With 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 ‘Concept2 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! Plus, I have owned a Concept2 Model D Rower for many years and I completely agree.
However, a few issues were hard to spot at first glance… until I created this ultimate Concept2 Model D review!
The Concept2 Model D Rowing Machine is an air-resistance rower.
Air resistance functions by pulling a handle and spinning a fan flywheel. As the flywheel spins, it must displace the air in front of it, which causes the resistance.
The faster you spin the flywheel, the more air the fan must displace, and the more resistance you will feel.
In other words, your resistance level is determined by how hard you row! The faster/ harder you row, the more resistance you will feel.
This is similar to how water resistance operates, but different from magnetic and hydraulic-piston rowers.
You can check out my full breakdown of resistance types here to learn more about each type.
You can also read my Air vs. Magnetic resistance article for a more detailed description of how air resistance works.
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!
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.
This automatically adjusting resistance is know as ‘variable’ resistance.
It’s not like a treadmill where you set it to level 5 and you have to keep running at that speed until you change the 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/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. This is why you 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.
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.
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, which effects the “feel” of the rowing stroke.
Like gears on a bicycle, the different “gears” will give you a different feel when you’re rowing. The higher settings (6-10) give you the feeling of a slower, heavier boat, whereas the lower settings (1-5) give you the feeling 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 many YouTube videos and articles online that can explain this in more detail once you have your Concept2 Rower.
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 listen to me row on my Concept2 Rower with and without a TV on.
Most users just listen to music 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
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 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):
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.
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, 500m split (speed), time, strokes per minute, calories, watts, and so much more. It can also calculate the averages of all these metrics.
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 preset 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 read, whether you’re at the starting (catch) or finish position. It is also backlit so you can see the data in low light settings.
The Concept2 PM5 monitor shows you everything you need to know while rowing.
The top 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 (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. However, 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. “Bluetooth Smart” is used in devices for recording smaller, specific data like heart-rate and blood-glucose meters.
Just 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 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.
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 rowing, which helps preserve battery life.
PM5 Monitor Overall
Overall, the Concept2 Model D PM5 is an outstanding monitor that doesn’t receive any complaints. It is the best monitor on the market and it has an incredible amount of features.
If you are a data nut and love tracking progress, 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 it 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, Concept2 gives 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.
Instagram is also packed with people uploading daily workouts and technique videos. It is one of my favorite places to communicate with other Concept2 owners.
All of these resources are helpful when you are looking to mix things up with a new workout, wanting to perfect your rowing technique, or need to understand a monitor function.
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.
So 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. You will get stronger as you use it, so it’s important 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.
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 has an extremely supportive customer service staff, so I wouldn’t be concerned about encountering issues and not getting 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. A few users even 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 any air-resistance rower.
The harder you row, the louder the fan gets. However, this can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.
A good number of users mentioned they actually liked when the noise was “loud” because it’s a sign they’re working out hard and it’s motivating.
You can read my noise level article I linked to above to actually hear me rowing my Model D with the TV on & off.
Just know that 99% of users have no issue with the noise level on the Concept2 Model D.
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) also shows how Concept2 believes in the quality of their products.
What 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).
The seat on the Model D is contoured and padded, making it comfortable for most users.
However, depending on your weight and average length of workout time, you may need to make some minor adjustments.
Several users who have logged a lot of meters mentioned how the seat gets harder over time. 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 has worked really well for them.
I wrote an article that highlights some of the best Concept2 seat pads here.
The slight tilt of the seat makes maintaining proper upright posture easier relative to a plain, flat seat.
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.
This is due to the handle being molded of rubber which allows for a more efficient rowing stroke.
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.
I 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.
The footrests are flexible and have a unique design that allows the rower to get their “shins vertical” even if they don’t have flexible ankles.
You won’t encounter any issues with your feet slipping out while rowing either!
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.
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.
These actions are extremely easy to do and there are instructions in the Model D manual to walk you through the process.
Here is a great video to breakdown the last two sections on ‘Build Quality’ and ‘Comfort’ of the Concept2 Model D rower:
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.
To save floor space, all you have to do is separate the monorail and the flywheel portion of the rower. Then rest the flywheel 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 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.
You can also store the Concept2 Model D Rower upright if you have a tall enough ceiling. Many gyms store their Concepts Rowers this way because it is fast and saves a ton of space.
The Concept2 Rower has two caster wheels on the front end of the unit. 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.
Per the instruction manual, the weight capacity for the unit is 500 pounds.
Many users well 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 who use the machines regularly.
When doing research for this rower, I did not read ONE review talking about issues 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″ and 6’9″ 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 5.0″ for an additional cost of ~$250.
So unless you’re literally 9.0′ tall, this rower will work just fine.
- 96.0″ x 24.0″ x 14.0″ (L x W x H)
- 244cm x 61cm x 36cm
- Seat Height:
- 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!
The Concept Model D 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 prior assembling experience were able to put this rower together!
The instructions are extremely easy to follow and most users are able to put the rowing machine together in 10-25 minutes.
When I got my Concept2 Rower I couldn’t believe how fast I put it together. I actually went over every step twice because I thought I was missing something.
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.
Pros and Cons
- 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.
- 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.
A majority of users rated this machine the highest rating possible for various reasons. Reasons included the solid build quality, realistic resistance, smooth rowing motion, and the top of the line 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!
Average Rating: 4.9
- 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.”
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 high 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 free shipping on qualified orders, a great return policy, 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.
Concept2 Model D Review – Final Thoughts
After reviewing the Concept2 Model D, I confirm that it’s perfect for people of all ages, sizes, and fitness levels. Many owners have used this machine for over a decade and it’s still going strong.
The bottom line – I highly recommend this rowing machine.
You will not be disappointed with this rower, check out the number of Concept2 Model D 5-star reviews here.
The Concept2 Model D will last you a lifetime, it has the best performance monitor, an extremely high resale value, and gives you a superb full-body workout!
If you are still unsure about what rowing machine to buy then ask me to select one for you! That’s right, just visit my Personal Rowing Machine Concierge Service and I will select which model is best for you.
I hope you enjoyed my Concept2 Model D review! If you have any questions please leave them in the comment section below.