So I bought a rowing machine

It was funny to wake this morning and see one of the people I follow on Twitter abuzz with the news that Peloton (they of the overpriced exercise bikes and treadmills) were launching a new rowing machine. You’ll laugh at the price, which is over $3000, and that’s not including the $44 per month fee to subscribe to the on-screen workouts.

The Peloton machine looks high tech, but in terms of its technology, it seems to be mainly about the huge screen and other electronics. Meanwhile, over the summer, I’d been hatching my own plan to get a rower, and I’d spent some time researching the options. It was all prompted by an offer I saw on Amazon, of course.

There are three main rowing machine technologies when it comes to the resistance you feel when you push/pull. There’s magnetic resistance, which can be dialled in, giving you control similar to that found on some exercise bikes. Then there’s the air resistance, with models that use a big fan that spins as you pull. The harder you pull, the more wind resistance there will be (again, something familiar to cyclists, who will feel that wall of air grow stronger the faster you go on the bike). And then there’s water resistance, which uses a stumpy cylinder of water containing paddles. Again, the harder you pull, the more resistance you will feel.

I opted to order a water rower. My OH was sceptical, not wanting a giant piece of equipment in our house, but then she saw a water rower on display in Nature & Discovery (French retailer), and tried it. And liked it.

So I ordered the water rower that had been the Amazon offer. It cost around £360, which is a bargain if you compare the prices of the WaterRower brand originals you will find on the John Lewis web site. But! Of course this would be a made-in-China copy of something more expensive, so you couldn’t be sure. It might turn out to be exactly the same thing but cheaper. Or it might be something that didn’t quite fit together properly so that you ended up with stripped threads and wobbly bits.

I was forewarned that the item would arrive in two separate deliveries. I ordered at the end of August, and the delivery date was set at 5-7 September.

Well! The first part, the big box containing the water container, arrived on the 1 September. But I was again warned that the other part (the rails and seat mechanism) would arrive later.

Time passed. The tracking number I’d been given for the second package didn’t work. I contacted the seller about this, and they sent another tracking number that didn’t work. The 7th September passed. And the 9th. And then the seller stopped responding. I waited a couple more days and then reported a problem with the order. Amazon refunded me. I got a return label. But I contacted the seller again to say that I wouldn’t be bearing the postage costs and the box wouldn’t go in the boot of my car. (I don’t really know this, but I wasn’t going to try.)

Meanwhile, plan B. You get what you pay for. So I ordered the entry level actual WaterRower A1 from John Lewis, and it arrived last Friday. It arrived in two boxes, both at the same time. It was fairly straightforward to assemble. I am the absolute worst when it comes to handling allen keys and nuts and bolts, but there were no dramas. I filled it up with water to the calibration line, and we were good to go.

Compared to the Peloton, it’s a couple of grand cheaper (£849 from John Lewis, including delivery), but it looks quite nice. It doesn’t have a huge screen, but a small LCD one. The slightly more expensive models have twin rails with wooden sides, but this one just has a single aluminium rail. It’s stable enough: no complaints. The lack of a big screen and fancy electronics doesn’t matter to me, because I’ll be using my Apple Watch. The LCD screen displays your strokes per minute and a timer and stuff, but as long as you can see your strokes per minute and you have your fitness watch, that’s all you need. I’m trying a month of Apple Fitness+, which is much cheaper than Peloton’s $44 a month, and brings you Rowing with Josh (and a couple of other trainers for variety). So you stick Josh on your TV, and you start the workout from your watch, and you can do a fast 10 minutes, or 20, or 30 etc.

I’m not one for structured workouts, but actually Josh is quite personable, and he does encourage you to do regular intervals of harder effort, to get your heart rate up into the zones.

So it’s pretty good. I like it. It’s a funny thing, but I’ve always wanted one. I mean, always. Wanted one in that strange way where you internally believed you’d really like something without ever having tried it. Which I hadn’t. Literally the first time I sat on a rowing machine was after I’d assembled it. So it’s lucky I do like it. Importantly, so does my OH.

Meanwhile, I’ve got half of a different water rower in an unopened box in my garage. The seller has told me to keep it or throw it away. *shrugs*


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