Rowing Machine Essentials
Standard of Construction - Look for a well-finished all-metal construction, with an aluminium seat rail. Sit on the seat - there should be no flexing in any part of the frame as you put your weight on
Braking System - Electronic rowers use magnetic braking and are very quiet in use, but tend to lack the feel of top quality air and water rowers. Air rowers can offer a very high standard of movement and accuracy of feedback, but can be a little noisy. Water rowers create the closest feel to actually rowing on water and provide a wonderfully soothing swishing sound to boot!
Transmission - Look for chains or straps, which give a positive feel to the oar action without any stretching or give as you accelerate the oar.
Quality of Movement - Look for a smooth and even feel with no jerkiness or points where resistance suddenly drops away, especially at the beginning of the stroke (common with rope transmission). Check the range of the movement; when you're as far forward on the runner as possible (i.e. buttocks as close to the heels as possible) with your arms fully extended and holding the oar, the oar shouldn't have reached its start position.
Console Feedback & Ease of Use - How clear and comprehensive is the displayed information? How easy is it to access programmes (if there are any)? Are the buttons clearly visible and easy to use?
Seat Comfort - The seat should feel comfortable, even after rowing a few thousand metres!
Seat Runner and Rail - Move the seat to one end of the rail and tilt that end of the rower up a couple of inches - a good runner and rail will allow the seat to roll freely to the other end with a tiny amount of tilting.
Oar Grip - Does the oar feel comfortable to hold? Does it offer good grip, even when your hands are becoming tired and sweaty?
Footplate Adjustability - Check that your feet can be securely and comfortably accommodated in the footplates
Overall Dimensions - Rowing machines generally are amongst the most compact of home Fitness Equipment but tend to have a long, narrow footprint. Some can be stored upright, useful if you're tight for space.
Warranty - Most indoor rowing machines are pretty robust, but it's advisable to check what warranty is being offered on the frame, transmission and any electronics.