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      July 2, 2020

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Concept2 vs Sole Fitness

To help you find the Best Rowing Machines, TopConsumerReviews.com provides you with an in-depth comparison of Concept2 and Sole Fitness.

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Buy Your Rowing Machine with Xterra Today! Where can you find the best rowing machines? Maybe you got a taste at a HIIT class like Eat the Frog or Orangetheory, you're a CrossFit devotee, or you just get in a rowing session when you hit Planet Fitness or another gym. Many people have a love-hate relationship with this particular piece of fitness equipment, so we applaud you if you're looking for a quality machine to add to your home gym!

You probably know all of the reasons to love rowing machines: few cardio workouts give you the total body focus that's achieved while rowing. Generally speaking, a rowing routine uses 65-75% legs and 25-35% of the upper body - strengthening legs, arms, and abs all at the same time. That's efficient!

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Best Reviews

2020

Rowing Machine Reviews

4.5 stars
Concept2

CONCEPT 2

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Cost:

From $900 to $1,250

Concept2 may very well be the gold standard when it comes to rowing machines. In business for more than 40 years - and with an "A+" rating and accreditation by the BBB to match - this company manufactures the rowers that are used for submitting scores for recruiting purposes and even most indoor rowing competitions.

And, if you really want to know just how popular Concept2 rowers are, use their Indoor Rower Finder to see where they are near you. Our results list showed Concept2 machines at our local CrossFit, YMCA, Gold's Gym, F45, and even some schools! If you're looking to equip your home gym and are already comfortable on the Concept2, this is a great choice to reduce the learning curve and get right to your workouts.

The Concept2 series is also a good fit if you're the competitive type. The company offers rowing challenges, distance awards, and the ability to compare yourself with indoor rowing fanatics around the world. Your Online Logbook gives you the chance to connect with training partners, join a team ("affiliation"), and even use the open-platform Performance Monitor to connect with a wide variety of smartphone apps.

Equipment overview:

  • Rower Type: Air
  • Price Range: $900 - $1,250
  • Different Models: 3
  • Financing Available: No
  • Return Policy: 30 days, customer pays return shipping
  • Warranty: Frame - 5 years, Parts - 2 years
  • Shipping: $45-$85 (higher outside of the lower 48 United States)

For home use, Concept2 comes in three primary models: D, E, and Dynamic. The Model D is their best-seller and is the most comparable to the feel of an on-water row; it's also the one used as the standard for rowing competitions like we mentioned. The Model E offers a higher frame/seat, making it easier to get on and off; this is a good option for people with limited mobility or knee/hip flexibility, or for users who will be transferring to the rower from a wheelchair. Both the D and E separate in the middle with a quick-release framelock, making it easier to store when not in use.

The Dynamic takes a very different approach, with a seat that is mostly stationary while the feet slide back and forth. Because more of the stroke length and coordination winds up under the control of the athlete, this model is particularly well-suited for those who want to more closely mimic the feel of a rowing shell. The Dynamic is also more compact than the D and E (76" vs. 96"), but it doesn't let you separate it for storage purposes.

Concept2 rowing machines provide air-based resistance through a flywheel and damper system. As you adjust the airflow to the flywheel, you control the feel of the stroke and add or decrease resistance. Plus, the Performance Monitor lets you decide between the automatic "Just Row" mode or to set up a range of workouts. You'll always be able to see your pace, watts, stroke rate and calories burned; data is stored in internal memory and can also be kept on an optional USB flash drive. All you'll need are two D batteries - just used as power backup when the monitor isn't being powered by the flywheel itself.

Another really positive thing about these rowing machines is how easy they are to assemble. With easy-to-follow instructions and just a few screws to put in place, you won't need to spend money on professional assembly. Plus, Concept2 has helpful reps at the ready via phone if you have any questions during the process.

With all of Concept2's indoor rowers, you'll have 5 years of warranty coverage on most of the frame and its parts (flywheel axle, rails, seat and seat frame, etc.). The rest of the rower's parts are covered for 2 years. To keep the warranty in effect, you must lubricate the chain after every 50 hours of use, and daily cleaning of the monorail is recommended for reduced wear on the seat rollers.

Your shipping costs will depend on the rowing machine you select and where you live. For example, the Model D costs $45 via UPS Ground within the lower 48 United States, or $130 if you live in Alaska or Hawaii (and kudos to Concept2 for being one of just a few rower retailers that actually ships there!). The Dynamic costs the most to ship, because it comes in two boxes; you'll pay anywhere from $85 to $355 for delivery.

Concept2 offers a good return policy. If you don't love your rowing machine for any reason, you can return it within 30 days of shipment. You'll be responsible for the return shipping costs, but the company won't deduct any restocking fees from your refund.

Whether you choose the D, E, or Dynamic rowing machine, you might just fall in love. There's something really attractive about a rower that can stand up to day in, day out use by world-class athletes - but that is simple enough for a brand-new user to figure out too. Although they're not the least expensive in the industry, these rowing machines offer the features people want and are backed by decades of expertise. Especially for exercisers who are already used to this brand from use in fitness centers and rowing studios, Concept2 rowers are a perfect fit.

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3 stars
Sole Fitness

SOLE FITNESS

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Cost:

$999.99

Sole Fitness originally focused on hotel gyms for their fitness equipment, but their sales evolved into residential use as their machines grew in popularity.

Sole Fitness has one rower model: the SR500, priced at $999.99. Resistance is delivered in an air/magnetic combination, giving you 16 levels to choose from. You'll need an outlet nearby, because unlike many rowing machines this one needs a 120V power source.

Equipment overview:

  • Rower Type: Air/magnetic combo
  • Price Range: $999.99
  • Different Models: 1
  • Financing Available: No
  • Return Policy: 30 days, no restocking fees, no return shipping fees
  • Warranty: Frame - lifetime, Parts - 3 years, In-Home Labor - 1 year
  • Shipping: Free

The SR500 folds for easy storage, but plan on needing 94" of floor space when in use. Sole has an extraordinary return policy. You have 30 days to try out your rower and return it if you're unsatisfied for any reason. Unlike most of their competitors, Sole doesn't charge any restocking fees and they even cover your return shipping costs.

Unfortunately, Sole's reputation leaves room for improvement. At the time of our most recent visit to the BBB website, Sole only had a "C+" rating. Some customers had a difficult time getting help from Sole representatives, especially when needing help or service with warranty claims.

We also had a few minor issues when using the website, especially when we didn't have the screen maximized on our laptop: the images jiggled all over the page, making it hard to click to get more information on the rower.

For many reasons, Sole Fitness' rowing machine leaves us with an impression that's just "so-so". We love their fantastic return policy, but we wish there was a wider range of rowers to choose from. Plus, to move up in our rankings, we'd definitely need to see a higher rating from the BBB. If you absolutely love the SR500, go for it - but we think most customers prefer a wider range of rowing machines when making their purchase decision.

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Continued from above

Another huge reason to take advantage of rowing is its low-impact style. There's no pounding on already-sensitive joints while using a rowing machine, just a push and a pull that glides back and forth with whatever amount of effort you choose to use.

What style of rowing machine is best? That largely depends on preference. Resistance comes in four ways: air (flywheel), magnetic, pistons or cylinders, and water. If you've used a machine at a fitness center, you're probably familiar with flywheel and water rowers already. Those styles also do the best job of imitating the feel (and the sound, for tank-base systems) of rowing in open water.

So, how can you tell which rowing machine is the right one for your home gym? Here are several criteria to keep in mind as you shop for a rower:

  • Price. Rowing machines can range from ultra-affordable (less than $300) to top-of-the-line (over $2,500). While spending more usually puts more features and cutting-edge technology in your hands, you don't have to break the bank to get a rower that delivers a terrific workout.
  • Features. Make a list of the must-haves for your rower. Does it need to fold easily for storage? Do you want the capability of following a live class, Peloton-style? Should your rowing machine have a certain look to match your other home gym equipment?
  • Returns and Warranty. What if your rowing machine doesn't fit the space you had planned out? Or you realize that you'd actually prefer the resistance of a water rower instead of a flywheel system? Most retailers of rowers allow returns, but watch out for restocking fees and return shipping fees. What kind of warranty coverage does the company give you for the frame, mechanical components, and any electronics?
  • Reputation. What do other shoppers say about the company? Can you expect good service if something goes wrong during shipping, installation, or day-to-day use? A rowing machine can be a significant investment, so you want to know that your purchase is from a business that has your back.

TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best rowing machines available today. We hope this information helps you pick the right rower to meet all your health and fitness goals!

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