Concept2 Model D Rower Review – 2020

Kristen (Kacey) NelsonKristen (Kacey) Nelson

Last Updated: October 27, 2020
Concept2 Model D Rower Review 2020
Chances are, if you enjoy or are familiar with indoor rowing, you know about the Concept2 Model D rower. This indoor rower is the premier rowing machine used in fitness centers, homes and gyms worldwide. The Concept2 Model D sets the standard for other rowing machines and is the benchmark against which all others are compared. The Model D is an air resistance rower with a damper to control the amount of air flow through the machine. The Model D has literally no max resistance. The air flow responds to the power of a rower’s pull stroke, so the harder you pull, the more resistance is generated. This is why the Model D is the rower of choice for competitive fitness events and professional training facilities. It can match the power of any athlete which makes it the ideal training tool.

Rowers can use different types of resistance such as air resistance, magnetic resistance, water resistance and a hybrid of any two (usually air and magnetic). Air resistance is the tried and true method of rowing resistance because it produces unlimited resistance, does not require electricity, and air rowers last forever. But air resistance is noisy. The Concept2 Model D is the premier air rower, but it is not a quiet machine. If you are looking for something subtle to use in the background of a bedroom or shared room, the Model D is not the best choice. However, if you have a dedicated workout space or separate room and want the best air rower on the market, the Model D is it.

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Who It’s For: New or experienced rowers looking for the best air rower on the market with PM5 console

The Model D rower is a great option for users looking for high-end, tried and true rower used worldwide. The Concept 2 is best suited for users who:

  • Have a dedicated space or gym for rowing. The air rower is noisy.
  • Are able to sit and lean forward while exercising
  • Are looking for something low impact that targets more than 80% of muscles in the body
  • Want to increase core, back and arm strength in addition to the leg muscles
  • Want a durable machine that doesn’t require electricity to operate

Our Video Review


Pros
  • Exceptional build quality
  • Comfortable and supportive ergonomics
  • Foot pedals work for any size shoe
  • Smooth action
  • Contoured seat
  • Display automatically turns on when you start to row
  • Can be stored in vertical position to save floor space
  • Air resistance correlates with rower power
  • Very affordable for such a quality machine
  • 500lb user capacity
  • Does not require an electrical outlet
Cons
  • Air resistance is loud
  • Seat may be narrow for larger users

FeaturesSpecifications
  • Footprint: 96” L x 24” W x 14” High
    • The Concept2 Model D is a narrow rower at just 24” wide. It has a long frame that spans 96” long, but it can be folded into two parts for storage. It is also relatively lightweight and does not require electricity to operate.
  • Seat height: 14” high
    • The Concept2 Model D seat is 14” off the floor. This is the standard rower height used by most gyms and studios. For users who may need a higher seat height, Concept2 also offers the Model E, which is the exact same rower, but it sits higher off the floor.
  • Max User Weight: 500lb, Machine weight: 57lbs
    • The Concept2 Model D only weighs 57 pounds, which is remarkably lightweight for exercise equipment. It is easy to move. It will also support up to 500 pounds of user weight, making it one of the most durable and sturdy rowers on the market!
  • Storage: Folds into two parts for easy storage
    • As mentioned, the Concept2 Model D folds in half and can be stored upright along a wall to open floor space as needed.
  • Air Fan Resistance
    • Air resistance is the preferred method of rowing resistance due to the fact that it is virtually impossible to outrow it! Resistance is generated based on the user’s pull strength, so if you pull harder, it is more of a challenge. This makes it the ideal training tool for nearly any athlete.
  • PM5 backlit display – requires 2 D-cell batteries
    • Syncs with Concept2 ErgData app
    • Metrics for: distance, speed, pace, calories burned, and watts
    • Various games, programs and rowing distances
  • Bluetooth enabled, Connects to wireless heart rate monitors
    • You can connect any Bluetooth enabled heart rate monitor with the PM5 for accurate heart rate training.
  • Designed for wired machine to machine racing
    • The PM5 is designed for wired racing between rowers and is used as the standard for all indoor rowing competitions.

Construction:

  • Footprint: 96” L x 24” W x 14” High
  • Seat height: 14” high
  • Monorail length: 54” long
  • Frame: Welded steel construction
  • Chain: Nickel-plated steel chain, fully enclosed
  • Monitor: PM5 – requires 2 D-cell batteries
  • Max User Weight: 500lb
  • Finish: Double powder coat with glossy finish
  • Color: Light gray or black
  • Storage: Folds into two parts for easy storage
  • Resistance: Air Fan Resistance
  • Machine weight: 57lbs
  • Seat: Contoured sweat resistant and lightly padded
  • Footboards: Sturdy molded plastic
  • Pedals: Wide and textured with an adjustable foot strap

Console:

  • PM5 backlit display – requires 2 D-cell batteries
  • Syncs with Concept2 ErgData app
  • Metrics for: distance, speed, pace, calories burned, and watts
  • Various games, programs and rowing distances
  • Connects to wireless heart rate monitors
  • Bluetooth enabled
  • Custom positioned with adjustable monitor arm
  • USB flash drive
  • Designed for machine to machine racing

Warranty:

  • 5-years on frame
  • 2-years on moving parts and console

Quick Summary

The Concept2 Model D rower is the premier indoor rowing machine on the market. This rower is used worldwide as the standard tool for rowing races, rowing games, competitions and other events. It is the preferred rower in big box gyms, CrossFit studios and other competitive training facilities. The Concept2 Model D provides a smooth rowing experience with a sturdy catch, smooth drive, nickel-plated chain, comfortable seat, and unmatched air resistance. You can’t out-row this machine, but we’d love to see you try! If you are looking for an affordable, lightweight, folding rower with an impressive PM5 monitor that doesn’t require electricity, the Concept2 is the best option. However, air resistance is noisy, so this rower is best suited for dedicated training spaces, garage gyms, or a separate room in your home.
Concept2 Model D rower review

In Depth Review of the Concept2 Model D Rower


Construction

Frame

Concept 2 is a commercial-grade rower, so it has been designed to hold up to the constant use of both big box and studio gyms. The Concept2 has aluminum front legs and steel rear legs that suspend an aluminum monorail with a stainless steel track. The full footprint of the Concept2 Model D is 96” long but only 24” wide. It will support users up to 6.6 feet tall and up to 500 pounds of user weight. The Concept2 Model D comes in either a black or gray frame.
Concept2 Model Rower Frame
The Concept2 Model D has been designed to last. This is the first air rower that was manufactured for indoor use and it has set the standard for all subsequent models and companies. There are lots of rowers on the market these days (with more being released regularly), but all of them are compared against the Concept2 for design, ergonomics, consistency, and durability. The Concept2 rower sets the time standards for the USRowing Indoor National Championships and is the rower used for the World Rowing Indoor Championships. The Concept2 Model D requires minimal maintenance and is incredibly durable. The rower frame includes the legs, monorail, foot boards and pedals, flywheel and damper. The handle and chain connect to the flywheel and the PM5 monitor sits on an adjustable arm that extends in front of the user’s view for easy reach.

Geometry

  • Footprint: 96” L x 24” W x 14” High
  • Folded footprint: 33” L x 25” W x 54” High
  • Seat height: 14” high
  • Monorail length: 54” long
  • Pedals: Wide and supported with an adjustable strap
  • Saddle: The saddle is molded for comfort with leg contours on the front and a cutout for your tailbone on the back

Pedals

The pedals are supported by a solid footboard underneath and a molded pedal that holds your shoe securely. The double layer provides stability underfoot while still allowing for a gentle toe flex as you row. A wide adjustable strap secures the user’s feet into position. The adjustable molded overlay is ridged at the top to keep your foot from sliding forward and has several notched positions that shift the heel support upwards to accommodate all shoe sizes.
concept2 Model D Rower Pedals

Handle

The Model D handle is ergonomically-designed for a comfortable hold with overmolded soft rubber grips. The handle is sweat resistant and can be easily wiped down to sanitize. The handle has five vents in the center so you can wrap your fingers through the center of the handle with one hand to row unilaterally. The comfortable handle allows users to complete longer rowing routines without hand or shoulder fatigue. The seat slides right up to the junction between the pedals and the handle for a comfortable catch position. The handle is raised just enough to keep your spine in alignment throughout the rowing stroke. The position of the handle in relation to the pedals also keeps knees upright in the proper position.

Seat

Concept2 Model D Rower Seat
The Concept2 seat is ergonomically designed with contoured areas for your legs and tail bone. Since users lean back through the drive and finish, the scooped out back section on the seat reduces the likelihood of your tailbone rubbing on the saddle. The seat slides gently along the monorail on large rollers. The surface of the seat is gently padded and sweat resistant. Like the handle, it can be wiped down to sanitize. The seat is wide enough for most users, but those above 300lbs may want to swap out for a larger seat.

FlyWheel

The Concept2 flywheel is very sturdy. The enclosure that protects the flywheel is composed of a hi-impact, ABS Thermo-plastic that can withstand both the heat and power of high air speeds. Concept2 has also built in a “Quiet Cog” system that reduces rowing sound by damping the chain noise with a urethane washer on each side of the cog. The idler pulleys and travelling pulley are also comprised of a Thermo-plastic elastomer for increased durability and noise reduction. The flywheel sits up above the monorail so the rower is slightly elevated and you don’t feel too low to the ground during the workout.
Concept2 Model D Flywheel

Damper

The damper is a lever on the side of the flywheel that controls how much air passes through the flywheel with each stroke. The Concept2 has 10 damper levels. These do not regulate resistance as much as control how the stroke feels through the catch, drive and finish. The damper settings correspond to the “Drag Factor” which is related to how the stroke feels rather than how hard it is. For example, if the damper is set low, between 1 – 3, the rowing stroke feels similar to rowing a sleek racing shell. If the damper is set high, between 7 – 10, the rowing stroke feels heavier, like you are rowing a lumbering row boat. But either way, the amount of air resistance is determined by your pull power, the damper just modifies how it feels. When the damper is set to 10 the maximum amount of air is allowed through the flywheel vents (the rower produces a bit more noise at higher damper levels since more air is passing through). Stronger rowers will be able to set the damper between 5 and 10. New rowers should set it below 5 to begin. Since the damper is not actually controlling the resistance, users of any strength can set the damper low and still create maximum resistance through the drive with body power. The Concept2 PM5 monitor has a setting you can adjust to display drag factor if desired.

Air Resistance

Air resistance is easily created and measured. Water resistance is harder to measure since even the tiniest amount of difference in water volume will change the resistance. Magnetic resistance is easily measured but doesn’t feel as fluid through the drive and finish. Air resistance is the perfect balance of unlimited resistance that is modifiable with a damper, but can still be accurately measured for consistency. One of the reasons the Concept2 machines are used worldwide for authorized rowing events is due to the fact that the Concept2 rowers are incredibly consistent. The only drawback to air resistance is it is a bit noisier than magnetic resistance, although is it comparable with water resistance. However, the noise of the air moving through the flywheel has long been touted as a rhythmic, flowing sound that helps rowers get into the “zone” — where they are able to find a comfortable rhythm and slip into a mindful state where the rowing becomes relaxing and enjoyable.

Console/Controls

Performance Monitor 5 (PM5)

Concept2 Model D Rower PM5 Console

Display

The PM5 display screen will light up as soon as you start rowing. The monitor is powered via the rowing motion and uses batteries as supplemental power. This backlit screen looks simple but actually has extended functionality. There are several screens you can use on the PM5.
The home screen displays:

  • Just Row
  • Select Workout
  • Connect
  • Memory
  • More Options
Rowing Programs

1. Standard List of Rowing Distances or Time

  • 2000m
  • 5000m
  • 10000m
  • 30:00
  • 500m/1:00r

2.Custom List allows users to set their own goals for each metric

3.ReRow allows users to race against previous workouts in the saved memory list
Concept2 Model D Console Games
4.Games:

  • Fish Game
  • Darts
  • Target Training
  • Racing
  • Biathlon

Concept2 Model D Console Data Display

5.All Data screen displays:

  • Time
  • Strokes per minute
  • Strokes per 500/m
  • Time average per 500/m
  • Split meters
  • Split per 500/m
  • Projected time for completion

6.New Workout brings up options for:

  • Single Distance
  • Single Time
  • Intervals: Distance
  • Intervals: Time
  • Intervals: Variable
Memory

Users can save and then access previous workouts sorted by type, date, and summary. The LogBook data is stored on the internal memory or from a USB memory stick (if you plug your USB into the back of the monitor). Concept2 provides utility software that allows users to upload data to their online logbook or transfer data to a personal Mac or PC. Compatible with FAT and FAT32 USB formats only.

The workout detail includes total time, split times, meters, pace (500m), stroke rate, and heart rate if stored. The memory feature allows users to compete against each other by storing and using custom workouts on their own USB memory sticks — or you can upload your data when competing in rowing competitions, etc.

More Options
  • Drag Factor
    • Drag factor is determined by the damper level.
  • Heart Rate
    • If you use a compatible chest strap heart rate monitor, the PM5 will display and store your HR data with your workout. The PM5 is compatible with Bluetooth, ANT+, Garmin and Suunto devices.
  • Information
    • Overview
      • A brief description of how to use the PM5 monitor. We highly recommend viewing this the first time since the PM5 does more than you would expect.
    • PM5 Details
      • Information about buttons, data, graphic displays, workouts and the USB flash drive
    • How to Row
      • A short rowing lesson that includes pointers on technique with rowing animation
    • Drag Factor
      • A quick explanation of how to use and interpret the drag factor
    • More
      • Information about games, racing, battery, heart rate
  • Utilities
Bluetooth

The PM5 is bluetooth compatible with heart rate chest straps. You can also sync your Concept2 Model D with your phone to upload your workout data to the ErgData app.

Power

The PM5 takes two D cell batteries. During a workout the monitor is powered by the spinning flywheel to extend battery life.

Accessories

There is no powered fan on the Concept2. The flywheel moves air, but not directly toward the rower, so this does not provide a lot of cooling air flow.
There is a phone clip that lifts from the top of the PM5. This will hold a phone horizontally while you row for easy visibility.

Noise Level

As mentioned, all air rowers create noise as air passes through the flywheel blades. The Concept2 has included several features to reduce overall noise, and this is certainly quieter than previous models or other air rowers. In a gym or other dedicated space, you don’t notice the noise. But this isn’t a machine you can use while someone works, reads or sleeps in the same room without them noticing. However, the Concept2 rower is such a quality machine that it is worth the value to have a commercial grade rower even if it makes a bit of noise when in use.

Storage / Folding

The Concept2 folds in half vertically to reduce the amount of floor space needed when not in use. The folded footprint is: 33” L x 25” W x 54” High. The rower only weighs 57 pounds, and has caster wheels that allow it to easily be rolled. You can quickly tuck this into a corner or even a closet.
Concept2 Model D Folded
When open, the rower is 96” L x 24” W x 14” High. Concept2 recommends a space 9 feet long and 4 feet wide to properly operate the rower. Make sure you have enough space to the sides and rear of the rower since you lean back through the finish. Do not place the rear of the rower directly in front of a wall. Also, there are some combination exercises you can do off the rower (such as stand behind the rower, place one foot on the seat, and then allow that leg to open laterally for a deep side lunge), so more area may be needed depending on your planned usage.

Concept2 Model D rower review

Bottom Line:

The Concept2 Model D rower is the best indoor air rower on the market. It is consistently the top rower used by gyms, CrossFit studios and professional training facilities worldwide. Concept2 rowers are the gold standard for timed trials, competitive events, rowing contents and other events. The Model D is the most commonly used model in the Concept2 lineup, although the Model E is roughly the same rower just a bit larger. The Model D rower uses unlimited air resistance to provide a rowing challenge that responds instantly to each rower’s pull stroke. With a comfortable seat, handle and pedals, the Concept2 makes rowing enjoyable. The PM5 console also adds more features with games, rowing challenges based on distance or time, instructions and a USB port for saving or uploading your workouts. You can compete against yourself or others and upload your workout to the Concept2 system for competitions. The Model D folds in half when not in use and is lightweight. It will support up to 500 pounds making it one of the best training tools available. We highly recommend users look at the Concept2 Model D to enhance their training on a sturdy rower that provides a full body workout.

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