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on January 4, 2015
I'm a former marathon runner who now has severe arthritic pain in both knees. Even walking long distances hurts. I transitioned to an elliptical machine, which was better, but still leaves me with some pain as there is still some weight bearing. I'd stopped exercising for the last few years, and have watched my weight balloon and my health start to decline. I'm so out of shape that housework and even climbing a flight of stair leaves me out of breath. I'm about 5'10" and a depressing 280 pounds of flab. So I'm basically starting from zero. I've talked to my doctor and orthopedist - both of which suggested swimming as an aerobic activity which won't stress my knees. No pool close to me so not an option. I found this machine by accident and was convinced by all the stellar reviews to try this. So here are my first impressions.
Amazon had this delivered in two days via UPS. Came in a strong secure box, well packed with large pieces of Styrofoam.
UPS brought this via handtruck to my back door. Since the total package weighs about 70 pounds there was no way I was going to be able to get this into my house (My roommate is disabled, so I have no one to help me.). I opened the box outside and planned to bring the pieces into the house. There are just two main pieces - the Flywheel and the seat frame. I brought them in and had this machine together in literally less than 10 minutes. There are just 8 screws to put this machine together. (They even included a screwdriver - no hunting for the right size!) The two main sections are joined at the middle with a hook design and then a locking mechanism. The seat frame just "drops" into flywheel section and you lock it down. No tools needed for this. Easy to take the two pieces apart for vertical storage. As someone who has put together a lot of IKEA and Sauder furniture, I was astounded at how easy this was. Brilliantly designed. Even the batteries were installed in the console. The only thing I needed was to set the date and time.
USAGE: So 10 minutes after opening the box, I'm ready to row. I have had some experience with rowing machines in gyms in the past, so I'm familiar with the stroke and form. I take my first few strokes. The machine is set on middle level as default. My first thought is, "this is too easy. I'm not going to get a workout from this." I keep going and after two minutes, I can feel my heart start to pump and I'm getting a little winded. Kept going at a slow pace for 10 minutes. THIS IS A MIRACLE. I found a machine that is comfortable and gets my heart going and is not hurting my knees. One of the muscle groups this works is the quads, so I'm hoping that will strengthen my knees over time (hoping to delay surgery for as long as possible). I'm slowly working myself up - started at 10 minutes for a few days, then 15, now I'm up to 30, and feel absolutely wonderful. One side effect is that I'm a lot more flexible than I was. A low impact rowing for 5 minutes is a great way for stretching out the major muscles. I would sometimes wake up hunched over with back pain from so much sedentary work. Just five minutes on the machine warms up my muscles and straightens me up until I have time for a full workout. I'm grateful that I found this machine. Will update my progress in a few weeks - hopefully a few pounds lighter and fitter.
For those thinking that this machine is too expensive, please, please reconsider cheap machines. You get what you pay for. I saw a "deal of the day" for a cheap rowing machine this morning and started to kick myself for not waiting - "I could have saved hundreds of dollars." Then I read the reviews. Junk, garbage. Fell apart right away. I would have bought a $300 machine and then come back to this one in the end. It's true that you usually get what you pay for. I've purchased cheap machines for my mother, and they usually arrive damaged because the manufacturers cut corners on the packing. Not the case here. I'm looking forward to a long, fruitful relationship with this machine. Cheers!
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on April 3, 2015
After much research I bought the Concept2 Model D rower. Now I am very glad I did.

I was comparing the following machines

* Concept2 Model D ($900)
* Concept2's Model E ($1100) which is higher off the ground

and probably Concept2's strongest competitor on quality (but not price)...

* BodyCraft VR500 (listed for $1900, usually on sale for $1500-1600)
Also high off the ground like the Model E, and with a long monorail (both Concept2 models D and E also have an available longer monorail, for people with inseams of 38 inches/96.5cm or longer)

I tested the Concept2 at my local YMCA before buying it (Concept2's website shows a listing of YMCA's with a Concept2 in your zip code). I also tested the BodyCraft VR500 at my local 2nd Wind Exercise Equipment store.

I purchased the Polar H7 heart-rate monitor to work with the Concept2 , and the RowPro Software for the Concept2 after trialing it for 3 weekends.

Reasons I like the Concept2 a lot:

* Available RowPro software for the Concept2 ($100) is cool and highly motivational.
The Concept2's PM5 (performance monitor 5) can connect to custom, compatible RowPro software (http://www.digitalrowing.com) which is a huge benefit that you only get with a Concept2. I project the very cool rowing simulator software to my 52" screen TV and compete against my own prior rows, or online with people around the world. The PM5 monitor on the Concept2 saves data on every stroke, so you can compete against yourself or others. I don't believe BodyCraft has a similar software, or even a connection that you can connect to your computer. As you connect your Concept2's PM5 to a computer with a USB A/B cable (a printer style USB cable), you can track your progress with the RowPro software, and/or with Concept2's online tracking software. The free software from Concept2 can upload data from a USB cable connection or a USB thumb drive up to online software. The free Concept2 upload software works, but is not as good as the RowPro software for $100. With Concept2's online free service you can compare your progress to thousands of others around the world, and see their pictures and standings! It feels like going to a global, international, online virtual YMCA where you meet up with others doing the same sport. The online software works great. I did need to buy a Belkin AC powered desktop USB hub for $20 because I was connecting my PM5 with a USB A/B cable to a 15 foot USB extension cable to my desktop computer (most people would use a laptop). With the AC powered USB hub it worked perfectly. The software is very cool to watch !! Plan to buy the RowPro software if you get a Concept2! It's one of the best benefits of a Concept2.

* Air resistance only, no magnetic resistance. Much better.
Magnetic resistance is boring, constant, and creates the same force of resistance constantly throughout the row stroke. Air resistance is better because you begin your row stroke at one level of force, then momentum builds and you end your row stroke with the flywheel moving fast, making it easier to pull the last bit out of the flywheel, when your arms would get sore with magnetic resistance's constant pressure. Air resistance feels like you accomplished something when you pull back all the way. I have a magnetic resistance stationary bike and it's consistent force is boring. Same old force level all the time. The BodyCraft tries to solve this by letting you change the resistance on the bar that you pull, but that is trying to solve the problem the wrong way, in my humble opinion. Market research from newbie rowers probably requested magnetic resistance, but experienced rowers probably prefer the traditional Air Resistance only.

* Wealth of online resources available, due to the dominant market share.
Many educational Youtube videos, and even a book, explains in great detail how to get the most out of the Concept2. It's essential to learn good technique in rowing to prevent injury and optimize training. Concept2 itself provides great training videos (http://www.concept2.com/indoor-rowers/training/technique-videos), and many other coaches have their own videos on YouTube as well. Very few resources are available for the BodyCraft. The BodyCraft does have a great user manual (available free online for download) that provides great stretches for rowing. I taped this up on my wall and use it every time. It's excellent.

* Built solid to last forever.
Has been the market leader for a long time for a reason. Engineered by a former Olympic rower. Most YMCAs buy Concept2 rowers and you can find a local YMCA with a Concept2 that you can test on a guest pass by visiting Concept2's website, put in your zip code, and find the nearest YMCA with a Concept2 (http://www.concept2.com/indoor-rowers/finder)

* I love the Concept2 company business model and am proud to support it.
You can call and talk or chat to real people who are helpful, kind, professionals, like businesses used to be years ago, before businesses started to outsource their call centers to India. The company values long term employees on their website. They are a model American company. The BodyCraft appears to be the US marketed version of a German company product I found online (google "FINNLO Rudergerät / Ergometer Aquon Pro Plus" or see their product on Amazon.de, the German version of Amazon.com). Germans have received a lot of medals in rowing in the Olympics so they understand rowing. Concept2's are known all around the world as the leading rower machine, and are used by Olympic athletes to compare consistently with each other, so Concept2 is also big in Germany.

* Easy to assemble and store.
I store it every time after use. It takes about 10 seconds to separate into two pieces, and 10 seconds to roll over into the corner. It takes longer to take off my Polar H7 heartrate strap and rinse the sweat off it, squeeze out the water and hang it to dry. It's also smaller than the BodyCraft so a bit easier to store.

Misconceptions about the Concept2, that I read online:

* Misconception #1 - "Seat is hard".
I heard this on buyer comments and worried needlessly. No the seat is not too hard. My glut was out of shape, when I started rowing. In the beginning I felt pain in my butt, just like lifting weights creates pain in the muscle working. Then I noticed my gluteus maximus muscles started to get strong and bigger, after a few weeks. It feels great to have a strong glut, and it helps with crosstraining for running, and other sports. A rower does an excellent job making your glut strong and firm, because your glut becomes a pivotal muscle in the process of rowing. I even bought a cushion but returned it, when my muscles got stronger. The Concept2 seat has research behind it :-) to make the seat hard enough so your circulation does not get cut off from a soft style seat. Novices may prefer a soft seat at first when they don't know much about rowing. The BodyCraft seat is much softer. I will admit that. But with a stronger glut I don't think I need it. Concept2 does say on their website that some rowers will want a softer seat and they provide a cushion you can buy for it if needed.

* Misconception #2 - "Chain is too loud".
No the chain is not too loud. The air resistance fan is the loudest thing, but music from my stereo is much louder. When I'm rowing I listen to my Mp3 player.

* Misconception #3 - "Concept2 is outdated technology".
Absolutely untrue. The BodyCraft looks like better technology with the cool blue colored monitor. But then you learn there is RowPro software you can connect into the Concept2, which you can project to your laptop computer and/or big screen TV, and you can join a vast rowing community all using Concept2 rowers. The concept2 rower flywheel is precision weighted and balanced to provide the exact same resistance as everyone else's Concept2 in the world. So you can be motivated by hundreds and thousands of others on the same technology.

* Misconception #4 - "Dual Air/Magnetic Resistance is better than just Air resistance".
Not true. With the Concept2 you compete on speed per 500 meters pace. Magenetic resistance creates an artificial feeling resistance. Novices to rowing are probably impressed with magnetic resistance because they don't know about the vast community online that competes on speed. Speed gets your heart-rate going. Magnetic resistance will make super strong "anaerobic" arm muscles. Aerobic workouts are better than anaerobic workouts. Anaerobic (without air) is bad. Aerobic (with air in your lungs) is good.

More BodyCraft VR500 Comments:

* The BodyCraft VR500 is for sure an excellent rowing machine and a strong competitor to the Concept2. Heavy duty and strong. You can read reviews of the BodyCraft VR500 on Amazon.com like I did. I hope this review on the Concept2 answers questions about the BodyCraft reviews. The Concept2 has more advantages listed above and often ignored in reviews of the BodyCraft, and I'm thankful I bought the Concept2.

My Background:
I bought a Concept2 Model D rower to provide cross-training of muscles that don't get used when I run on my treadmill. I needed to cross-train after my knee, glut, an other muscles got weaker from atrophy as I got older, working at a desk job and running as my only exercise for 20+ years.

Fun facts notes for anyone seriously researching the BodyCraft VR500:
I also found the following rower online. It looks like the same as the BodyCraft VR500.
* FINNLO Rudergerät / Ergometer Aquon Pro Plus - apparently the German marketed version of the BodyCraft VR500, available on Amazon.de, not Amazon.com, for €1,000+shipping, and requires European 220 volt standards, but still interesting to compare. You can google "FINNLO Rudergerät / Ergometer Aquon Pro Plus" to see well done marketing videos in German.
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on February 2, 2017
We bought this on Amazon and had the device within two days. We thought long and hard before buying a rowing machine, in part because of the financial commitment and in part because we live in a small apartment and really don't need a clothes hanger. We ultimately decided that the impact on our décor was less important than the health and fitness benefits of daily, low impact exercise.

Settling on the Concept 2 Model D was easy. I was tempted by the luxurious looking wooden water rowers (smaller footprint, easier storage, more home friendly appearance). But, the gym has the Concept 2, and my experience has been that the air blowing from the fan chamber keeps you cool while working out. Rowing in dead air did not seem attractive.

Another factor is that we were familiar with the quality of this machine. It will outlast us.

This machine rides like a Cadillac. We live in an apartment, as I mentioned, and my Mom's first question was, "won't the neighbor's hear it?" Answer: no. This machine does not rumble. It is smooth and quiet. The fan is the only source of noise. The seat glides in near silence and the chain-pully thing is also nearly silent. There is no noise transmitting into the floor.

I can also watch TV at just over normal volume and hear everything.

Having this machine in the house is great. A 15 minute workout in the morning takes 15 minutes and 30 seconds. There is no packing a gym bag, no back and forth to the gym, no OMG moment when you realize you forgot your shower shoes. Just hop on, row and relax, then proceed with your normal routine at home.

Did I mention this machine is smooth?

We have no regrets with this choice.
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I resisted all the black Friday deals on rowers and bought this one based on the positive reviews. I'm glad I did. Amazon shipped it to me in 2 days. Comes in a large box that weighs about 60 lbs. Very well packaged. Puts together with just 8 bolts. All the tools are included. Took 5 minutes.

Despite the positive reviews, this item exceeded my expectations. The machine is extraordinarily solid. No wiggles or give what so ever. Just unbelievable for a 55 lb machine. The rowing motion is great. Clutch uptake is without slack. The slide is smooth. There are complaints about the seat being too hard. I though that the seat was hard plastic, but it's very firm rubber. There is cushion, and I didn't have any problems at all. I bought a gel cushion, but don't find that I need it.

I was a bit worried about noise since my machine is in a hard room. But there is not much noise. I'm able to hear the TV from across the room.

Overall, this is one of the very few items that I've experienced that far exceeds my expectation.
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My wife and I decided we wanted some sort of in-home exercise equipment, and we had a few criteria. 1) Low Impact. Yeah, we're getting too old for running and kicking things. This also meant no treadmill. 2) Full Body. We wanted some cardio and full body workout all-in-one so not just weights or a cycle. 3) Fits in a small home. We have little room for equipment, so something we could stick in a corner when company comes was required. A friend said rowers were great workouts and I saw this one.

First off, it is long -- you need 9 feet linear to use it when set up. But you can split it in half and store the parts upright in a much smaller footprint, so it worked for us for 3). For 1) and 2) it also fits the bill perfectly. No impact, but can be an intense workout. I was full-body sore after only a few 5 minute intro sessions, which is what I wanted. We leave it set up in a guest room, but can store it easily in the corner when there's visitors (it's like 2'x3' or so footprint stored. This means I have instant access for a quick workout first thing in the morning -- even an intense 10 minutes before morning shower is worth it. Face it -- I knew I wouldn't go to the gym. I don't have time for that, and I don't want people looking at me. It's hard to say I don't have time for 15 minutes with no travel time to the gym and changing and showering and all that. I wasn't sure -- I mean, I don't row for real in a boat. And don't ever plan to do so. But as for exercise, this is a workout.

OK, it's boring. But that's why we have streaming music. I find it meditative -- once you ease into a rhythm, you can just meditate on the motion, focusing on the bar in front of you and zone out into the music while 10 minutes and 100 calories glides by. To me, that's the best. Any solid workout, from spin to personal training, to jogging, burns around 100 calories / 10 mins. What's great about the ergometer is that the monitor right there in front of you tells you what your burn rate and expended calories is so far, in terms of energy required to spin that flywheel. So if you go a slow pace, you might only burn a baseline 300 calories/hour as your learn and warm up, but then you work up into the 800 cals/hour range for some burst intervals and you can hit 200 calories in 20 mins. I love this feedback right there.

I guess the monitor also hooks up to some 3rd party software I have yet to try. So you can do online competitions, virtual scenery, personalized programs and upload to your friends if you're in need of accountability reinforcement, etc. I'm going to look into this at some point, but for now I just sit down, do the first pull and the monitor turns, starts the clock and tells me how much I have burned and what my current pace is. That's just great. And since it's a giant flywheel, it can generate electricity to run the monitor without using much of the batteries. Nice!

My wife also can use it, even though she's half my size. Just sit down and go. She might have to move the footstraps, but that's 30 seconds and easy. She can pick her own pace. With 2 people using it, the cost is much better than a gym membership.

Overall I am quite happy with this rower. I am new to rowing, but with a few videos they offer online and doing the training they suggest, I managed to get a reasonable repeatable stroke after maybe 5 minutes of practice. They also have a video of common mistakes, which was great to watch once you get comfortable and move harder and faster, since that's when the bad habits creep in. If you start slow and focus on form for the warmup, then go hard, then focus on form when you're tired in a cooldown (much harder to have good form when you're tired!) you can make sure to avoid bad habits and let yourself get all the benefits when you get into a really strong, hard pace. Burning 400 calories in 30 minutes in my target now -- after a week I can do 200 in 20 minutes. The nice thing about a consistent workout is when you are sore from the last workout, the best remedy isn't rest or Advil, it's to jump on and do a gentle workout just to warm things up without going nuts. That's one thing I love about having this setup all the time at home -- I can jump on for 5 mins for a quick little warmup whenever I feel like it, in between the hard 30 minutes sessions where I am more serious.

OK I wrote a lot. But for $1000 I wanted to be sure it was worth it, and wanted to help those of you looking to maintain fitness as you enter middle-age, have kids and can't go to the gym, and can't handle anything not low impact. And can work in a cramped lifestyle, both in time and space.

As for this product in particular -- I am happy with the construction. It's super solid. Easy to put together (even came with the screwdriver needed). Easy to store when needed. Easy to just sit and go. Clear constant feedback on calorie burn. Comfortable to sit on, and smooth operation. Chain is great quality and works smoothly. Handle is comfortable and easy to hold for extended time. Seat slider action is smooth and comfortable enough to not be noticeable even after 30 mins. Foot pedals are excellent -- easily adjustable for multiple users to quickly get on and go, with pull straps for easy in and out securing. Model D is "lower" for people who doesn't have mobility issues. Model E is a higher seat for less squatting to get on and off, so consider the Model E if you're older or with joint issues for getting down low and back up. Model D is perfect for us, no issues at all. I think the Model D is the only one with adjustable screen position, as well, which is better for my wife and I to adjust. I picked up some chain oil, but it only needs it after many hours of use, so no concerns there.

Now it only needs Virtual Reality.
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on February 4, 2017
Superb engineering and quality

Purchased the Concept 2D with PM5 for cardio endurance work over the winter. I was very impressed with the quality and ease of assembly but most of all, the beauty of the engineering that allows you to easily unlock the frame so the rower can be stored in a small space. Very important given space limitations. It's a breeze to reassemble and start rowing.

The PM5 (performance monitor) is easy to understand and read. The arm folds down so you can position it for clear view. My Garmin HR strap (purchased here at Amazon) paired immediately with the PM5. I save my workouts to a USB stick then download the information to a spreadsheet on my computer using the Concept2 Utility software. I'm not into racing or going for "personal bests" or other records, just monitoring my own progress - thus I don't keep an online logbook at the Concept2 website.

I had been advised that large capacity USBs didn't play well with the PM5 because they require a lot of power. I happened to have an old 128MB stick and it works perfectly. My HR strap pairing info was saved to the USB, so there's no need to pair it again as long as I'm using the USB.

Correct technique is crucial when using an indoor rower to avoid back soreness or other issues. Concept has excellent videos and training info at their website.

The Concept2 D is a low impact wonderful workout that engages muscles you didn't know you had. I regularly do strength training and core exercises, but after my first few 5,000 meter rows, I could tell which muscles in my back, legs, and shoulders were being worked.

Concept2 has an active forum and a good search engine so you can generally find answers to questions you may have. Admittedly, many of the posts make no sense to this newbie rower as they speak in their own lingo but at least one doesn't have to join to read or search.

Was it expensive? Yes. But it's sure a lot more interesting and fun than my treadmill!
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on July 23, 2016
As a couple in their 60's and 70's, my spouse and I contacted a number of licensed trainers before we made this purchase. We were struggling in our daily three mile walk when the Central Texas weather fluctuated with lows below freezing and highs in the 90-100 degree range over the course of the year. The Concept2 was highly recommended by athletic, cross-fit, and personal trainers when they assessed our age and physical limitations. One of us has plantar fasciitis, the other has been recovering from rotator cuff surgery, and we both have arthritis issues associated with the number of birthdays we have experienced. We have been completing 30 minute daily indoor workouts for the past six weeks, increasing the resistance each week, and we feel great.
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on April 1, 2016
Space-efficient, and a great workout! This machine is a great way to get a full-body strength and cardio workout from home, with a minimal footprint. I was never a rower until my husband said he wanted to buy this machine, but now that we have it, we have sold all of our other workout equipment because this baby gives me all the workout I need! It does get a bit loud at times so it's hard for my husband to watch TV while I'm rowing 15 feet away, but all in all that's a minor inconvenience.
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on February 5, 2016
My NordicTrac elliptical machine finally bit the dust, couldn't get the repair parts I needed. So I started researching a replacement. And the reading I did about elliptical machines in general was “Why bother?” Sure, they're low impact, but the workout isn't much. Rowing machines were recommended, and reviews of this were good, so...

For two weeks I thought I was going to die. And understand, I had been using that elliptical and an exercise bike for 12 years. So I wasn't exactly a couch potato to start with. This thing worked muscles that I didn't even know I had, total body! My forearms and hips hurt, holy crap...

Anyway, now that I'm conditioned I love it. It's fun to use and VERY effective. Very solidly built too – 500+ pound weight limit, and even if the electronics were to fail some day you can still use the unit normally. It'll last forever. And the best part is that unlike my elliptical machine I can actually move this thing around by myself. I saw them using these on the Biggest Loser the other day too, my wife watches crap TV...
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As a former fitness instructor, when I wanted to get back in shape, a rower/ergometer was the only all-in-one exercise machine I considered. Rowers work almost every part of the body. It's easy on the joints and packs a lot of exercise into a little amount of time.

Seriously, get a rower.

I looked at many brands and was put off by the negative reviews that inevitably found a glaring deal-breaker in every rower I examined. But time and again, one rower came up as recommended—and with no deal-breaking issues: Concept 2 Model D.

Upon receiving the unit (which was shipped in perfect shape and in just two days from Amazon), my son and I had it moved downstairs, out of the box, set up, and operating in just 15 minutes. Outstanding design. Simply one of the easiest to assemble pieces of exercise equipment I have ever used.

What immediately strikes you about the Concept 2 Model D is how well-made it looks and feels. Every piece of this device is best in class. Other rowers just don't compare. The Concept 2 Model D is a Tesla among Yugos when it comes to air-resistance rowers. Everything from the manuals to the box it came in screams quality. You are getting your money's worth, and that feels good in this day and age.

PROS
+ Cardiovascular and whole-body workout.
+ Assembly is a breeze, and tools for assembly are included.
+ Excellent design, both in setup and use.
+ Sturdy. Can handle up to 500 pounds when other rowers max out at 250 or 300.
+ Long rail, which makes it great for very tall users.
+ Smooth rowing action, with durable chain-driven mechanism.
+ 10 levels of air resistance that actually feel like 10 different difficulty settings.
+ Adjustable, easily read, backlit display, with large numbers.
+ Multiple, built-in, programmable workouts, games, and ways to maximize the exercise time
+ Secure footrests.
+ USB flash drive access for storing workouts.
+ Heart-rate monitor (not included) connects wirelessly.
+ Effortlessly moved, light weight and with wheeled front end.
+ Includes a two-year warranty and 30-day money back guarantee.
+ Worth the money, and you'll feel you got what you wanted, no disappointments.

MIXED
* Display is a little 1990s in look, feel, and operation, but that's being picky.

CONS
- Seat may not be comfortable for some people—the main reason for a star loss.

Ah, the seat. For me, it's the Achilles heel of the unit. I hate the seat. For whatever reason, it irritates my tailbone despite having a cut-out section to account for this. My wife and son also use the rower and have no complaints about the seat or anything else about the rower. But perhaps the seat just is not the best for someone who is 6' 4" tall and 240 pounds. In truth, I don't have much of a keister for a man my size, so it's not like I'm overflowing the seat, which is generously sized. I'm unclear why this is a problem. So, while everything else about the unit is superb, I find the seat very uncomfortable. YMMV.

I understand gel seat covers for Concept 2 Model D rower exist, and I am considering buying one. If not for this issue, I'd have nothing bad to say about the Concept 2 Model. So, perhaps not a deal-breaker, but still a little bit of a disappointment in an otherwise perfect product.

SUMMARY
Buy a Concept 2 Model D, and don't waste your money on any other sub-$1,000 rower. The differences are enormous and worth it. The only competition for the Model D is the Model E. The Concept 2 Model E costs $200 more, but it sits much higher (to get on and off easier, especially for those with mobility issues), has a sturdier base, and features double-powder-coated metal surfaces for extra durability. Most people will opt for the Model D, and it's the bestseller.

When you enjoy an exercise machine and it works perfectly, you'll use it more, which is the whole point. With the exception of my feelings about the seat, everything else about the Concept 2 Model D is a joy. Really, just buy it. You'll love the you it helps you create.
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