Concept2 Model D ReviewWith over 100 listed rowers on Amazon, the Concept2 Model D Rowing Machine outshines them all!

While in the higher price range, the old saying, “you get what you pay for” isn’t just a cliche.

The commercial grade ‘Model D’ is virtually indestructible and is tough enough to be used in health clubs, boathouses, and various training facilities around the world.

It is also the ideal full-body workout machine to put right in your home. Beginners and professionals alike swear by this rower and have even formed a cult like following!

I combed through hundreds of reviews from different sources and a vast majority of them gave this rower a five-star review!

However, some users mentioned a few issues that were hard to spot at first glance… until now!

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Table of Contents
(click a title to jump ahead!)

1. Resistance Type
2. Monitor/Control Panel
3. Build Quality
4. Comfort
5. Storage
6. Capacity
7. Dimensions
8. Assembly
9. Pros and Cons
10. Consumer Reviews
11. Warranty
12. Price
13. Overall Review

Resistance Type

The Concept2 Model D Rowing Machine is an air-resistance rower.

Resistance comes from the machine’s spinning flywheel attached to fan blades.  When the handle of the rower is pulled, the fan blades spin and make wind.

The more wind you create, the harder it is to pull the handle.

In other words, your resistance level is determined by how hard you row! The faster/ harder you row, the more resistance you will feel.

Click here to check out my full breakdown of resistance types.

Air resistance rowers provide a smooth overall resistance and are the preferred resistance type among all athletes.

Olympic rowing teams use the Concept2 Model D or E for their off water training due to their accurate data recording and ability to closely mimic the resistance felt while rowing on water.

If that doesn’t convince you this is a great rowing machine, then I don’t know what will!

Resistance Benefits

The Model D air resistance provides a rowing motion that is very similar to rowing on water and doesn’t have any lag throughout the rowing stroke. Meaning, from the start of the stroke all the way to the finish you will feel a smooth, even resistance.

As mentioned above, the resistance level is determined by your rowing intensity.  The faster you row, the more intensity you feel.  You get out of it what you put into it.

This automatically adjusting resistance is know as ‘variable’ resistance.

It’s not like a treadmill where you set it on level 5 and you have to keep running at that speed until you change the level setting. It’s also not like a magnetic rowing machine where you set the resistance to level 5 and no matter how fast or slow you row, you feel the same resistance.

The Concept2 Model D resistance allows you to row at your own intensity and pace and the resistance will adjust accordingly.

This ‘variable’ resistance is perfect for HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercises because you can row fast or slow and the resistance adjusts to your speed without having to stop and change any settings. That is why you will see Concept2 rowing machines in every Crossfit style gym.

Another great benefit of the Model D resistance is it is virtually maintenance free and very easy to fix if there is a problem.

Damper Settings

Although the Concept2 Model D Rowing Machine is classified as ‘variable’ resistance, users can still adjust the feel of the rowing stroke with the damper setting.

Concept2 Model D damper

While many people think this is the same as “adjustable” resistance levels, it is actually a little different.

Users can change the damper settings from level 1 to 10.  The numbers don’t represent different resistance levels, they represent the amount of air going into the flywheel and this effects the “feel”.

Like gears on a bicycle, the different “gears” will give you a different feel when you’re working out.  The higher settings (6-10) give you the feel of a slower, heavier boat, whereas the lower settings (1-5) gives you the feel of a sleeker, faster boat.

It really depends on your preference and it’s easy to figure out once you experiment with the different settings. There are also some great YouTube videos explaining it further that you can watch once you have your rower and the Concept2 website has a few article on damper settings.

Resistance Negatives

Like other air rowers the Concept2 Model D noise level is a bit loud for some users.

You will hear a ‘whooshing’ noise every time you row, which is just the wind created inside the flywheel. You can hear a rower in action in the video below.

Most users just listen to music using headphones or turn the TV volume up to drown out the noise.  The Concept2 noise level should not be loud enough to disturb anyone in your house unless you are in an apartment rowing at odd hours.

One other negative of air rowers, especially the Concept2 Model D, is the overall size.  Air rowers are notoriously long which is great for tall users but they do require a large workout space.  Concept2 recommends a workout space of 9′ x 4′. There is more info on the dimensions below

Overall Resistance

The resistance on the Concept2 Model D is one of the best on the market.  It provides smooth, strong variable resistance and has the ability to adjust a damper setting.

Seeing that it is the chosen rowing machine by Olympic athletes who can say anything bad about it?

As long as you have the space requirement and can handle the Concept2 noise level, you will love the resistance provided by the Model D Rower.

Here is a great video that shows the Concept2 Model D in action (actually a Model E but they are virtually identical):

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Monitor/Control Panel

The Concept2 Model D comes standard with a PM5 (Performance Monitor 5) monitor which is the poster child for rowing machine monitors.

It’s really hard to believe that a fitness company made this mini-computer. It’s simple to use but is loaded with options.

Concept2 Model D PM5 Monitor

Out of all the features this rower comes with, users raved about this one the most!

Fitness Data Tracking

The Concept2 Model D PM5 monitor is advertised as a ‘training partner’ and they weren’t bluffing.  It tracks distance, speed, pace, calories, and watts.

You have plenty of options when it comes to your workout preferences:

  • Immediately start rowing without pressing any buttons on the monitor (as soon as the flywheel starts spinning it will power up and provide data)
  • Select one of five pre-set workouts
  • Customize a workout routine
  • Play a game and get a brief rowing lesson with animation showing you proper technique.

The display is big and the data is easy to see whether you’re at the starting (catch) or finish position.  It is also backlit so you can see the data in low light settings.

Concept2 Model D PM5

The Concept2 PM5 monitor shows you everything you need to know starting at the top section. This section provides total time, number of strokes per minute, distance achieved and 500m split time.

You can choose from five different graphic displays for the bottom section:

  • All Data (shows additional data)
  • Force Curve (shows a graph for how force varies between your legs, back, and arms during the driving motion of your row [it basically tells you if your rowing motion is smooth or not])
  • Paceboat (shows graphic display of your boat against a pre-programmed boat; you can also set a previous workout of yours as the paceboat so you can race against yourself)
  • Bar Chart (shows graphic display in a bar chart format of the total watts of power generated during each phase of the workout)
  • Large Print (shows data with larger font)
  • Click here to see the full breakdown on the Concept2 website.
Heart Rate Monitoring

In addition to the multiple display options, if you have a compatible chest strap and a heart rate attachment from Concept2 (around $50) your heart rate will be displayed on the monitor with the rest of your workout data!

The PM5 supports ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart for wireless heart rate monitoring but Concept does point out that Bluetooth Smart is a different technology than Bluetooth. From what I could gather, they are technically the same thing. Bluetooth is a protocol used in more powerful technology with an enhanced data rate while Bluetooth Smart is used in devices for recording smaller, specific data like heart-rate and blood-glucose meters.

Concept2 Model D PM5 MonitorJust make sure your heart rate monitor is Bluetooth Smart compatible!

Tracking your heart rate gives you additional benefits like the ability to stay in target heart rate zones while exercising.  The PM5 monitor has programs that display a bar graph of your heart rate every 10 seconds while rowing and also stores heart rate data before and after workouts.

USB Drive & PC Connection

Another cool feature of the PM5 is the USB Drive. The USB Drive lets you save and store records of your workout data.

This comes in handy if you use more than one Concept2 Model D rower because the drive will allow you to record your workouts on the different machines.

For management and further analysis of your workout data you can transfer the data from your USB to Concept2’s online logbook called ‘Concept2 Utility’.

In addition to uploading your data, there are other third-party programs available that do even more while your Concept2 Model D is connected to your PC.

One particular program shows a graphical representation of what you look like rowing in a rowboat at the same rhythm and speed you’re currently rowing on the rowing machine.

There are so many different 3rd party features for the Concept2 PM5 monitor this section barely scratches the surface.  You can find a ton of information on the Concept2 website.

Additional Features

The PM5 Monitor looks and feels durable.  The buttons feel like really tough rubber that can take a lot of abuse and even the lettering on the buttons look like they won’t ever fade away.

It is attached to an adjustable monitor arm so you can move it up or down.  It automatically turns on when you start to row and is powered by 2 D batteries.

One additional bonus is the Concept2 Model D comes with a power-generation feature that provides power to the monitor while you’re working out so it will help preserve your battery life.

PM5 Monitor Overall

Overall the Concept2 Model D PM5 is an outstanding monitor that really doesn’t receive any complaints. It is the best monitor on the market an has an incredible amount of features.  If you are a data nut and love tracking progress, then this is the rowing machine for you!

Here is a quick video that highlights some of the main features:

Concept2 Online Community

Although this isn’t part of the ‘monitor/ control panel’, I had to mention this somewhere so I’ll do this here:

A good percentage of users loved the Concept2 community (online forum) because it’s a great place to meet other rowers and to get tips on how to get the most out of your rowing machine.

The manufacturer is also great with supporting their community and motivating owners. They even offer prizes for hitting certain milestones with their rowers.

For example they’ll give you an exclusive t-shirt for joining the “Million Meter Club” by rowing one million meters on their rower (time it takes to hit the milestone doesn’t matter).  If that’s not enough, they give incentives to kids for rowing and give away a weekly prize to random rowers that log at least ten thousand meters in a week.

The Concept2 Rowers also have the most information online about technique and workouts that can be found on YouTube and various fitness websites.

All of which are helpful when you are looking to mix it up with a new workout, wanting to perfect your rowing technique, or need to understand a monitor function.

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Build Quality

Given the higher cost of this Concept2 Model D Rower and the manufacturer’s solid reputation, you would expect this rowing machine to be extremely durable.

The good thing is your expectations would be right!

The Concept 2 Model D comes in a matte or black finish and is commercial grade.  Meaning, it’s built to withstand the punishment of constant use at a health club.

Concept2 Model D Rowing MachineSo don’t worry about it breaking on you any time soon, no matter how hard you try to beat it up.

Nothing on the machine feels cheap (there are no cheap plastic parts). The base has steel rear legs, an aluminum front, and an aluminum I-beam monorail with a stainless-steel seat track.

Multiple users of varying strength levels have used this rower regularly for over 10 years and have mentioned it still performs like it did when they first bought the unit.

This speaks volumes on the Concept2 Model D’s durability and longevity because you will get stronger as you use it, so it’s important that the machine is strong enough to handle the increase in workload it will receive.

Based on its design, you will hear common noises such as the rolling of the seat, the pulling of the handle, and the fan. However, you will not hear any creaking and other annoying noises most commonly found on cheaper rowing machines.

Quality Complaints

A very small percentage of users mentioned they encountered a few issues with their rower when they unboxed it.

  • A few users mentioned they had to adjust the screen that separated the two halves of the flywheel cover.
    • They all mentioned it was an extremely easy fix and not a concern.
  • Two users commented that the stainless steel jacket on the fan cowling wasn’t fitted correctly.
    • They were able to fix the issue themselves and it doesn’t appear to be a major issue.

Concept2 Model D ComfortConcept2 has an extremely supportive customer service staff so I wouldn’t be concerned about encountering issues and not getting any good help in a timely manner.

I called them on a couple occasions to get some questions answered for this review and they were extremely helpful and a few users commented on how quickly they received calls/ e-mails from them.

Concept2 Noise Level Continued

I know I mentioned this earlier but it is such an important issue to some users that I wanted to highlight it again.

The noise level of the Concept2 Model D Rowing Machine is what you would expect from an air-resistance rower, it can get a little noisy relative to other resistance-type rowers.

The harder you row the louder the fan gets and this can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.

A few users didn’t have an issue with the fan noise at all and even mentioned they were able to comfortably hear their television while working out. Other users mentioned they had to turn the volume up really loud in order to hear their television during a rowing session.

A good number of users mentioned they actually liked it when the noise was “loud” because it’s a sign they’re working out hard and it’s motivating.

No matter how you look at it, just expect to hear a fair amount of noise.

Steve, a reader of Rowing Machine King, mentioned that a good way of blocking the noise out while you row is to use a cheap pair of wireless headphones while listening to music/ podcasts.  I actually do the same thing when rowing on my Model D.

Overall

I didn’t find many reviews complaining about any quality issues, so that’s a testament to the solid build quality of the Concept2 Model D rower.

Many people even claim that the Concept2 Rowers have the best build quality of any rowing machine.  Being backed by a good warranty (mentioned below) shows that this company believes in the quality of their products.

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Comfort

Concept2 Model DWhat good is a machine if it’s built tough enough to take millions of meters of abuse but it isn’t comfortable enough to get you there in the first place?

Luckily, you won’t have to worry about that issue (for the most part).

Seat

The seat on the Model D is contoured and padded, making it comfortable for most users.

However, depending on your weight, average length of time working out, or preferences, you may need to make some minor adjustments.  Several users who have logged a lot of meters and have used the rower for plenty of years commented that the seat gets harder over the years, so expect some tweaking with your seat a few years down the road.

A few users fold a towel and place it over the seat for extra cushioning. Others have mentioned a removable seat pad available has worked really well for them. I wrote an article that highlights some of the best Concept2 seat pads.

The slight tilt of the seat makes maintaining proper upright posture easier relative to a plain, flat seat.

Handle

The handle is ergonomically designed and is covered with molded rubber grips.  As far as the actual design of the handle (pulling of the handle hurts the wrist, etc.), no users have mentioned issues in this department.

A fair amount of users, mentioned (including the manufacturer themselves) that new rowers could expect to get a few blisters on their hands during the first few weeks of use.  A few users mentioned the handle seems a little too hard for their hands.

To help with the issue, users recommend wearing gloves to make the handle feel softer in your hands. See what gloves are the best in my rowing glove breakdown article.

Concept2 Model D ComfortI don’t think the handle is too hard, but if you aren’t used to gripping things on a regular basis you will have to give your hands a few weeks to adjust.

Footrests

The footrests are flexible and have a unique design that allows the rower to fully extend their ankles even if they don’t have flexible ankles.

You won’t encounter any issues with your feet slipping out while rowing.

One user even commented that he believes the heel rests were made for barefoot rowers because it feels so comfortable when he rows without shoes!

Whether you row barefoot or with shoes, the footrests appear to be comfortable for either preference.

Rowing Stroke

The rowing motion for this rower is smooth and provides an experience similar to rowing on water. That’s one of the main reasons professional rowers use it.

The seat glides effortlessly on the monorail and the chain that pulls the flywheel doesn’t snag. This leads to a smooth catch, drive, finish, and recovery motion.

The only maintenance to make sure your machine maintains its fluid functionality is to keep the chain lubricated and clean the monorail periodically.  According to various users, these actions are extremely easy to do and there are instructions in the Model D manual to walk you through the process.

Overall

Here is a great video to breakdown the last two sections on ‘Build Quality’ and ‘Comfort’ of the Concept2 Model D rower:

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Storage

The rowing machine has a large footprint when in use, but the size is basically cut in half when it’s taken apart for storage.

Concept2 Model D StorageTo save floor space, all you have to do is separate the monorail and the top portion of the rower, rest the top portion of the rower on its “head”, and make the monorail section “stand up”.

It’s extremely easy to do and I’m honestly surprised that something so durable and big can be put away in a matter of seconds.

Users commented that the process could take between 10-20 seconds to pull-apart and another 10-20 seconds to put back together.

One user says when in “storage mode” the rower is equivalent to half the size of a standard refrigerator.

The rower has two caster wheels on the flywheel end of the unit and since the rower weighs less than 60 pounds it’s not that difficult to move around if needed.

The Concept2 storage feature is an excellent benefit especially for a rower with this size footprint.

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Capacity

Concept2 Model DPer the instruction manual, the weight capacity for the unit is 500 pounds.

Many users over 300 pounds have used this rowing machine with no problem and still felt the rower was strong and sturdy.

Some rowing machines are not fit for shorter users so I decided to give Concept2 a call to make sure there were no height limitations.

Each representative I spoke to said they never heard of any size restrictions for shorter people and mentioned they know children use the machines regularly.  When doing research for this rower, I did not read ONE review talking about issues with use for shorter users.

So, there is no functionality issue for shorter users.

For taller users, it’s difficult to determine how tall is “too tall” for the rower because the key issue is leg inseam length and not overall height.

According to Concept2 the monorail length is 54.0″ (137cm) and can fit an inseam length up to 38.0″.

A few users that are 6’ 8” tall were able to use the machine with no issues and claim they had a couple of inches to spare on the monorail.

In addition, to further ease your concerns (if there are any), Concept2 offers an add-on that extends the monorail by another 5″ for an additional cost of ~$250. So unless you’re literally 9.0′ tall, this rower will work just fine.

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Dimensions

  • In-Use:
    • 96.0″ x 24.0″ x 14.0″ (L x W x H)
    • 244cm x 61cm x 36cm
  • Seat Height:
    • 14.0″
  • Stored Dimensions:
    • 25.0″ x 33.0″ x 54.0″ (L x W x H)
  • Machine Weight:
    • 57 Pounds [26 kg]
  • Space Recommended for Use:
    • 9.0′ x 4.0′ (L x W)

Just remember the Concept2 rower length is 96.0″ but you will need extra room for when you lean backwards during your stroke (unless you are short!).  The Concept2 dimensions are fairly large so just make sure you have adequate room to row comfortably!

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Assembly

According to several users, the rower is easy to assemble and only requires eight screws and washers. Everything can be put together with the included wrench.

Not one user mentioned they had a difficult time assembling the Concept2 Model D.  Even people with no experience working with tools were able to put this rower together!

The instructions are easy to follow and understand and most users are able to put the rowing machine together in 10-25 minutes.

Don’t believe me!?

Watch this video and see a man put together the rower in under 3 minutes. You can bookmark this page to refer back to after you receive your rower.

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Pros and Cons

Pros:  

  • The Concept2 Model D is made by one of the most respected brands in the rowing industry.
  • It’s solidly built for commercial use and requires a minimal amount of maintenance to keep it running smoothly for years.
  • Its reputation for being a solid rowing machine allows it to hold its value very well. You can resell it on Craigslist for only a small percent less than the list price.
  • The rowing motion is very fluid and fits almost any user size.
  • The included PM5 monitor is one of the best workout monitors on the market!
  • It’s easy to assemble and takes seconds to store away.
  • Concept2 has a dedicated online community. Easy to find workout tutorials and instructions.
  • Its popularity allows for easy finding of spare parts and service companies.
  • The manufacturer provides a great warranty.
  • 30-Day Money Back Guarantee (see warranty for full details)
  • Best overall rowing machine on the market.

Cons:  

  • The unit is approximately 8 feet long so a lot of space is required to use this rower.
  • The seat can be uncomfortable for some people and it gets harder after years of use.
  • The handle can be a little rough on the hands.
  • The fan can be too noisy for some people. It will get louder the harder/ faster your row.

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Consumer Reviews

A majority of users rated this machine the highest rating possible for various reasons including the solid build quality, realistic and smooth rowing motion, and the over the top performance monitor.

Users rave about the second-to-none customer service and comment on how much they enjoy being involved in the Concept2 community. The rowing community gives rowing tips, sponsor’s contests, and gives away free awards for hitting various rowing milestones.

It’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t like the Concept 2 Model D and if you find that rare person, they are probably mad they don’t own one yet.

All jokes aside, this is one rowing machine that practically everyone loves.

Read a full Concept2 Model D Review here.

Average Rating: 4.9

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Warranty

  • Frame: 5 year limited warranty
  • All parts : 2 year limited warranty
    • Warranty is transferable to new owner if you choose to sell or give away your rower.
    • The effective start date is date of purchase.
  • 30-Day Money Back Guarantee
    • Unsatisfied customers can simply pay to ship it back and their money will be refunded.
    • Double check with the retailer that this option is available.
    • Concept2 states, “this offer applies to factory direct sales to our customers in US and Canada only.”

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Concept2 Model D Price

The price for the Concept2 Model D indoor rowing machine with PM5 monitor is very reasonable and even as the #1 rowing machine it is not priced the highest.

Earlier, I talked about (in great detail) how durable the rower is and how it will last you a lifetime.  Adding to that, Concept2 rowers have an extremely great resale value so if  you decide to sell in a few years, you will have no problem recouping a good chunk of your original investment.

The price of the Model D doesn’t change much, whether you go to Amazon or other popular retailers. However, a lot of users purchased the rower through Amazon and mentioned the shipping and customer service were superb. They also offer great return policies and act as a layer of protection between the seller and buyer.

These are important variables you want to consider when you purchase a large item like a rowing machine online.

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Concept2 Model D Review – Final Thoughts

After reviewing the Concept2 Model D, I confirm that it’s perfect for people of all fitness levels from absolute beginner to Olympian athlete.  Many owners have owned this machine for over a decade and it’s still going strong.

The bottom lineI highly recommend this rowing machine because it’s going to last you forever, has a high resale value, top-notch performance monitor, and not to mention it provides a solid full-body workout.

You will not be disappointed with this rower, check out the number of Concept2 Model D 5-star reviews here.

I hope you enjoyed my Concept2 Model D review! If you have any questions please leave them in the comment section below.

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