York R301 Magnetic Rowing Machine Review

York R301 Rowing MachinePrice: £319
Buy From: Fitness Superstore

Overall Rating: 3
Build Quality: 2
Ease of use: 3
Console Features: 4
Comfort: 3
Value for Money: 3.5

A lot of people’s only experience of a rowing machine is likely to have been the Concept 2 rower, which has been the gym and health club staple for many years.  Therefore, when choosing a rower for the home, there is often a requirement to try and replicate the feel of a Concept 2 but at a less premium price.

The R301 is a budget range air and magnetic resistance rower from York Fitness but despite this there are certain similarities in the flow and movement to those found on more premium models.

The inclusion of 16 levels of electronically controlled adjustable resistance is fairly unique for an entry level rowing machine and will provide a challenge to users of all shapes and sizes.  Because the resistance is controlled electronically, York have been able to incorporate eight preset workout programs into the console which in itself is something of a rarity, as lower priced rowing machines often only provide basic feedback, with time, distance, stroke rate and a calorie counter.

The R301 has upped the anti by not only including the basic feedback and programs but also a heart rate monitor facility, although a Polar T31 chest strap will be required. The purist might argue that rowing uses 90% of the muscles in the body so is hard enough work already and therefore variable intensity programs are not required.

York-R301-Rowing-Machine-ConsolePeople can have a tendency to row a specific distance as quickly as they can or row as far as they can within a specified time with a view to bettering their performance at the next attempt.  Having said that, keeping motivation levels up is key when exercising, so the inclusion of programs here is a real bonus for those with a low boredom threshold or a competitive nature.

The foot plates are fully and easily adjusted for all sized feet and the seat is contoured and comfortable. The maximum user weight is 120kg (18.5 stone) which is average and reflects that this is a budget product.

For those with space restrictions, be warned, like the majority of air rowers this is not a small product.  When in use it stretches to 257cm long and although it can be folded to a more reasonable size for storage it is a fiddly operation almost requiring three hands to perform the task.

The build quality isn’t the greatest, with a slightly cheap feel to it although York back up the product with an extended 2 year warranty option when you register it with them once purchased. The bright orange colour used in the graphics won’t be to everyone’s taste but it doesn’t detract from what is a pretty reasonable rower considering the alternatives at this level.


  • Adjustable resistance and programs
  • Smooth and even stroke pull
  • Value for money


  • Awkward folding mechanism
  • Large footprint
  • Build quality feels a bit cheap

In summary then, if you are on a budget, but want an air rower with decent features and space is not a primary concern then the R301 would be a good choice. It performs better than the alternative options for the price but serious rowers or heavy users may find that the build quality won’t stand the test of time.

Price: £319
Buy From: Fitness Superstore

Neptune Challenge Rower Review

Neptune Challenege Rowing MachinePrice: £499
Buy From: Fitness Superstore

Overall Rating: 3
Build Quality: 3
Ease of use: 4
Console Features: 1
Comfort: 3
Value for Money: 3

Water resistance based indoor rowing machines are based upon relatively new technology within the fitness industry which means they are still a little above the budget price point.  Designed to recreate a lifelike simulation of the real thing, there are several offerings within the marketplace with the most well known model being the wooden water rower.

The Neptune rower from First Degree Fitness is the entry level from their range.  At a size of only 197cm long and 53cm wide it is extremely compact for a rowing machine as many models are over 2m in length.  It is also stored by simply standing it up on its end which results in a meagre storage footprint of just 53cm x 51cm. This makes it the ideal solution for those with real space restriction concerns. Not only that but the inclusion of inbuilt transit wheels at the front mean that moving this rower around is easy for anyone to do making it very portable.

The tough, polycarbonate tank uses marine grade, stainless internals and there are fill lines clearly indicated on the tank for users to be able to add or remove water as required to provide different levels of resistance according to fitness levels. These range between 9 litres (easy) to 17 litres. (maximum difficulty)  Although not particularly difficult to do, I felt that the majority of people will simply fill the tank to the optimum level and leave it there as less water than this meant very minimal resistance which didn’t represent much of a challenge. As there is no other way of adjusting resistance on this rower, this signifies the biggest weakness of the Neptune.

To create a more intense workout, you have to row faster, which relies on the motivation of the rower and makes it a little one dimensional in terms of workout versatility.  Having said all that, the resistance that is there, is smooth and continuous through the strokes and there are none of the “dead spots” or momentum lag that can be found on air based resistance rowers.

The seat is comfortable and it runs smoothly on precision bearings and rollers on an aluminium rail. The footplates pivot and the straps adjust quickly and easily for any sized feet. The whole product seems very well crafted and it will hold users to a maximum capacity of 140kg (22 stone).

The monitor provides the basics, with time, stroke count, stroked per minute and calories. The LCD is large and clear but there is no distance monitor, which although not essential, does limit functionality as a lot of rowers will like the option to compete with distance as their goal.  First Degree rather sneakily included this basis option on the Pacific model rower which is the next in the range but it costs another £100 for the privilege.


  • Smooth, realistic resistance with no dead spots
  • Very compact, portable and easily stored


  • Resistance not easily adjusted
  • No distance reading on the monitor

In summary then, for an entry into water resistance based rowers, the Neptune does well.  If you are looking for some general exercise with a realistic, sometimes even therapeutic feel to it and are willing to forgo some motivational goals then the Neptune could be for you.  Serious rowers will need to look elsewhere though as this rower will not be challenging enough.

Price: £499
Buy From: Fitness Superstore

Tunturi R25 Rowing Machine Review

Tunturi R25 Rowing MachinePrice: £299
Buy From: Fitness Superstore

Overall Rating: 4
Build Quality: 4
Ease of use: 4
Console Features: 3
Comfort: 3.5
Value for Money: 4


The R25 magnetic rower is the entry level model in the Tunturi range.  As with the majority of home use rowers there is a folding facility enabling users to significantly reduce the footprint for storage.

At 201cm long when in use, this rower is already shorter than an air resistance alternative which tend to be significantly longer at around 260cm. By unwinding a simple handle, the seat rail can be lifted and folded vertically so that the length of the rower when stored is a more convenient 102cm.

There are large footplates which pivot to reduce stress on the heel and large Velcro straps are easily adjusted to accommodate various sized feet.  A single rail and soft ergonomic seat ensure rider comfort, although the range of seat movement is just 71cm from front to back which will shorten the stroke length for taller users, resulting in a workout that sometimes feels a bit restricted and there is certainly nothing like the sense of involvement you would experience with an air or water based alternative.

Magnetic rowers are however compact, and very quiet which will count for a lot in some home environments. The resistance is adjustable via a manually operated permanent magnetic brake.  It uses a similar type of system to that used on an exercise cycle except that instead of pedalling you are pulling.

The 6kg rotating mass will provide enough of a challenge for the majority and the 8 levels mean that this rower has some versatility but as a magnetic rower, the compromise is the slightly mechanical feel which is evident in all rowers of this type.

Tunturi-R25-Rowing-Machine-ConsoleThe console is large and clearly displays time, distance, strokes and 500m splits with a calorie counter and a heart rate monitor display. (Polar T31 wireless chest strap is required to utilise this) As the LCD is monochrome however, I found it wasn’t always easy to ready the display in bright sunlight.

Programs on rowing machines in general tend to be a luxury as rowing is a challenging enough exercise incorporating some 90% of the body’s muscle groups so alot of manufacturers consider them to be unnecessary.  After all you wouldn’t row a boat up a hill you would simply go faster.

The R25 is a lightweight portable rower, easily moved on transportation wheels when folded and sturdy too, able to handle users of up to 135kg.  The Tunturi level of build quality is plain to see and is backed up with a 15 year frame and 3 year parts and labour warranty on all other parts.


  • Light, portable and easy to fold
  • Comfortable seat
  • Great build quality represents good value for money
  • Quiet and smooth


  • Short range of movement for taller users
  • Mechanical, slightly unnatural resistance when compared with alternatives

In summary then, if you are looking for a premium built rowing machine on a budget and your needs are for something compact and quiet then the R25 does very well indeed.  If you have more room available however, then the York Fitness R301 Mag air rower is good alternative to consider for a better, more rounded workout, especially if you are taller than average.

Price: £299
Buy From: Fitness Superstore