heels firmly and the footboards can be adjusted in a matter of seconds to accommodate users with different shoe sizes. Nylon straps are used to secure users’ feet when they row.

The footrests don’t pivot, but your feet are still able to move naturally as you row.  Overall, the footrests are comfortable.

I liked the rowing motion on the WaterRower Oxbridge rowing machine for a few reasons:

  • Because of the sprag clutch (I’m guessing), the nylon strap didn’t snag or feel ‘jerky’ when I pulled the handle.
  • The seat glides up and down the dual rails smoothly.
  • The footrests allow your feet to move naturally as you row, which is not always the case.

Of course, the nice splashing sound adds to the experience.

Below is a great video of a WaterRower in action (different wood type)

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The WaterRower Oxbridge rower has a pretty large footprint due to the bulky tank and wooden frame, but it can be stood up easily in seconds to save floor space.

WaterRower Oxbridge Storage

While in storage mode, the rower’s width is about that of a dining room chair.

The dual caster wheels let you push it around like a wheelbarrow. I’ve found this to be true of their wooden models even with water in the tank.

The only issue with storing the Oxbridge would be moving it up or down a set of stairs.

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The Oxbridge’s maximum weight capacity is 1,000 pounds (454 kg). The new WaterRower Cherry Rowing Machine (not labeled the Oxbridge) has a weight capacity of 700 lbs.

The seat rail is fairly long, making it ideal for taller rowers. People as tall as 6’6″ have used this machine and were able to extend their legs with some room to spare. 

I have seen videos of children using the WaterRower Oxbridge rowing machine so there’s no minimum height requirement.

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  • In-Use (L x W x H):
    • Oxbridge: 83.0” x 24.0” x 21.0” (211 cm x 61 cm x 53 cm)
    • New Cherrywood model: 82.0” x 22.0” x 20.0”
  • Storage Mode/ Standing (L x W x H):
    • 21.0” x 24.0” x 83.0”
    •  53 cm x 61 cm x 211 cm
    • About the footprint of a dining room chair
  • Weight:
    • Oxbridge: 117 pounds [53 kg] (with full water tank); 73 pounds [33 kg] (with an empty water tank)
    • New Cherrywood model: 103.5 pounds (full tank); 66.5 pounds (empty tank)

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From the feedback I’ve heard, the WaterRower Oxbridge shouldn’t take much more than 30- 45 minutes with the provided Allen wrench.

Just follow the detailed instructions and you’ll be set up and ready to row in no time.

This video shows you the steps:

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Pros and Cons


  • Solid build with beautiful cherry wood construction
  • Smooth and realistic rowing motion
  • Easy to assemble
  • Dual caster wheels and easy “flip over” storage
  • Comfortable seat and handle
  • Can link S4 monitor to your computer to race others, train, and upload workout data


  • Costs more than Ash and Oak models.

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Consumer Reviews

Consumers couldn’t stop mentioning how beautiful the rower looks.  Pictures really don’t give it justice, IMO. You have to see one in person.

Owners really liked the solid build quality, realistic rowing motion, and were pleasantly surprised at the noise level of the WaterRower Oxbridge rowing machine.

Another great feature is the smooth and strong resistance. Users really felt they could grow with the machine and that it would last a lifetime.

Click here to read the full WaterRower Oxbridge Rower reviews.

Average Rating: 4.8

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  • Frame: 5 years*
  • Parts: 3 years*

*Requires completion of registration form. Otherwise, warranty is 1 year.

So don’t forget to register your rower after you buy it.

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WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine Price

The WaterRower Oxbridge rowing machine can usually be found for around $1500, making it ~$400 more than the cheapest S4 monitor-equipped model. The same goes for the newer cherrywood S4 rowing machine.

So, it’s at the higher-end of the price range.

Again, if you can do with Ash or Oak, you’ll save a few hundred and still get all the functionality and durability of the Oxbridge.

Final Review

There you have it. The WaterRower Oxbridge is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a high-end rowing machine. The different wood types are available mostly for aesthetic purposes and have little to no unique benefits.

Some wood types are more durable, sure, but the differences are small and mostly only come into play in stuido and commercial environments where machines see heavy use around the clock.

The dark reddish hue of cherrywood is beautiful, to be sure. But, if you’d rather save $400, you can get the same functionality and durability by choosing an oak or ash model.

Another lower-cost option is the WaterRower A1. It has a monorail design and cheaper monitor. You can check out my A1 review by clicking here.

If you are more interested in athletic performance and don’t mind a bit more noise, then I would look into the Concept2. This is the chosen rower by professional athletes, Crossfit gyms, and anyone looking to track their performance. It has the best monitor on the market. You can review my Concept2 review by clicking here.

I hope you enjoyed my WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine review! Drop me a comment with any questions and I’ll be glad to add my opinion or help find the answer!

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  1. Hi Edwin,

    I am looking for a rowing machine that can meet my special needs. I am recovering from a paralysis
    (feet/legs) and need a machine that has low resistance. One that I can incrementally increase as I
    build up muscle. My budget tops out at $400 max. Due to space constraints the smaller the footprint
    the better.

    I have done a lot of research and the two machines that stand out are:

    –  Kettler Favorit
    –  Stamina 1205 Precision Rower

    (The price for the Stamina is very attractive)

    Have you tried these out? What would you suggest.

    Thank you in advance for any guidance you might share.


    1. Hi Ken,

      Out of the two you picked, I would go with the Favorit, it’s a more durable rower. However, do you plan to use this machine for strictly recovery or do you plan to use this machine for a longer term (I don’t know what your planned recovery period is, but I’m guessing it’s a few months tops – just a guess of course).

      If you plan to use it for 1-2 years tops and for recovery purposes only, I would go with the Stamina, otherwise I would go with the Kettler. I wish you a speedy recovery, please let me know if I can provide more help.


  2. Hi Edwin,

    I am busy making choice between Water Rower and Concept2.
    Could you recommend me the best one in terms of three points I am concerned about?
    1. I specifically want to target my abdominal muscles.
    2. I am a woman so want to reduce build-up or hardening of neck muscles(trapezius?)

    Thank you so much for your every comment and advice!

    1. Hi Lauren,

      Both are going to target your abs exactly the same and both have similar resistance so they will effect your traps the same.

      You can read my water and air resistance article here to learn about both types.

      You can also check out my rowing for abs article here to learn more about getting a 6-pack from rowing.

      Hopefully these two articles help, if not just send me an email :)

  3. Dear Edwin,

    Thank you very much for you extremely helpful reviews. I write to seek your advice about what comparative advantages WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine and WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine may have in regard to each other. While I have settled on purchasing a WaterRower system for my home workouts, I’m tied between these two systems. Which one of these two is superior over the other in terms of built, performance, durability, etc.

    I would highly appreciate your advice.

    With warmest regards,


    1. Hi Yuri,

      You may be happy to find out that there is only one difference between the two models! Well actually two differences. The price and wood type.

      The WaterRower Classic is made from solid Black Walnut wood, which makes it a little more expensive.

      The WaterRower Oxbridge is made from solid Cherry wood.

      Bother rowers will have the same resistance and monitor. The wood types are just different colors and one is more expensive to use.

      1. Dear Edwin,

        Many thanks for you prompt and edifying response. So the bottom line: no difference in performance, just a difference in aesthetics, given than walnut has more beautiful grain and is rarer than cherry wood, which translates into a higher price.

        Allow me to ask you one last question. How wide is a handle? Strangely, I cannot find this dimension online. Your assistance is much appreciated.

        With warmest regards,


        1. That is correct!

          The Standard Handle is 15-3/4″ long. You can buy an upgrade to a 17″ handle for only $35.

          The WaterRower A1 comes with a 17″ handle.

  4. Hi,
    The Waterrower S4 monitor is solid feedback tool for training, but has been around now for a decade. The S5 is long overdue in an age where people expect complimenting apps to connect to their smartphones or tablets.

    People are even posting via twitter to Waterrower asking When’s the S5 finally coming? And there’s a 2017 response suggesting soon. Well we’re in 2019 now.

    So then stumbled across Smartrow, which to be fair Waterrower themselves suggest. It can be retrofitted to any Waterrower and connects to an app via Bluetooth.

    Have you or anyone in your circle tried the Smartrow? At $250 it’s not cheap but also same price as S4 monitor.


    1. Hi Andreas,

      I agree, the S4 monitor is overdue for an update and a major reason why some people choose to purchase a Concept2.

      I’ve had some people mention to me that they’ve used the SmartRow app and really enjoyed it. It basically allows you to track the same data as the PM5 on the Concept2 and gives you more accurate data all-around.

      My concern is it sort of prices the WaterRower that much higher than a C2 Model D OR E. I understand for some people maybe it’s not a lot of money but to add another $250-$275 on top of an already expensive rower is a tough sell.

      If you have the money and already have a WaterRower, then I think it’s a great addition if you are looking to view wattage, force curse, stroke length, etc.

  5. Hello Edwin,

    I am looking to buy a rower for weight loss and conditioning of the body. Can you recommend a rower that I can use long term? Does price make a difference in quality, durability, and features? Or does a mid-range rower provide all of the same? If so what brand do you recommend? Thank you,

  6. Hi Edwin,

    Thank you for the great review. I’m looking to buying the Waterrower, however somewhat tangled in some of the app choices – from the S4 monitor with i.e. We-Row app or the SmartRow option?
    In the current options the SmartRow is included without the S4 monitor.

    Hope to hear from you,
    Bw Peter

    1. Hi Peter – thanks for reaching out! I would start off with the included/free options and then switch if you think necessary. Many of the apps have free 7-day trials so you can always use them for a week to see if it’s worth paying. Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of experience with all of the apps because I enjoy rowing more without them and usually watch a documentary or listen to a podcast if I’m rowing longer than 20min.

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