Anyone interested in WaterRower’s Natural will know that this isn’t your ordinary machine. First and foremost, water resistance models are designed to simulate the natural movement and resistance that professional athletes would experience out on the water.
The biggest difference between the WaterRower is that it tries to mimic the rowing sensation without using a mechanical action that you get with the other types of rowing machine. They have opted to use water to generate resistance creating a surreal workout experience.
From top to bottom, this model has been designed for performance, and also includes one of the best monitoring systems on the market today: The S4 Monitor.
- Handcrafted design
- Water flywheel
- Series 4 Performance Monitor
- Upright storage option
- Self-regulated resistance and quiet performance
Assembly and Setup
When delivered, the box was extremely heavy with a weight of 86 pounds. Having an extra pair of hands to help you move the box into your home and assemble this model is recommended. The entire setup process is quick and easy.
The only tool required is a 5mm Allen key which is provided. Parts like the water tank and seat come pre-assembled and all you have to do is fix them to the dual hardwood rails.
Pay special attention to the seat and wheels when assembling. A lot of users have had problems with squeaky seats or loose wheels because they’re not properly assembled.
With that said, the machine is very easy to assemble and I managed to put it together by myself in about 40 minutes. You will be required to fill the flywheel with water. While the initial weight is just 86 pounds, when water is added, the total product weight is 117 pounds.
Remember: Drain and replace the water routinely, and use the water purification tablets that are provided by the manufacturer.
Comfort and Precision
The seat rolls smoothly across the wooden rail system, while the handlebar is nicely padded and comfortable in your hands. Unlike many other units, this model has dual rails to support the seat. This creates a strong stable base and allows you to push hard without feeling like you could topple over at any moment.
The solid ash and stained honey oak used on this model are exceptional, and work well to absorb noise and vibration when you’re rowing.
The flywheel is enclosed in water, offering a realistic rowing experience while adding the natural resistance of water.
Smooth and quiet, it’s almost serene listening to a person row using water resistance as all you hear is the swishing of the water in the flywheel.
The footrests allow your feet to stay snug in position and have straps to keep your feet in place. There is some give when you push off during your row so that you can use the power of your legs during the catch and release.
If you were rowing a boat and you wanted to go faster you would increase your intensity. This would in turn increase the amount of drag on the boat, therefore to maintain the new speed you must maintain your intensity.
In an attempt to imitate these conditions they have created a system that doesn’t need adjusting to alter the resistance. The harder and faster that you row, the more overall resistance (drag) will be increased thanks to the water tank.
This works well with HIIT training as you no longer need to manually lower the resistance in the rest phase of your workout instead you just slow your pace and intensity. Then once it is the “sprint” phase again you just pull harder/ faster and the resistance will be greater.
One mistake people seem to make is that they believe that they can alter the resistance by changing the tanks water level.
The water level represents the weight of the boat rather than resistance.
You can have whatever water level you desire and is entirely up to your personal taste, however do not fill past the maximum level or you could risk losing your warranty.
The Series 4 Monitor is one of the best in the industry rivalling the PM4 monitor of the Concept2. You can see virtually everything about your rowing session, including:
- Strokerate – Strokes per minute
- Heartrate – Shows heart beats per minute (require the optional heartrate feature)
- Zone Bar – Position relative to predefined work zone
- Duration – Time exercised
- Distance – Distance covered
- Intensity – Shows the intensity in a number of different units (m/s, mph, /500m , /2km)
The time counter allows you to set your own alarm right on the monitor. This is ideal for anyone that wants to “space out” during their workout and not count down the seconds until they can hop off.
You can get the added option of a heart rate monitor with this model and the s4 monitor will display your heart rate in beats per minute.
You can also perform heartrate zone workouts where you set upper (hi) and lower (lo) values for stroke rate, intensity and heartrate. If you break any of your limits the monitor will flash and emit a noise indicating whether you need to increase or decrease intensity.
For the more serious users there are some great advanced programs, you can even store a number of workouts making it easy to mix up your workouts making sure that you don’t get bored of the same routine.
Built-in software allows you to connect your USB device right to the monitor. There are also a few neat inclusions that make rowing more fun:
- The We-Row online community.
- A virtual training and racing system offered through NetAthlon
- Coaching through the UltraCoach
You don’t have to plug the monitor into the wall. Instead, this monitor takes 4 AA batteries to operate.
One of the biggest differences about this model is that a lot of the frame is made of hardwood. This can mean that during the first few weeks of use the wood will adjust as it acclimatizes to the environment of your home. Therefore, you may be required to gently tighten some of the bolts over the first few weeks.
You may also find that you need to tighten the bungee cord to take the slack out of the drive and recoil belts.
When you fill the water tank it is recommended that you use municipal tap water as it tends to have been treated and reduces the chance of algae forming. You will still need to add a purification tablet ever now and again. The tablet reacts with sun light so depending on the amount of exposure to sun light your machine gets will determine how often it will need another tablet.
If you notice the water is starting to decolour just simply add a tablet and if that doesn’t work it may be time to clean the tank and refresh the water a pop another tablet in.
Along with being very easy to move around with the front jockey wheels it is also possible to store it upright. As the water tank is mounted on the front it also helps to keep it stable in the upright position and takes up minimal space.
- Natural rowing experience
- Advanced monitoring options
- Natural, handcrafted design
- Easy to move with transport wheels
- Great for tall and short users
- Extremely quiet
- Footholder issues
I didn’t experience the footholder issues myself, but early users did complain about issues with the footholders. The main issue is that the strap doesn’t stay on tightly, and after re-adjusting the pedal, it eventually moves out of place.
I have had the strap issue happen for me on other models but quite often this is down to the user’s foot position being wrong. The strap should go over the top of the ball of your foot where it pivots.
If you have the strap further up your foot and your foot pivots in the rowing action it will eventually loosen the strap.
As for the footrest losing its placement, I haven’t had the issue. Overall, the WaterRower Natural did exactly what I thought it would – provide an unreal rowing experience.
From the handcrafted design to the smooth rowing with virtually no noise production, this model is simply unmatched. It’s a high-end machine meant for serious users, and it will last years without any issues. I’ve never had the pleasure of rowing indoors with this level of realism before – I felt like I was rowing out in the bay.
For those of you that are fans of House of Cards you may recognise this model as the one that was used by Kevin Spacey!
If you are interested in getting a water resistance machine be sure to check out the Club model aswell first.