Concept 2 air rowers are hands-down the most popular rowers right now (and for the last several years).
If you’re lucky, you can find one used and save a few bucks.
The Concept2 was already a top rower in professional rowing circles, with many Olympic teams already using them in the 90s. From about 2006 on, Crossfit popularized it and brought rowing into the mainstream. Now you can find them at gyms everywhere, giving you a choice other than the typical treadmills, bikes and ellipticals.
Models you may encounter:
- Model A – No performance monitor, exposed flywheel, no drag adjustment. Very primitive, but still usable if you’re desperate.
- Model B – A nice upgrade over the old A, with an enclosed flywheel, and later models have the original PM1 performance monitor that may not work for long. Still no adjustable drag.
- Model C – Not the newest tech but still a good upgrade over the B. Adjustable drag. A good choice if you can’t find a D.
- Model D – Current model and most popular. PM5 performance monitor.
- Model E – Similar to D, current model also, raised up higher off the ground for sorta immobile users and built heavier so it remains just as stable.
The performance monitor is currently at version 5. Here is a comparison:
Where to Get a Used C2
Check with your local rowing clubs (search for “rowing club” on Google Maps). They might have some older models they’re replacing, such as model A or B. They aren’t as likely to be replacing a model D in good condition, because it’s the current model, everything on it can be replaced at a reasonable cost, and the machine lasts for years and years.
Always ask to try it out.
Do some pulls for a minute and make sure all parts move good and the performance monitor functions.
Below are things you can check, if you’re negotiating for the best deal and you’ve got multiple choices. The reality is these rowers are snatched up quick, so don’t get too picky. Even in the biggest metro areas they’re hard to find on Craigslist at much below retail.
- Battery Compartment – Make sure there’s no ruts or leaking batteries. Possible deal breaker.
- Circuit Board – Open up the PM and inspect the circuit board for bulging or blown capacitors. Back in my PC repair days, customers brought in their PCs with weird problems. It was sometimes a blown capacitor from heat buildup. When it wasn’t under warranty, it was time for a new computer. The one in the pic further below is the memory backup capacitor, which I think only affects things when you swap out batteries and need to save the data.
- Performance Monitor (PM) – Browse through the menu briefly to make sure the electronics are functional. Another possible deal breaker. A new one will run you $200. There are older monitors that don’t have the features of the current PM5, but they still can be ok. Like any electronics, after many years they can fail just from repeated on-off cycles.
- Rail – Check for pitting that will hinder smooth sliding
- Seat – Check for wear
- Chain – Cleanliness, showing it’s been oiled occasionally and generally taken care of. There isn’t much you have to maintain on these besides the chain oil.
- Foot Straps – Check for worn straps about to snap.
- Handle – Old wooden ones can be worn.
You can look up the total meters rowed to find out just how used it is. It could have been reset if the owner did a firmware upgrade, so I hear. But this number isn’t important. Rowers with millions of meters on them are still fine. You shouldn’t expect it to totally fail at any point.
This is a big reason why they are so popular. No matter what fails, you can replace it. That’s why you shouldn’t be too picky with grabbing a used one. With their 40 year history in business you can probably count on getting parts forever. Rowing is more popular than ever, and if nothing else they will keep supplying Olympic teams, which is how they got established.
Concept2 has parts lists online. You have to contact them to order. Sportsmith has a lot of parts listed online with prices, a little more convenient.
Just be aware of the cost of what you may need to replace. As described above, the big one is the performance monitor and the condition of the batteries.
If You’re Coming Up Dry
If you can’t get a hold of a used C2 for a price well below new ($900 currently), you can always get a new one from Rogue.