Sole SR500 Rower Review – 2020

Kristen (Kacey) NelsonKristen (Kacey) Nelson

Last Updated: August 20, 2020
Sole SR500 rower review 2020

The Sole SR500 rower is sturdy, stable, and foldable. This rower provides a smooth rowing stroke with a comfortable catch and fluid drive. The seat is gently padded and sweat resistant and the console is simple and easy to use. One of our favorite features of this rower is the adjustable resistance levels and control buttons on the handle. You can quickly toggle between any of the 16 resistance levels just using your thumb, which means rowers don’t have to let go of the handle and reach for the console to make necessary adjustments. The SR500 also has supportive pedals with 6 different size options and an adjustable strap that holds your shoe securely.

The Sole SR500 has a 5.5” backlit LCD console with an adjustable angle. This machine uses both air and magnetic resistance and only weighs 115 pounds. Many newer rowers are using a combination of air and magnetic resistance since air resistance is the tried and true method that most closely mimics rowing on the water. However, air resistance is noisy, so the Sole rower — like many others, has added magnetic resistance to augment the flywheel system. This reduces overall noise while retaining the benefits of air rowing.

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Who It’s For: Those looking for a quality rower that combines magnetic and air resistance

The Sole SR500 Rower is a quality home rower for those who:

  • Are committed to rowing as a full body exercise that utilizes more than 80% of the muscles in the body
  • Want something that is low impact with multiple training benefits
  • Are looking for an exercise that allows them to sit down while in use
  • Is easy to get on and off since it is not too low to the ground
  • Want a combination of magnetic and air resistance for reduced noise output
  • Are able to sit and lean forward while rowing; have good balance.
Pros
  • Exceptional build quality
  • Resistance adjustment buttons on the handle!
  • Comfortable and supportive ergonomics
  • Foot pedals work for any size shoe
  • Smooth action along the aluminum monorail
  • 16 Resistance levels
  • Supports up to 515 pounds!
  • Great for those who want to remain seated during their workout
Cons
  • Seat may be narrow for larger users
  • Has a long footprint
  • Less noisy than an air rower, but not as quiet as other fully magnetic rowers

FeaturesSpecifications
  • Footprint: 97″ L x 18″ W x 38″ H
    • Like most rowers, the Sole SR500 has a rather long frame, but it will fold up when not in use. It is also exceptionally narrow so it will fit behind a couch or along a wall.
  • Rower weight: 115 lbs, Maximum user weight: 515 lbs
    • The machine itself is surprisingly lightweight but it supports up to 515 pounds of user weight. This makes it a fantastic machine for larger users who want something low impact that is easy to get on and off!
  • High-strength steel frame with durable powder-coated paint
    • The steel frame won’t rust and is strong enough to support most users.
  • Aluminum Rail, Seat travel length: 39″, strap travel distance: 81″
    • The aluminum monorail is long enough for most users and feels sturdy when seated.
  • 16 Resistance levels
    • There are 16 preset resistance levels on the SR500 rower. Thanks to the use of magnetic resistance, specific levels can be calibrated into the rower for consistent training.
  • Folding frame
    • The SR500 does fold up when not in use so you can reduce the footprint
  • Rower requires a 120V power outlet
    • This rower requires a power source. You must be able to plug it into a standard wall outlet for console and magnetic resistance to be powered.
  • 5.5” Backlit LCD display screen
    • The LCD display screen includes 14 preloaded programs, including:
    • 12 Standard Programs
    • 1 Custom Programs
    • 1 Heart Programs
  • Rower is Heart Rate Compatible
    • Heart Rate Monitoring Built In
    • Chest strap is not included but the Sole SR500 will sync with any Bluetooth chest strap

Construction:

  • Footprint: 97″ L x 18″ W x 38″ H
  • Rower weight: 115 lbs
  • Maximum user weight: 515 lbs
  • High-strength steel frame with durable powder-coated paint
  • Belt drive system
  • Textured grip
  • Aluminum Rail
  • Seat travel length: 39″ strap travel distance: 81″
  • 16 Resistance levels
  • Folding frame
  • Oversized Textured pedals
  • Air and Magnetic Resistance
  • Rower requires a 120V power outlet

Console:

  • 5.5” Backlit LCD display screen
  • 16 Resistance Levels
  • 12 Standard Programs
  • 1 Custom Programs
  • 1 Heart Programs
  • Chest Strap not included
  • Rower is Heart Rate Compatible
  • Heart Rate Monitoring Built In
  • Resistance adjustment buttons on handlebar

Residential Warranty:

  • Frame: Lifetime
  • Electronics: 3 Years
  • Parts: 3 Years
  • Labor: 1 Year

Commercial Warranty:

  • Frame: 1 Year
  • Electronics: 1 Year
  • Parts: 1 Year
  • Labor: 1 Year

Quick Summary

The Sole SR500 rower is a folding rower with an exceptional weight capacity and 20” seat height. This makes it easier to get on and off the saddle since it is raised slightly higher than comparable rowers with a 14” seat height. We also love the combination of air and magnetic resistance for a “best of both worlds” quality. The adjustable resistance buttons on the handle are another handy feature (no pun intended). You can change resistance easily and quickly without having to let go of the handle during your rowing drive. The Sole SR500 rower is well priced and presents itself as a viable option for other more expensive or well-known models.

Sole SR500 rower review

In Depth Review of the Sole SR500 Rower


Construction

Frame

Sole SR500 flywheel
The Sole SR500 has a folding steel frame and aluminum monorail. The SR500 seat height is approximately 20” high which makes it much easier to get on and off than comparable rowers that sit lower to the ground. The sturdy frame is advertised as able to support up to 515 pounds, which is certainly impressive! This rower will fold in half when not in use, which is a handy feature since it has a rather long footprint that reaches 97” in length. The rower itself only weighs around 115 pounds though, so somehow it packs a lot of strength into an otherwise lightweight machine. An angled center beam transitions down from the console which provides more center support and keeps the track from bowing in the middle. There are leveling feet under both the front and rear stabilizers and transport wheels on the front end make it possible to roll the rower when needed. We are impressed with the sturdy steel frame. It is powder coated for protection from rust and sweat. The black color mingled with pops of chrome and red also give it a striking profile.

Geometry

  • Footprint: 97” L x 18” W x 38” H
  • Seat height: 20” high
  • Pedals: 6 adjustable size options
  • Saddle: Contoured for comfort; sweat resistant
  • Rower weight: 115 lbs
  • Maximum user weight: 515 lbs

Pedals

Sole SR500 adjustable pedals
The pedals have six different size options that can be selected by adjusting the heel position up or down via the notches in the pedal. The sole of the foot rests on a laterally textured area to keep your shoe from slipping and the heel is reinforced with a lifted ridge around the perimeter of the pedal. Since the pedal lifts off the footboard, you get added ankle flexion which reduces tension on the knees for a more comfortable drive. The pedals also have an adjustable strap that wraps around the top of the foot to again hold your shoe in securely. These pedals will work with any athletic shoe and should support pretty much any size foot.

Handles

Sole SR500 rower handle
The handle is one of our favorite features on the SR500. The handle itself is spongy coated for comfort — this surface is also sweat resistant and can easily be wiped down to sanitize after use. The handle attaches to the belt drive which connects to the flywheel. The catch is at the base of the flywheel which allows the seat to slide all the way forward during the recovery.
Sole SR500 handle buttons
Our favorite feature however, is the resistance adjustment buttons on the center of the handlebar. Using just your thumb, you can easily move up or down through the 16 resistance levels without having to remove hands from the handle. This is an exceptionally functional way to control resistance. The integration of magnetic resistance also allows it to be adjusted this way. Air resistance responds directly to the rower’s strength.

Seat

The seat on the SR500 is 20” off the floor. This seat isn’t the most comfortable we’e used and it may be a bit too small for users who approach the max weight capacity. But it works fine and the sliding mechanism along the monorail is smooth and fluid. The seat itself is contoured for comfort with a raised front edge and slightly dropped in the back for your tailbone. Like the handle, the seat is sweat and moisture resistant and can be wiped down with a cloth to sanitize.

FlyWheel

The flywheel on the SR500 is slightly smaller than comparable air rowers probably because it also uses magnetic resistance. The flywheel allows for air to rotate in and out of the fan blades which then spin in conjunction with the rower’s strength. The flywheel does not have a damper, so you can’t change the feel of the rowing stroke. Were this exclusively an air rower we would probably find this flywheel to be too small. However, since Sole also integrates magnetic resistance into the SR500 the flywheel itself doesn’t need to be as large as exclusive air rowers.

Magnetic resistance is created by magnets that resist the polarity of the flywheel to create drag as the blades spin. The closer the magnets come in proximity to the hub, the more resistance is created. In this way, Sole can provide a rower that has the natural feel of an air rower with the benefit of preset resistance levels via the magnets. The benefits of air resistance are a fluid rowing stroke and unlimited resistance. The benefits of magnetic resistance are it can be specifically measured and calibrated with preset levels — and it is quieter than air resistance. The SR500 is not necessarily much quieter than a full air rower, although it is a little. Be advised that unlike exclusive magnetic rowers which are practically silent, the SR500 does create air noise similar to the Concept2 rower. This would be a hard machine to use while watching TV without having to turn up the volume a bit. But air rowers are preferred industry-wide, so the inclusion of air technology is still a benefit here. Just adjust accordingly to the noise output.

Console/Controls

5.5” Backlit LCD with dual color screen

Sole SR500 Rower console
As you can see, the console screen on the SR500 is not overly large, but it hovers just above the catch for easy visibility. The screen itself is dual color with both red and blue. It is also backlit and works well in any lighting condition. The console itself is rather simple. Display metrics include: Heart Rate, Calories, Wattage, Resistance Level, as well as Strokes per Minute, Time and Distance. There are 12 preloaded programs with 2 heart rate programs and 1 custom program as well. Buttons on the bottom of the console allow users to select their program. Aside form the basic metrics, this console doesn’t offer additional content or training features. We would like to see a console with a bit more functionality like the PM5. We’ve learned that a rower console doesn’t need to be large or have a touchscreen to provide ample training options. A few games, competitions or boat races would add quite a bit of fun to your rowing practice on the SR500. But for what it is, this console works fine.

Chest Strap Compatible

The SR500 is chest strap compatible with Bluetooth straps. A HR chest strap is not included, but this rower should sync with most Bluetooth straps. Once your strap is synced, your heart rate is displayed right on the screen in real time so you know exactly how hard you are working throughout your workout. The SR500 also has a heart rate training program for targeted conditioning.

Bluetooth

The SR500 is Bluetooth enabled. However, this is for a chest strap only. There are no speakers on the console.

Power

The Sole SR500 requires a 120V wall outlet for power. This rower is not battery powered, so you will need to find a place close to an outlet.

Accessories

There is no fan on the Sole SR500. It also does not presently have a water bottle holder or tablet holder. The addition of a tablet clip would be helpful, but it would also require a larger console size to support the tablet weight.

Noise Level

As mentioned, since the SR500 is a combination air/magnetic rower, it generates noise similar to other air rowers. You’ll have to adjust your usage and/or placement of the rower to not disturb those around you while rowing. However, air resistance machines are favored in the rowing industry and most of the high end rowers used in gyms and CrossFit boxes are air rowers.

Storage / Folding

Sole SR500 folded
The Sole SR500 folds in half with the track shifting vertically to reduce floor space. It is pretty easy to fold the rower and there are wheels on the front stabilizer, so once it is folded you can tilt and roll the SR500 out of the way. This would fit in a closet or corner to reduce the amount of floor space required for the machine. We do not recommend simply lifting the track upward and resting it vertically on the flywheel and front stabilizer without folding it first. It could be easily knocked over in this position.

Sole SR500 rower review

Bottom Line:

The Sole SR500 rower is a quality rower for a great price. Sole consistently manufactures durable, well-engineered fitness equipment and we are impressed with this rower. The 20” seat height is especially nice along with the 515 pound weight capacity. This makes the SR500 a great option for larger users or those with limited mobility who may have a hard time getting on a rower that is too close to the ground. Rowing, unlike cycling, allows user’s feet to rest on the floor during use so not all your body weight is on the saddle. This makes rowing a bit more comfortable than cycling and reduces the chances of saddle soreness (although this is still possible). The SR500 has a bit of a narrow seat, but it is contoured and should be okay for most people under the weight capacity. The aluminum monorail is strong and smooth so the seat glides nicely up and down the track during the row stroke and recovery. We also appreciate the adjustable foot pedals. The console is not the most tech enhanced, but Sole typically makes simple consoles on their machines. The 5.5” LCD screen doesn’t offer subscription content, but that also means you don’t have to pay for it either. While the SR500 does require a wall outlet for a power source, it is relatively easy to move and use when needed. The folding frame reduces the overall footprint significantly which is important since this is a long rower. In general, we find the Sole SR500 to be a good rower at a great price with an exceptional weight capacity. The 16 levels of resistance and air/magnetic resistance combo is also well suited for users of all abilities and rowing experience.

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