Hydrow Rower Review
Founded by the former U.S. National Team coach, Bruce Smith, Hydrow is an innovative electromagnetic rowing machine that answers the growing consumer demand for interactive fitness streaming at home. Hydrow is currently the only company on the market offering a Live Outdoor Reality™ experience consisting of live and on-demand rowing workouts delivered by world-renowned athletes on the water. At $2,199, the Hydrow isn’t cheap. That said, you get what you pay for. From the brand’s philanthropic efforts to the machine’s club-quality components and ever-improving software, Hydrow—both the brand and its eponymous sole rower—has the potential to revolutionize the indoor rowing game. Dig deeper into the details of this elite machine below.
The first Hydrow design meeting took place at the start of 2018, and the company first started shipping to customers in May 2019. You may have heard the Hydrow being compared to the Peloton. Much like it is for the Peloton (bike and Tread), interactive streaming is the Hydrow’s key focus. It has an impressive 22” HD touchscreen for interactive rowing workouts. We appreciate that the screen itself can swivel 25 degrees, allowing you to hop off your Hydrow and enjoy some off-machine classes. The Hydrow also features Bluetooth for wireless heart-rate monitoring and front-facing speakers to compliment the immersive experience. It’s worth noting that the Hydrow cannot play audio from your phone or stream from Spotify. You can only hear the music chosen by the trainers in the workouts as part of the paid membership. Also, its microphone and camera are disabled at the moment. The brand has noted that they may or may not use it in future feature updates. As the Hydrow is updated regularly, we think this feature is still an exciting indication of what’s to come. It demonstrates how the brand is thinking ahead to make their interactive streaming experience future-proof. It’s also worth noting that the Hydrow can operate in a “Just row” mode, although we still recommend committing to the Hydrow Membership. Within this mode you simply see your rowing metrics (including heart-rate stats via Bluetooth), and have access to adjustable drag and introductory material; you won’t find any video workouts.
Weighing 145 lbs. and with a solid aluminum and steel frame, the Hydrow is a sturdy rowing machine that can hold up to 375 lbs. It’s a durable rower built to commercial-grade quality and can basically handle any workout you throw at it. Given its computer-controlled magnetic resistance and polyester, webbed strap (as opposed to say, an air resistance system and a chain belt), it will deliver a quiet row even during your toughest routines. At 86” long by 25” wide, it’s not a small rower by any stretch. Given this, however, it can fit trainees with inseams up to 36”. It’s suitable for all but the tallest rowers (note: if your inseam exceeds this, check out the Concept2 Model D Rower which fits those with inseams up to 38” comfortably). The Hydrow does not fold, but it does offer vertical storage with the upright storage kit (sold separately). When stored upright, the Hydrow is 25″ wide by 33″ deep by 86″ high. The kit is basically a strap and clip which you attach onto a wall unit to hold the rower upright. You may consider finding another way to attach your rower to the wall for vertical storage, but we don’t recommend this. We would prefer to spend the $70 extra to keep the rower safe and secure in the correct way, considering the rower costs over $2K to begin with.
Hydrow’s approach to resistance is also enticing. Getting to know the brand a bit more, it seems every feature including this has been designed in a user-friendly way. Their learning materials are especially useful on this topic for new rowers, designed to help you get the most out of your Hydrow regardless of your ability. Hydrow note how unlike many other machines, “drag is not intended as a “difficulty setting” for Hydrow”; that it is “generally something that you should dial in to a level that fits your body best and then leave alone”. In this way, it’s much like a water or air-only rower, with drag being dependent on how hard you push through your workout. Although there are technically 300 levels (set to 104 by default), it’s more about personalisation, form, and technique here. The brand offers a variety of tutorials, articles and more to assist with technique and form for those who are completely new to rowing. This illustrates the brand’s commitment to new rowers as well as advanced users, which suggests they will continue to build an inclusive workout library for all levels. Through Hydrow’s introductory materials, tutorials, and pro-rowers’ guidance during workouts, you learn technique and form as you progress, rather than just packing in a quick cardio workout.
Another thing to mention is the brand’s philanthropic efforts. When you row 60 days with Hydrow, they donate to Water.org in your name to grant long-term access to safe water for an individual in the developing world. This demonstrates how the brand has considered the user’s whole experience of being part of the Hydrow community. Explore the pros and cons of the Hydrow below.
- Sleek Design: The Hydrow’s futuristic design will complement any workout space.
- Unique Workouts: The Hydrow membership gives you access to a library of live and on-demand workouts, including an impressive live rowing class schedule. As well as unique on-the-water videos from world-class rowers, you can hop off the machine to try pilates, strength training and more. What’s more, there are unlimited user profiles with 1 membership, so each family member can have their own unique profile.
- Team Rowing: Along with leaderboards and community feeds, Hydrow offers weekly races for you to connect with a partner anywhere in the world. You can then compete in challenges against other teams, this mirroring a true team rowing experience.
- Quiet: The electromagnetic resistance and fabric strap (as opposed to a chain) make for a smooth and quiet row. The Hydrow won’t disturb the rest of your household.
- High Quality: The Hydrow is made from commercial-grade components and requires little to no maintenance. With a 375-lb. weight capacity, it’s ideal for multiple users.
- Data Sharing: Keep on top of your workout data via the touchscreen, and push it to Strava via Hydrow’s companion app (compatible with iOS 12 and up).
- Heart-Rate Monitoring: Most Bluetooth heart-rate straps work with the Hydrow, including the Wahoo TICKR and Polar H7.
- Comfort Features: The Hydrow features easy footbed adjustment, and an ergonomically designed handle and seat cushion. These comfort essentials will help you to maintain proper form and keep your lower back comfortable.
- Smooth Operation: From the fabric belt to the 10-roller system seat railing, the Hydrow has been designed for smooth operation to more closely mirror the sensation of smoothly rowing on the water.
- Vertical Storage: Although the Hydrow doesn’t fold in half, you can store it vertically with the upright storage kit. Stored upright, the Hydrow is 25″ W x 33″ D x 86″ H.
- Philanthropy: Hydrow is committed to giving back. When you row for 60 days they donate to Water.org in your name.
- Warranty: Although not fantastic, the warranty is competitive. It includes; 6 years of coverage on the structural frame and upright storage kit; 2 years on the screen, other electronics, and wear items (handle, strap, seat assembly, and hinge on screen carriage); and 18 months on labor.
- Price: With a price tag over $2K, this isn’t a cheap rower.
- Subscription Fees: You have to consider the $38/month cost for the Hydrow membership fee. Although you can use the Hydrow in a “Just Row” setting without a subscription, this will not deliver the intended workout experience. Since you’re paying for elite tech in the first place, it would seem a waste not to buy the subscription too.
- Storage: The Hydrow is a large rower. We’re puzzled that it costs extra for the vertical storage. Although it’s only $70, we would have liked to see this thrown in for the price. Folding the machine vertically will be necessary for most trainees who don’t have a dedicated home gym space or don’t always want the rower in full view.
- No Onboard Workouts: Without a Hydrow subscription you only have access to the “Just Row” setting. There are no preset workouts, so if you ever want to pause your membership you won’t have much to work with.
Just as the Peloton did when it first arrived, the Hydrow is making a name for itself as an elite brand that is shaking up the indoor rowing space. In both cases, however, this comes at a price. This is probably our only major qualm with the Hydrow; it’s an expensive machine even without considering the ongoing membership fees. Yet much like the Peloton, you aren’t just getting live classes and an elite machine for the steep sticker price. You become part of a fitness community, whatever your fitness ability. Whether you’re new to the sport and need to learn the correct form and technique from scratch, or an advanced rower who knows exactly the type of workout you’re looking for, in both cases, the price seems worth the workout guidance and commercial-grade machine that supports that.
Frequently Asked Questions
86" L x 25" W x 47" H
Maximum User Weight Capacity