Concept 2 Model C Rower – Retro Review

Like a Porsche on the road, when you see a Concept2 rower in the gym, you don’t wonder who made it, you simply know!

The rower that define the indoor rowing market

The rower that defined the indoor rowing market

A Concept2 Rower is as distinctive in the gym as a Porsche on the road. A Concept2 Rower is well built, has striking lines and is revered by the rowing community and gym goer’s around the world. Whilst the A & B models moulded the company and the D & E models continue its dominance, the Model C defined it.

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My First time…

I first discovered Concept 2 in the form of the ‘C’ model rower around 16 years ago. I remember my first row like it was yesterday. My boss decided that it would be a ‘great idea’ to have a rowing competition. “Fastest 1000m” he said. “No worries boss” said one of my naive work mates. Having a swimming background, quietly I was pretty confident, but didn’t want to let on.

My boss wanted to be ‘lucky last’, so it was between myself and Dave (Mr-No-Worries) to set the best time. Dave went first and was looking incredibly strong. Technique was a little stiff but body builders tend to have a ‘only tool is a hammer, so every problem is a nail’ kind of attitude. Dave’s first 600m was inspired, I began to worry. Sadly for Dave, the last 400m took a polar opposite turn. The poor guy looked like a senior citizen with major back pain, trying to pick up a pair of keys off the floor… its was less than pretty. It was cringe worthy. I swear I spotted a tear roll down his face, which he later claimed was sweat. Dave finished in 3:56. Respectable for a non rower.

Sadly for Dave, the last 400m took a polar opposite turn. The poor guy looked like a senior citizen with major back pain, trying to pick up a pair of keys off the floor… its was less than pretty. It was cringe worthy.

Shaken by Dave’s effort, I set out a little easier and worked my way into a good, steady and fast pace. I got to 500m and realised that Dave’s pathetic back-end was more than understandable. My breathing became shallow as oxygen debt kicked in. My muscles were screaming “get me off this thing” and my legs were shouting back, ‘stay seated, I-can’t-carry-you’!

At 750m I called out “someone flip over the monitor”!!!. I didn’t want to see the meters creep slower and slower towards the 1000m finish line.

My chest started burning with about 200m to go and I started feeling light headed. When I was done with a time of 3:26 I needed help to get my feet out of the straps and no sooner was I off the rower, I vomited. It was awesome! Needless to say that my post-event vomiting ruined the fun and my boss never did get on that rower. So I guess I won?

From that point on, a genuine love-hate relationship evolved.

Humble Beginnings…

Concept 2 had humble beginnings in the form of elite rowing brothers Dick and Pete Dreissigaker. 1976 was a defining year for the brothers who started creating composite racing oars. It was 1981 when the first Concept 2 ‘A’ model rower first rolled off the production line and the rest is written in land-based-rowing history.

Concept 2 claim to make the best selling rowing machine in the world. It is easy to see why this ‘oar-inspired’ machine (pun intended), built by rowers for rowers… and the broader fitness community, can make such a claim when you try to find a genuine competitor. Those who have dared compete against Concept2 in the commercial rower market have literally tried to recreate the flywheel and in my opinion have not come close.


Concept2 C Model

Everyday, world class athletes, office workers and cross fitters (to name a few) go for an ‘indoor row’ on a C2 rower in myriad of locations including home, garage, training studio, ‘Cross Fit Box’ or the gym. Many log on to Concept2’s website to log their rowing efforts and even gain a world wide ranking. Unlike any other stand-alone piece of fitness equipment, this machine, has its own online community of men and women, dedicating their fitness time to improve their rowing power, endurance and strength on… land.


Whilst this post is about the ‘C’ model Concept 2 rower, manufactured between 1993 2003, this review could easily cover the core components of the more current ‘D’ & ‘E’ models as they are so similar. If this was the latest offering from your favourite smart phone manufacturer, you’d probably be worried, not so in rowing machines.

Concept2 Rower Sillhoutte

Concept2 Rower Sillhoutte

My Very Own C2 ‘C’…

In 2005 I splashed out and bought my very own pre-loved ‘C’’ model. For me, the ‘C’ model is really when Concept 2 went from good to great.

When the ‘C’ Model hit the market in 1993, it was more than a major upgrade from the ‘B’, it was a back to the bone rebuild. It had an improved solid construction with wider feet, thicker monorail, flexible feet stretchers, smoother gliding seat-on-rail, a moulded shroud to encase the flywheel which makes an awesome rushing wind sound, and finally that touch of wood in the oar that made you feel like a ‘real’ rower.

Whilst the A & B models formed the companies direction the ‘C’ defined it’s commercial viability beyond the elite rowing community. They fit into the home environment and have become standard ‘must have’ inclusion in the commercial gym world too. Often, I walk into gyms that have ben fitted out exclusively by one of the many commercial fitness equipment manufacture’s. I walk through rows and rows of that manufactures equipment, then i reach the cardio gear. One piece almost always sticks out. You guessed it, one or more Concept2 Rowers.

Like a Porsche on the road, when you see a Concept2 rower in the gym,

you don’t wonder who made it, you simply know!

In my opinion, when the company created the ‘D’ and ‘E’ rowers, they didn’t make significant changes to the bones of the ‘C’. In car manufacturing terms, Concept2 are the Porsche of rowing machines. Concept2 have made an incredible machine, and have resisted making unnecessary changes to its form. It defines the company.

What has changed between the models is the size and inclusions in the monitors, the colour scheme and the styling of the oars. The have also made them smoother and quieter. That said, i’m not convinced that quieter is better. Who doesn’t love the sounds of rushing wind???

Concept2 C ModelOverall the ‘C’ model is functional, smooth and comfortable to sit on. I have never felt like it grates along its tracks or is rubbing the wrong way. It has a nice display with all the feedback you need to stay challenged. It is marginally louder than the ‘D’ and ‘E’ models, but this has never bothered me. The oar is distinctive and the black grip is very durable and feels comfortable to grasp.

One comment I do have about the newer models is the oar. I have purchased ‘D’ models for the gym I previously managed and have spent some time on the ‘E’ model too. I prefer the ‘C’ model oar. Not just because it is wood (I wish that the newer models had kept a defining wood aesthetic), but because of its durability. The ‘D’ model oar grip feels ‘oarsome’, but has been less durable (in the commercial environment) in my experience.

Another piece of great news for ‘C’ model owners is that the PM2 monitor can be replaced with the larger, function ladened PM3 and PM4 (at a cost – naturally). For avid rowers, this is a no brainer and definitely worth the few hundred dollars investment – But be warned the Fish Game that comes with the PM3 is addictive and highly frustrating… I swear I got out of the way of that darn shark!!!IMG_8428


Overall if you are in the market for a quality rower and don’t want to pay top dollar for a new ‘E’ model, do what I did and pick up Concept2 ‘C’ model. The model that set the course for Concept2’s incredible success and dominance in the indoor rowing market. It is a lower cost option, with very little on going maintenance. It can be neatly stored away in an upright position or snapped apart into two pieces for even easier storage!

I would love to hear your indoor rowing stories and experience with any of the Concept2 models via the comment section below this post.

Concept2 C Model