Peloton Row’s Form Assist Tech “Not Where It’s At” Says Hydrow CEO

Birds-eye view of woman on rowing machine, bathed in a blue light
(Image credit: Getty Images)

For a considerable period of time, Hydrow was referred to as the Peloton of rowing machines by the media and with good reason. The machine had a modern design, it had an enormous touchscreen which streamed workouts, and it cost a lot of money, just like Peloton’s bike. It was also a fixture at the top of our best rowing machine recommendations.

And if the Peloton of rowing machines is successful, it was only a matter of time before Peloton launched its rowing machine. It took longer than many expected, but the Peloton Row was revealed on 20th September and made available to preorder in the US. So when Coach was offered the chance to speak to Hydrow co-founder and CEO Bruce Smith we had to ask what he thought about Peloton’s effort. 

“I really feel like the Peloton Row has copied us in lovely ways and imitation is the most sincere form of flattery,” says Smith. When we pressed him on those similarities, he said Peloton was “using a very similar drive train mechanism that is as quiet as ours” and that the Peloton Row “basically [has] the same overall shape as the Hydrow.”

We also asked whether there was any feature on the Peloton Row that Hydrow would want to emulate and got a no, as you’d expect. Not even the Form Assist, which uses sensors in the seat and handle to correct people’s technique? And that’s when things got interesting.

“I know an awful lot about that stuff,” says Smith, “because of my experience with the national team coaching [Smith was the coach of the US Lightweight Eight team which won a bronze medal at the 2015 World Rowing Championships]. And I’ve put sensors in handles and seats, and looked at all kinds of acceleration and then all kinds of joint analysis. 

“There are some other companies in the space that do really great. They use your camera to capture your whole body. You’re not extrapolating from the seat and the handle, you’re actually looking at somebody’s body. And that is crucial, because you can get a misdiagnosis. 

“That camera vision is just a way better tool. The sensor model is a blunt object compared with a razor blade. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s a place to start, but there’s a much, much better future and that sensor stuff is not where it’s at.”

Smith also hinted at Hydrow expanding beyond rowing machines in the future. He explained that Hydrow rowing machines use a combination of electric motor, eddy current brake and algorithm to fine-tune the level of resistance throughout the stroke, and that can be applied to cross-country skiing machines, climbing machines and strength training machines. Watch this space. 

Jonathan Shannon

Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.