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Peloton's New Rowing Machine Teaches You to Be a Better Rower

The popular fitness brand revolutionizes the traditional rowing machine with some fun new features in the Peloton Row.

Peloton rowing machine on a pink background
Peloton Row is Peloton's newest smart rowing machine.
Peloton

Peloton has been leaving its footprint across the fitness world with the Peloton Bike, Peloton Bike Plus, Peloton Guide and Peloton Tread, so it only seemed natural that the next big thing would be a rowing machine. Peloton teased that its next big launch was going to be a smart rowing machine back in May, and months later preorders for the brand-new Peloton Row are now available. 

So when I had the chance to test it out before it was available to the public, I had to see what the hype was about. Having tried many of the big-name rowing machines on the market, I know a thing or two about what makes a rowing machine worth the investment. How does Peloton's machine match up against competitors on the market? Read on to learn more. 

8.5

Peloton Row

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Like

  • Form Assist is a helpful tool for new or experienced rowers
  • The foot strap design is ideal for getting in and out of the machine
  • It's quiet for a big machine

Don't Like

  • It's expensive
  • Membership is extra
  • The size can be cumbersome

How we tested

I wanted to see how the Peloton Row compared to the competition, since this is the first time the brand is venturing into rowing territory. I tested the Peloton Row with the same guidelines I used when testing other rowing machines:

  • Assembly: I tested how easy assembly was and how long it took to set up overall. 
  • Ease of use: I looked at how easy it was to access your Peloton account once the machine was set up, as well as the ease of use on the metrics monitor. 
  • Noise level: I observed how loud or silent the machine was during rowing sessions.
  • Features: I noted unique features that made the rowing machine stand out and/or improved the user experience.
  • Storage: I looked at how easy it was to store the machine when not in use.

How much does the Peloton Row cost? 

The basic Peloton Row package will cost you $3,195, which is almost as expensive as the Peloton Tread, which goes for $3,495. The price includes delivery and setup in your home, so you don't need to worry about assembling it yourself (always a plus). 

The other three packages you can pick from when purchasing your rower are: 

  • Row Starter: For $3,270 you get the rower, a row mat, a sport water bottle and a 12-month warranty. 
  • Row Select: For $3,520 you receive the rower, a row mat, a sport water bottle, a reversible workout mat, dumbbells, a heart rate band and a 12-month warranty. 
  • Row Ultimate: The most expensive package goes for $3,570 and includes a rower, a row mat, a sport water bottle, a reversible workout mat, dumbbells, a heart rate band, a yoga block, a yoga strap and a 12-month warranty. 

The Peloton Row is currently only available for preorder, but it is allowing customers to test out the rower for 30 days at home and if after that trial you decide it isn't right for you, you can return the machine free of charge. Peloton will even take care of the pickup. 

How does the Peloton Row work?

The setup for the Peloton Row is similar to other smart rowing machines. It has a slim base with a seat and footplates for your feet, and the screen and handle make up the front of the machine. Although the rower has the same footprint as a standard rowing machine, you can tell a lot of thought went into the design. 

For one, the ergonomic seat is cushioned all around and isn't too hard or soft -- it's comfortable for longer periods of sitting. It also has a water bottle and phone holder, which most rowing machines don't have. Another feature I like are the foot straps. The Velcro straps wrap around the top of your foot and make a big difference when you're trying to get in and out of the machine quickly. They also make your foot feel more secure when you're strapped in. When I tested other rowing machines, my biggest pet peeve was how some high-tech rowers still have the standard nylon adjustable straps, which take up too much time adjusting. 

peloton row seat and footplate

The Peloton Row seat is comfortable for longer periods of sitting and the footplate has Velcro straps which make it easy to get in and out of the machine.

Giselle Castro-Sloboda/CNET

The handle is perfectly curved and sits naturally in the palm of your hands, and is attached to a sturdy cloth strap that provides electronically controlled resistance when you pull on it. The strokes feel fluid and smooth, almost like you're rowing on water, and it's really quiet. The 24-inch HD touchscreen makes it easy to set up and connect to your All-Access membership. The screen also swivels so you can do floor workouts (such as a bootcamp class) and view the workouts when you're not on the rower. 

Peloton Row tilted screen

The screen easily swivels so you can do floor workouts as well.

Giselle Castro-Sloboda/CNET

When you're done using the rower you can either leave it out as is or you can store it upright. To store it, you first have to press a button behind the screen to lower it down, and then you tilt the machine upright towards the heaviest part of the base. Peloton includes a handle underneath the base for assistance as you lift. There's also an anchor included so you can have it bolted to your wall for extra security.

Space requirements

Peloton Row in living room

The Peloton Row made smart rowing machines even smarter with its features.

Giselle Castro-Sloboda/CNET

The Peloton Row measures 8 by 2 feet and weighs 156 pounds, so keep this in mind before placing an order. You can store the rowing machine upright if you need the extra space in your home, but you'll want to make sure your ceiling can clear its length. I was able to keep the rower out as is, but I didn't have an anchor so I didn't keep it upright. But if you do want to store it this way, just be mindful that it's an 8-foot piece of machinery, and it's heavy.

If you're on the shorter side (like me), be aware that it may be difficult to lift it up. You can get a better idea on how this process looks on the Peloton website. I think it still looks just as bulky as any other rowing machine when it's stored upright. The rower is designed to accommodate various heights ranging from 4 foot 11 to 6 foot 5 inches and can hold up to 300 pounds, which makes it ideal for most users. It can also fit foot sizes ranging from a women's size 5 shoe to a men's size 13.5. 

What it's like to use the Peloton Row

Before you begin any rowing classes you're asked to calibrate your form, which is important to record, especially if there will be multiple people using the rower. There are sensors that detect the position of the handle and seat. This is based on the length of the handle strap pulled out from the base as well as the position of the seat along the rail. 

As you go through the calibration process, you learn a breakdown of each part of rowing and its terminology, such as: 

  • Catch: The beginning of the stroke.
  • Drive: The part of the stroke where you extend your legs, body and finally arms.
  • Finish: The point of the stroke when the handlebar ends at your sternum. 
  • Recovery: This is when you row your way back to the catch.

Once you're calibrated, you can choose to Just Row (where you only see your metrics), do a Scenic Row (where your backdrop is a different outdoor location) or take a rowing class. 

If you opt to take a class you'll become familiar with the Form Assist feature, which offers real-time correction on your form during class using the same sensors from the calibration process. Peloton says the rower measures your position hundreds of times a second to generate Form Assist and track form errors. It reminded me of the technology Peloton Guide uses to detect your movement and form. Form Assist uses the image of a digital person sitting on a rowing machine (placed on the left hand side of the screen) that moves in sync with you. If your form is off, you'll see the person's body highlight in red the part of the stroke where you need to correct your form. So for example, if you're improperly doing the drive part of the stroke, the image on the screen highlights the person's back. You have the option to turn off Form Assist during class, but I wouldn't recommend it because it takes away from the experience. 

As someone who has rowed before, I was confident I had it down pat. Boy, was I wrong. The first time I turned on Form Assist during class I realized I was making lots of errors. At the end of class you receive your stats and a Form Rating score that uses a circle graph that shows you a total score out of 100. Right beneath it, it explains where you're making errors and offers tips on how to fix them. When I first started, I was at 65 and since then I've improved up to 75 on my form. 

peloton stats screen

After using the Peloton Row for a couple of weeks, I saw improvement in my overall rowing form. 

Giselle Castro-Sloboda/CNET

Peloton rowing instructor Adrian Williams says that even though he's been a fitness instructor for many years, when he first tried Form Assist, he realized his rowing technique wasn't as great as he thought. However, with the help of the feature it took him a matter of weeks to see improvement. "It's a smart, intuitive machine and along with an experienced instructor, it teaches you to be a better rower," he says about Peloton Row.

Workout programs

To properly use Peloton Row and get the full experience, you will also need a Peloton All-Access membership ($44 a month) to access thousands of live and on-demand classes and track your stats. This is a standard requirement with all of Peloton's fitness equipment. You can also create up to 20 user profiles with this membership. Classes include Instructed Row class which include warm-ups, cool-downs, Endurance, Beginner, Intervals, Music-themed Row, Form & Drills, Tabata and HIIT. Instructed Row and Row Bootcamp will have Guided Scenic and Live Classes coming early next year. Williams also hinted there will be rowing challenges, similar to the other challenges Peloton already hosts. There are also plenty of new instructors joining the lineup. Currently Peloton instructors Adrian Williams and Matt Wilpers are the most recognizable, but the new roster also includes Ash Pryor, Alex Karwoski and Katie Wang. 

The instructors do a good job of reminding you of the rowing sequence, to the point that you start to repeat it in your head (legs, body, arms; or arms, body, legs -- depending on where you are in the sequence). They also do a decent job of explaining what each metric means (pace, stroke rate, output and distance) and which to follow during class. It's similar to following the cadence in a cycling class. 

The personal pace targets are also something you can adjust as you become more experienced with rowing. When you first set up your rower, there is a recommended pace target based on a question around your experience with rowing. It can be adjusted at any time before or during a workout, so you decide if you want to have it set on the beginner, intermediate or advanced setting. For example, if you're just starting out you'll probably set it to beginner, and as you get more advanced you'll up it to intermediate or advanced so you're always challenged.

The screen swivels so you can also do other workouts on the floor such as a bootcamp class that has exercise transitions or a yoga class. If you want to keep track of your heart rate while using Peloton Row, you can also connect your Apple Watch, Peloton heart rate monitor or any ANT+ compatible heart-rate monitor. 

Pros and cons

After testing the Peloton Row I was able to narrow down the best parts about the machine and the areas where it could use improvement. 

Pros: 

  • Form Assist offers great rowing form feedback for both novice and experienced rowers 
  • The machine is easy to operate, especially if you're already familiar with Peloton's programs
  • The Velcro foot straps make it easy to fasten and release
  • The machine is quiet and appropriate for apartment settings

Cons:

  • It's expensive compared to other smart rowing machines 
  • The extra price of the All-Access membership is a pricey addition
  • It's a big machine so it may not fit in all homes

How the Peloton Row compares

The closest rowing machine on the market that I could compare the Peloton Row to is the Hydrow. In fact, we previously called the Hydrow the "Peloton of rowing machines" in our best rowing machines list -- it's that luxurious. However, after testing the Peloton Row, it's safe to say Peloton took things up a notch in terms of features. Form Assist is definitely where Peloton has Hydrow and other rowing machines beat. 

Price-wise, though, the Hydrow range is more affordable. By comparison, Hydrow offers both a large rower and a smaller option, the Hydrow Wave. The Hydrow's list price is $2,495; the Hydrow Wave is $1,695. Peloton Row is a steep jump at $3,195 when you compare it to these two rowers (and any others on the market). 

The membership class prices are also not that much different between the Hydrow and Peloton. Both require paying for an all-access monthly membership and cost $38 and $44, respectively. However, when you look at the most expensive equipment package Hydrow offers, you barely break $3,000. On the other hand, Peloton Row's basic package already costs more than that and if you wanted to splurge on its most expensive package, that would cost you almost $3,600.

The size is another concern I have with the Peloton Row. At one point I was able to fit the Hydrow Wave in my home because it's made for smaller spaces. However, I was worried about the Peloton Row fitting in that same area because it was larger. I had to do some rearranging of furniture at home and it worked out, but I don't think this would be the same case for everybody.

I also acknowledge that not everyone is looking for a rowing machine with all the extra features as seen on the Hydrow or Peloton Row. Some people may just want something like a Concept 2 Rowerg, which isn't a smart rower, but is a tried and true model, and cheaper than both machines at under $1,000. In addition, there are other smart rowers like the $1,600 Echelon Row-S, which is lightweight and ideal for beginners. It's also easy to store upright with a press of a button and you don't need any additional anchors -- unlike the Hydrow or Peloton Row.

Final verdict: Is the Peloton Row worth it?

I don't consider myself a dedicated rower and prefer doing it in short bursts of 15 to 20 minutes. But still, I was impressed with the Peloton Row's ability to reteach me the basics of rowing and improve my form. I think it's an excellent product for beginners because it breaks all the steps down easily, and it's equally as helpful for experienced rowers as well, thanks to its ability to keep you challenged. However, I do think the price tag is high and might deter those who aren't already Peloton fans. By lowering the price, it would give other rowers on the market some serious competition, because Peloton is onto something here. 

Ultimately, if you want a rowing machine that has all the features and money is no object, you can't go wrong with the Peloton Row. The Form Assist option works well and it makes you a more confident rower as you improve after each class. If you're on a tighter budget, don't need all the extra features or are a more casual rowing machine user, this may not be the right fit for you, and that's OK too. There are plenty of other rowers to choose from that serve the same purpose. And if you really want to learn how to row properly or improve your form, you can always invest in hiring a certified rowing instructor to teach you.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.