BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine ReviewThe BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine is the top dog of BodyCraft’s three machine line up.

It’s loaded with a ton of great features like strong resistance, a built-in handle monitor, and a generous warranty.

The dual resistance technology is guaranteed to give you a complete full-body workout that will burn calories and shed fat.

All these great features also means it comes with a hefty price tag!

Overall users seemed to love the BodyCraft VR500 Commercial Rower but the real question is, “is it worth the price?”

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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 BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine is a combination of air and magnetic resistance.

This combination allows for a stronger, smoother, and quieter rowing stroke than air-only or magnetic-only rowing machines.

The air resistance mechanism operates by first pulling the rowing handle and spinning the flywheel.  As the flywheel spins faster, more air is brought into the flywheel housing and creates resistance against the fan.

The faster a user rows, the more resistance is generated.  This allows for great high-end rowing resistance.

Magnetic resistance operates by moving a magnet closer or farther from a spinning metal flywheel.  The closer the magnet is to the flywheel, the more resistance is created.  This is due to the “eddy currents” created by the magnet slowing down the flywheel.

Unlike air resistance, magnetic resistance will provide the same resistance level no matter how fast or slow you row.  This is great for feeling strong resistance while rowing slow.

Combining the two styles of rowing machine resistances allows for an extremely smooth and strong rowing stroke.  Below are some more benefits of the BodyCraft VR500 resistance.

Resistance Benefits

The BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine comes with 32 levels of electronically controlled air and eddy current magnetic resistance.

Having 32 levels means it is a great rowing machine for all ages and fitness levels. With that many options, a user is sure to find a level that meets their workout needs.

Users also commented that the strong resistance was suitable for even the most elite athletes.

BodyCraft VR500 Pro Rowing Machine

At lower levels the VR500 uses more air than magnetic resistance and as the levels increase, more magnetic resistance is incorporated.

Incorporating magnetic resistance really benefits the noise level of the BodyCraft VR500 because the magnetic resistance produces almost no noise, while the air resistance creates a loud “whooshing” noise.

With the added magnetic resistance, users will be able to watch TV or talk to others in the room with no issues.

Resistance Negatives

Negative comments about the BodyCraft VR500 Commercial Rower resistance were hard to come by and that should be expected from a rowing machine with this price tag.

The only “negatives” I could find are actually considered to be a positive by some users.

Some people were upset the resistance does not closely mimic the resistance felt while rowing on water. This is due to the constant magnetic resistance applied to the flywheel. I will try to explain briefly.

When rowing on water (or air-only rowing machines), a user pulls the handle and drives the boat forwards (spins the flywheel). As they “recover” to pull another stroke, the boat continues to glide forwards (flywheel continues to spin). Another stroke is then pulled as the flywheel or boat is already gliding forward, making the second stroke slightly easier.

This is why on water or air resistance rowing machines you must row faster to feel more resistance.

This differs from magnetic resistance because during the “recovery” the magnet is slowing the flywheel down more than water or air resistance.  This makes the next stroke harder to pull.

While some users see this as a negative, others see it as a positive due to them getting a better workout.

The only other thing I read that resembled a negative comment was from a few users who were upset the rower wasn’t “whisper quiet”.  Users will hear the fan noise, but it will not be nearly as loud as an air-only rowing machine.

Overall

The resistance on the VR500 Rowing Machine is excellent and is suitable for beginners all the way up to elite athletes.

Consumers loved the strong, smooth resistance and the quiet noise level. There really are no negatives and I would rate it a 9/10 in my book.

Monitor/Control Panel

The VR500 Pro Rowing Machine comes fully equipped with a state of the art performance monitor. The monitor has an easy to read LCD screen with a backlit LED display. BodyCraft also mounted it to a pivoting, adjustable arm so a user can place the monitor in the best viewing position.

The monitor tracks the following workout data:

  • Time/500m (Split time)
  • Meters (Distance)
  • Watts (Power output per stroke)
  • Pulse (With optional chest strap)
  • Time
  • SPM (Strokes per minute)
  • Strokes (Total for workout)
  • Calories
  • Resistance Level

As you can see the monitor tracks a lot of data but it also has a lot of other really cool functions.

BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine Monitor

I’ll start by going over all the workout modes a user can use.

Monitor Modes:
  1. Manual Mode:
    • Simply start rowing or select a user profile. You can row for however long you choose and adjust the resistance while rowing. Users can also choose a goal such as “500 calories” or “20 minutes” and have the monitor countdown.
  2. Profile Mode:
    • Choose between 12 different preset workout profiles that automatically adjust the resistance throughout the session. Workout profiles can be “steps”, “mountain”, “hills”, etc..
  3. Race Mode:
    • Users can choose between 5 different preset race workouts with set distance and times to beat.
  4. Interval Mode:
    • Users can set or create different interval workouts based on time, distance, and level.
  5. User Data Mode:
    • Users can save all of their workout data and settings to avoid reprogramming each workout. There are 4 user profiles and 1 guest profile.
  6. Custom Program Mode:
    • Users can create or save their favorite workout programs to revisit later.
  7. H.R.C. Mode:
    • The heart rate control mode allows user to set a target heart rate zone and the rowing machine will automatically adjust the resistance to keep the user in that zone.
    • You can choose between 60%, 75%, 85% max heart rate or choose your own target.
    • This program is excellent for HIIT workouts and in my opinion it’s an excellent monitor feature.
    • Users will need a Polar compatible 5kHz frequency heart rate monitor like the Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Sensor.
  8. Watt Mode:
    • Users can input a watt target goal that is calculated off their speed and workload. The monitor will then adjust workload to keep them in their target range.

The monitor also has a cool down feature that when pressed will reduce the resistance level and start a 5 minute countdown.

Handlebar Resistance Control

One feature of the BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine that I have not seen on any other rower is the handlebar resistance control.

BodyCraft VR500 Commercial Rower

Users are able to control the rowing machine resistance straight from the handlebar without having to stop, rack the handle, and press the monitor buttons.

This allows seamless rowing without any unnecessary interruptions. Features like this help the VR500 stand out from other high-end rowing machines.

Monitor Negatives

While the BodyCraft VR500 monitor has a ton of positives, there are a few negatives. This is mainly due to it always being compared to the Concept2 PM5 monitor which is the “gold standard” of rowing machine monitors.

The VR500 doesn’t have PC functionality meaning it doesn’t connect to a computer to analyze workout data with 3rd party apps or race against other rowers from around the world. Features that are seen on the Concept2 PM5 monitor.

Race times are also not as accurate as the PM5 monitors so users cannot use them for comparing against world records set by Concept2 rowers.

The VR500 Pro Rowing Machines must also be plugged into the wall to operate, which means there is more of a chance of electrical or mechanical failure (although I did not see this problem mentioned).

The last negative I saw was on older models of the VR500 where the monitor was calculating pace and time/distance wrong.

Users would row at a 500m split time of 2:00 but the time would read less than 2:00 after rowing 500 meters.

However, BodyCraft reported that they fixed the issue so this is no longer a concern if you read about it.

Overall

The monitor on the VR500 is considered top of the line with a ton of amazing features.

While it may not be considered as advanced as the PM5, if you aren’t looking to break a world record or race against other users, it will provide more than enough features to keep you satisfied. It also includes many features that the PM5 does not, so it is really a personal preference.

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Build Quality

The BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine is labeled as being a “residential” rower but it can be used in a “light commercial” setting. This means the build quality has to be top notch and I believe it is.

The support legs are constructed from high-strength powder-coated steel, giving the rowing machine a sturdy base. The mono-rail seat track is also very strong, being made of high-strength T13 aluminum.

Users mentioned that when rowing they felt no jerkiness or wobbling and everything felt solid as a rock.

The footrest felt strong and secure while the rowing handle felt durable. The handle is attached to the flywheel via a nylon rowing strap which ensures a smooth, quiet rowing stroke.

A nylon strap may be seen as a weak point by some but BodyCraft tested this premium nylon strap with over 580 lbs. of load for more than 500,000 repetitions.

Everything on this rowing machine felt heavy and well-made.

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Comfort

The BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine is extremely comfortable to row on and creates an excellent “out of water” rowing experience.

Users first praise the large ergonomically designed seat. Many rowing machines have small, hard seats that hurt people’s butts after 20 minutes of rowing.  However, the VR500 gives users a nice large padded seat to help alleviate any discomfort while rowing.

The seat sits on top of heavy-duty friction-free rollers that use ultra smooth industrial grade bearings. This allows a very smooth and quiet rowing stroke.

VR500 Pro Rowing Machine Seat

VR500 Pro Rowing Machine

Users can put their feet inside the footrests that have adjustable heel rests and quick-adjust foot straps. The lightweight aluminum handlebar also allows for a comfortable grip that reduces blisters.

The handle includes the resistance adjustment buttons so a user does not have to stop rowing or shift their position to change resistance levels.

Another great comfort feature is the seat height of 19.0″ off the floor, which allows users to easily get on and off the rowing machine. This is an excellent feature for people with arthritis or knee problems.

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Storage

BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine StorageThe BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine has an “Easy Fold and Roll” system with a child safety lock.

BodyCraft boasts that it is the fasting folding rowing machine and can fold for storage in less than 3 seconds.

All you have to do is remove the safety pin, step on the foot lever, fold the seat rail, and reinsert the pin.

The rowing machine can then be moved by rolling it on the built in caster wheels.

Although it is too big to fit in a closet, it can still be rolled into the corner of a room to free up space for other exercising activities.

The floor footprint of the folded rower is 58.5″ x 20.0″ x 77.0″ (L x W x H).

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Capacity

BodyCraft’s website lists the VR500 Pro Rowing Machine as having a seat travel length of 38.5″ and can accommodate users up to 6’8″.

A lot of rowing machine companies are “scared” to list a height limit for their rowers so I commend BodyCraft for posting this.

They also list the weight capacity at 350 lbs. which is fairly high and should be good for most users.

There were no lower-end height limitations and anyone under the upper limits should be fine.

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Dimensions

  • Assembled Dimensions:
    • 98.5″ x 20.0″ x 38.5″ (L x W x H)
  • Folded Dimensions:
    • 58.5″ x 20.0″ x 77.0″ (L x W x H)
  • Shipping Dimensions:
    • 71.5″ x 30.0″ x 10.0″ (L x W x H)
  • Shipping Weight: 116 lbs.
  • Assembled Weight: 101 lbs.

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Assembly

Assembly time of the BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine differed between people, taking some 30 minutes and others 2 hours.

I would recommend reading the instructions before starting because there are some steps that require using the box as an additional support piece.  This will let you know what pieces to take out first and what pieces to leave in place.

Assembly only requires 1 person but having 2 people will make it easier and reduce the amount of time.

All the necessary tools required for assembly are included in the box.

While assembly took long for some buyers, there were no complaints about missing or broken parts in any of the reviews.

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Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Strong dual combination resistance
  • Quiet rowing stroke
  • Advanced monitor
  • Handlebar with resistance level control
  • Strong build quality
  • Long warranty
  • Easy fold storage
  • Comfortable seat

Cons:

  • Monitor has no PC functionality
  • Long assembly time
  • Large overall footprint
  • Not easy to move
  • High price point

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Consumer Reviews

Consumer reviews on the BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine were overall extremely positive. Users felt the resistance was excellent, monitor performed well, and the build quality was great. There were very few negatives mentioned.

While all positive reviews are a good thing, I do think that some reviews were created by either BodyCraft or people who were given free rowers.  The positive reviews are extremely detailed, well written, and long. Most “natural” reviews never look this way. Most rowing machine reviews that are 100% natural will have terrible grammar and bad formatting, which is not seen on the VR500 reviews.

I do think there are a lot of genuine positive reviews for the VR500 but there were a few oddly positive ones I wanted to mention. Overall, I do feel the BodyCraft VR500 Commercial Rower does deserve a lot more positive reviews than negative.

Click here to see more BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine reviews.

Average Rating: 4.5

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Warranty

One great thing about the VR500 Pro Rowing Machine is the long warranty period and ability to have either a residential or light commercial warranty.

Residential

  • Frame: Lifetime
  • Parts: 5-Years
  • Wear Items: 1-Year
  • Labor: 2-Years

Light Commercial (up to 5hrs/day)

  • Frame: 10-Years
  • Parts: 2-Years
  • Wear Items: 1-Year
  • Labor: 90-Days

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BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine Price

One of the biggest hurdles of buying the BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine is the price. Everything on the rowing machine is excellent but people need to know if it is worth the money.

At such a high price point it can be tough to justify spending over $1,500 on a piece of exercise equipment. I list my other options in the section below.

The lowest price I have found the VR500 is on Amazon, even lower than the BodyCraft website. Amazon offers great consumer protection and fast & free shipping.

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Overall Review

As I just mentioned briefly, I feel the VR500 Pro Rower is an excellent rowing machine with very few negatives. However, at such a high price there are many options that you can also look at buying.

When comparing the BodyCraft VR500 vs. Concept2 you will see the BodyCraft model will have stronger/quieter resistance but the Concept2 will have a better monitor and more closely mimic on water rowing.

The Concept2 Model E will have a similar seat height with “commercial” features (see my full review here).

The Concept2 Model D will have a lower profile but is priced under $1,000 (see my full review here).

Being in the over $1,000 price range also means you can look into the WaterRower brand. These are wooden water rowing machines that are also fairly quiet and have strong, smooth resistance. A popular model is the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine.

While I think the VR500 can make the case for costing as much as it does, I would also read these other reviews to get an understanding for what else is available in this price range.

I hope you enjoyed my BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine review! Please leave any questions or comments in the section below.

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Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine
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