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I am after a good rowing machine. My budget is about £200. I understand that it might be impossible to get a "good" rowing machine with my budget. So, what is the best rowing machine I can get with my budget?

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Shopping recommendations are considered off topic. –  Baarn Oct 6 '12 at 20:58
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I have your answer! You want what is called a STRIALE SR 907:

NOTE: This rowing machine is sold with MANY DIFFERENT brand names and numbers. IN FACT most rowing machines are sold with many different brand names and numbers.

Very many rowing machines are in fact made by a large little-known asian company called "CARE", and then they all have various brand names attached. Brand-names like "York" and many others are literally nothing more than a sticker that says "York" or whatever stuck on top of the machine. If you are interested in Asian manufacturing, you can see CAREFitness's website. If you probe around you will get a clue to the many many brand names they stick on.

The "SR 907" is exactly what you want because:

  1. Any machine CHEAPER than this one is total crap. Don't buy it.
  2. Any machine MORE EXPENSIVE than this one is a waste of money unless you get to the professional level machines over €1000.

If money is no object then buy an Oartec Slider or possibly a Rowperfect or a Concept2-Dynamic. The "traditional" professional rowing machine is the Concept2, but the new "slider" machines are even better. Concept2's slider product is called the Concept2-Dynamic. Personally I prefer the Oartec-Slider. Anyway this is all irrelevant unless you want to spend at least 1500.

So again as in point (2), unless you go all the way to an Oartec or Concept2 (say $1500), you are better off to get the SR907. Anything in between is really a waste of money.

Something else to consider: even if you decide to buy an expensive Oartec or Concept2, go ahead and buy a SR907 first, and use it for a few months. Only then will you know exactly what you want from an expensive rower, if that's what you want.

Again to repeat point (1), anything cheaper than the SR907 is junk, so unfortunately that is your cheapest choice.

Some facts about the SR907:

  • You should have no problems regarding height. I am 6' even and it is perfect. I'd say it would be no problem up to about 6'6". Some of the cheap machines can only really be used by children. So if is big enough - check.

  • It is a STRAP type rather than a CHAIN type. Personally I think the STRAP type is much better. Quite simply the chain ones are ridiculously noisy. For example, try a Concept2 which has a chain. Some say the chain flexes less, but it's just silly - the futuristic materials used for the webbing in the strap these days do not stretch. After all, the NEW Concept2 model (the dynamic) has a strap rather than a chain, so you eliminate the ridiculous noise. This machine is perfectly quiet. So, the SR907 has a strap which is what you want -- good.

  • The engine is magnetic, not air-type. In a word the air-type resistance wheels are crap. Sure, the very best ones work well, but generally the air-type resistance wheels are simply crap. Don't buy an air-type machine unless it is €1000+. You also have the "water resistance" type. Personally, I think they are crap. The magnetique type are just so much more convenient. And of course you can easily adjust the resistance by turning a knob. Note that the magnetic resistance engine is just the same simple mechanism that exists in billions of inexpensive exercise bikes worldwide; it is a very reliable, problem-free part that have been made millions of times. So the SR907 has a correct magnetic type resistance engine, which you want -- check.

  • The SR907 is reasonably sturdy. You will have no problems. It is not as strong as the 1000+ machines but it is completely solid. The cheaper machines are a joke. So, check.

  • The electronics are SIMPLE which is what you want. Thank goodness. Dismiss any machine with idiotic complicated displays, etc. Note that, like every machine made, this machine has a hilarious "calories burned" display. Of course, as everyone knows, these are utterly idiotic and mean nothing. It's just one of those weird things that you find on every rowing machine, even though utterly and totally useless and stupid. So - simple electronics - check.

  • The seat slides easily and quietly and is comfortable and strong enough. Check x3.

Downsides:

  • You do have to assemble the machine. Unfortunately this is the case with every machine, other than the very most expensive 1000+ machines. It is packed very well with the bolts on a plastic wrapper, with every bolt numbered correctly. Take your time and carefully assemble it (15 minutes) following the instructions exactly. Don't pull that "plastic guide" through until it tells you to! You have to use it to pull through a wire! Heh! Again, only the truly posh machines come already assembled, so the Ikea-stage is unavoidable.

  • The foot stands are generally good. However, they do allow twisting forwards. In other words you can if you want to push your foot forwards, similar to pressing the accelerator in a car. I really don't know if this is a good thing or not; we'd need a professional rower to tell us. That's just life I guess. This machine is much, much better than all the other inexpensive machines, so that's just how it is I guess. You could easily mod the foot stands with a piece of wood or bolt to fix them in place.

  • The only other real alternative is consider buying a used Concept2. However it will probably be about 600+.

  • If you live in the USA, Concept2 is currently trying to desperately get rid of their old models. You can buy one quite cheap "with the older screen" (I think about 900-1000 rather than 1500). However - don't forget they are CHAIN drive machines and hence, no matter how solidly made and reliable, they are very very noisy.

  • In my opinion it is pointless buying a second-hand cheaper machine: they will be ruined. You can certainly buy a secondhand Oartec or Concept2. You can sometimes find them for sale for example from colleges, schools, etc.

  • Regarding the SR907, I row it for one full hour (that is hard :-/) many times a week. I am a big guy (although getting smaller!) and it is completely tough enough to take that. Note that the magnetic engine gets quite hot after an hour but no problem.

It is a tough machine that will let you do all the rowing you want, for many years.

I am an engineer and extensively investigated all the machines available, because I was too cheap to just buy an Oartec!

I hope you enjoy rowing, it is incredibly difficult (I mean, utterly exhausting). It is absolutely essential that you get the correct form - look at all the videos online, ask experts etc etc. It is completely pointless rowing, unless your form is perfect.

It is really really exhausting. The weird thing is at first (say 10 mins) you have the feeling you could go all day. But wait a few more minutes ... :)

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The SR907, made by a large Asian company and sold under many brand names. It is the only "moderate price" rameur worth buying. Be careful not to buy machines that look similar, but are crap.

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+1 for "It is completely pointless rowing, unless your form is perfect". Although I'd probably replace perfect with something less extreme. I'm an on-the-water rower and have seen some truly awful technique at gyms in my time. It's like any form of exercise you get out what you put in. –  Antony Scott Nov 8 '12 at 10:31
    
For the above reason, I highly recommend seeing if there is a local rowing club that can give you a few lessons on proper form on the erg (what rowers call a rowing machine). Even if you never dip an oar in the water all your life, a bit of instruction from an experienced rower can help you immensely on the machine. Depending on where they live, most serious rowers spend from 2 to 6 months of the year training indoors on ergs, so they have copious experience both on and off the water that can be of help to you. –  Jonathan Van Matre Jan 13 at 14:13
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