A home rowing machine that’s excellent value, folds for easy storage and offers a challenging yet comfortable workout.
- Excellent value
- Solid and stable
- Folds for easy storage
- Nowhere to put a phone or tablet
- Aspects of design feel basic
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If you’re only going to get one piece of cardio equipment to use at home, a rowing machine should be a strong contender. It works more muscle groups than any other machine and, while you can get a serious cardio workout from it, rowing is low-impact, protecting your joints from injury.
You can pay up to four figures for a rowing machine but throwing money at it won’t necessarily get the most suitable one for you. Our buyer’s guide to the best rowing machines will help you to decide which one to choose.
The ConceptErg is Coach’s top pick but if you aren’t willing to pay $900/£860 for a rowing machine, there are plenty of more affordable options that will do the job. Rowing machines tend to take up a lot of space but there’s now a wide range of folding ones available that make storage easier. Top-end models offer touchscreens, connected classes and streaming services, but if you just want a machine that displays basic workout stats you can save a lot of cash.
I tested the JLL R200 Rowing Machine. It’s the UK-based fitness equipment manufacturer’s cheapest rower and uses magnetic resistance, whereas JLL’s more expensive models use air and water. I usually run a lot outdoors, but recurrent injuries have pushed me towards lower-impact forms of cardio exercise. Before getting this machine I hadn’t done much rowing, except for the occasional session at the gym.
JLL R200 Rowing Machine: Price And Availability
The JLL R200 Rowing Machine, which is available only in the UK, costs £259.99 but is often available with a discount from the manufacturer or from Amazon.
The R200 arrives in a long, narrow box with all the tools required for its assembly, which is straightforward. There’s no need to plug it in: the 3in (76mm) LCD screen is powered by batteries that are supplied with the machine.
Once assembled the rowing machine feels robust, although note that the maximum user weight is 100kg. The housing for the flywheel is a large hunk of silver and black plastic that isn’t the nicest to look at but it feels strong and durable.
Folding the rowing machine involves unscrewing two knobs and raising the slideway until it locks into an upright position, tightening one of the knobs to secure it. Once folded, the 23kg machine is easy to wheel around, although the foot cradles tend to catch on the floor and end up facing down, which is annoying to rectify when you’ve unfolded it and are ready to row.
Disappointingly, there’s nowhere to put a phone or tablet – not ideal if you wanted to follow a live class or pre-recorded rowing workout. You’ll need to set up a device on a chair in front of you or move the rower to face your TV.
In the rowing position the metal slide rail feels sturdy, while the padded seat is comfortable – even for long periods – and slides smoothly. The plastic foot cradles are wide and they swivel to allow freedom of movement, with Velcro straps that feel slightly cheap but fasten your feet securely. The handle is thick and foam-padded but not that ergonomic, and I found it was the first thing to get uncomfortable during longer workouts. There’s plenty of room on the rail to extend back fully, even for my partner who is 6ft tall.
The R200’s LCD screen has a basic, monochrome display that’s clear and easy to read, showing two sets of numbers at a time. There are no workout programmes or connected features here. Distance is displayed at all times at the top of the screen and, below that, the display cycles through the other data available: strokes per minute, stroke count, total stroke count, calories and time elapsed. The calorie information lacks accuracy because the machine doesn’t take your personal data such as weight, height and sex.
There are 10 levels of resistance, which are set by cranking a chunky round knob below the display. The first five levels feel easy, even for a warm-up, and level 10 feels much too hard to me, but it may not be enough for a serious rower or someone a lot more powerful than me. Level seven and eight suit my partner and me, providing a serious workout for both of us.
While rowing, the R200 is reasonably quiet, although it does occasionally get a mysterious rattle under the seat that eventually seems to resolve itself. The rower gets used about six times a week in our household, and has stood up well to that level of use for six months.
Our home has uneven Victorian floors that tend to sag in the middle of the room so the main challenge is finding a level spot to position the rower in. Once you’ve got it on a level bit of floor, the rowing experience is fine, although I’m not sure it would be comfortable to use for long periods of time.
Is the JLL R200 Rowing Machine Worth It?
As an entry-level home rowing machine, the R200 ticks all the boxes and its modest price represents good value. There are cheaper rowing machines but they tend to be flimsy and often restrictive in size.
The screen is small but it displays the necessary information efficiently. Certain parts of this rowing machine like the foot cradles and handlebar feel a little cheap and may not last. It’s a shame there’s no device stand, but that’s not a dealbreaker for me.
When in use the R200 is quiet enough that I’m not worried about disturbing the neighbours. It folds up to be able to fit in my wardrobe, and yet it feels sturdy and robust when I’m using it. The R200 is not a thing of beauty but it’s practical and offers excellent value.