Echelon Smart Rower is a great way to get a full body workout without leaving the house. The collapsible design makes it convenient to store between sessions, and the Echelon app has thousands of on-demand classes.
However, unlike many of them best rowing machines, The Echelon rudder does not come with a screen. Instead, install the Echelon app on your smartphone or tablet and place it in the machine’s device holder.
Resistance type: Magnetic
Resistance settings: 32
Display Type: No
Dimensions: L 84 inches (213.4 cm); B 21 inches (53.3 cm); H 45 inches (114.3 cm)
Pulse monitoring: The Echelon Fit app supports Bluetooth heart rate monitors
App compatibility: Echelon Fit
Weight: 108 lbs / 49 kg
Warranty: 12 months
It is an interesting design choice, but it means that the only way to see your training statistics is through the app. And if you cancel your app subscription, you can still use the machine, but you can not track your progress.
We put Echelon Smart Rower through the steps – from beginner-friendly workouts to high-intensity workouts – to help you decide if it’s right for your home workout setup.
Price and release date
Echelon Smart Rower sells for $ 1,299, or £ 949 in the UK. This is the cost of the machine, but you must also sign up for a $ 39.99 / £ 29.99 monthly membership to access the Echelon app. This makes it more expensive than traditional machines without virtual workouts, such as the Concept2 RowErg, but still cheaper than other connected machines, including Hydrow, which have an integrated monitor.
Hydrow has a similar pricing mode (investing in hardware plus a monthly digital subscription), but if you cancel your membership, the rower still has a Just Row mode for independent workouts.
The Echelon Smart Rower looks like many other rowing machines: the resistance mechanism and the handlebars at the front and a slider and seat attached, but we found that there are differences that separate it from each other.
There is a flexible joint in front of the seat, which makes it possible to fold the slider vertically for easy storage. We were worried that this would be a challenge to use, but the quick release mechanism made it easy.
However, this did not affect the durability of the machine. When the slider clicks back into place, the Smart Rower is stable, even during strenuous workouts. The adjustable footplates hold you firmly in place while you exercise.
The Smart Rower has 32 levels of magnetic resistance, and you can move between them using the control-based controls. This is practical and helps to keep the focus on the training.
Above the handlebars is an adjustable arm and device holder to keep the phone visible during training. It has space for tablets, which is useful since the app is difficult to see on the phone screen. You also need your device to see your training goals, but connecting the machine to the app and the resistance controller to the machine takes power, so you need to connect the Smart Rower to the mains as well.
Ease of use
When it arrives, the rudder is in two parts – so it must be mounted. Echelon has made this easy, with just a few large screws to secure the slider and resistance mechanism and secure the feet. The machine is heavy (108lbs / 49kg), so it’s worth someone to help you. While I managed myself, it was a challenge to deal with the resistance mechanism (which is where most of the weight is).
Fortunately, this is a one-time process, and when done, the Echelon Smart Rower is a breeze to use. The magnetic resistance mechanism means that little maintenance is required.
There is no integrated screen, so you have to navigate the Echelon Fit app on your smartphone or tablet. The app’s design is functional, which does not affect your workouts, but makes it difficult to navigate. We found that this was the case when using the smartphone version, as the various menus and filters fit better with a device with a larger screen, such as an iPad or other tablet.
Functionality and performance
Many people first experience air-based rowing machines at the gym or fitness center. These are effective, but can also be noisy, so they are not good for home training (opens in new tab). However, Echelon’s magnetic system is almost silent.
We found that this was consistently the case, even though we used the controls to go through the machine’s 32 resistance levels. The board was comfortable to hold and gave us no blisters.
Echelon has considered the minor details: often overlooking features that the foot straps have grips on the end to make it easy to pull them tight and loosen them when you’re done.
Since you want to use your own smartphone or tablet to stream the lessons, you can use headphones if you want to keep the noise even lower. This is useful, but it’s a shame it’s not an integrated monitor.
The app gives you access to a library of thousands of on-demand classes and to join live sessions, but it feels like an afterthought, especially compared to the premium feel of the machine. The layout is confusing and it is difficult to distinguish between live and on-demand classes. In addition, there are few integrations with other training apps such as Strava or training watches such as the Apple Watch.
But once you get all that out of the way, we enjoyed the Echelon workouts. The instructors were energetic, clear and motivating, while the routines were challenging but achievable.
Value for money
The Echelon Smart Rower is a mid-range rowing machine, but it does not necessarily provide good value for money. We were impressed with the equipment, but the dependence on the subscription-based app makes it expensive in the long run.
Rowing machines like Concept2 RowErg are popular because they are durable, but to get the most out of your Echelon rower, you must sign up for a monthly membership in the Echelon Fit app if you want access to on-demand and live classes. This gives you an additional $ 39.99 per month.
Everything about the Echelon Smart Rower feels well designed. The elegant machine has an easy-to-use folding mechanism, almost silent magnetic resistance and practical resistance controls on the handlebars.
It’s an almost perfect machine at a competitive price, but the lack of an integrated screen complicates things. You need your own device to access the Echelon Fit app, which has an extensive library of on-demand and live classes.
There are many choices as well, so whether you are a newcomer to rowing or an experienced rower, you can find a class that suits your needs. We liked that it was easy to filter by training styles and instructors as well.
However, to access these sessions, you must sign up for a relatively expensive monthly Echelon membership on top of the starting price of the machine. And if you cancel your subscription, you will lose access to your training goals as well.
But when the machine, the app and the collapsible design are taken as a complete package, the Echelon Smart Rower is an excellent way to get a full body workout without leaving the house.
If you are looking for a more integrated experience, it is worth considering the Hydrow rowing machine (opens in new tab) (above). It is not collapsible like the Echelon, but it has a 22-inch screen for streaming live and on-demand workouts. In addition, if you choose to cancel your membership, you can still see your training calculations in Just Row mode.
You may also prefer a more proven traditional rowing machine such as the Concept2 RowErg (opens in new tab). Thanks to industry standard measurements and durable designs, this is a popular rowing machine found in gyms around the world. The air-based resistance means that it is not as quiet, but it is an effective way to train.
How we tested
We had the rowing machine in our house for several months and used it at different times of the day to see how quiet the magnetic resistance system was and if you could train without disturbing others in the household.
We also considered how the machine felt to use and the virtual training experience. We have placed great emphasis on the physical design, such as the comfort of the handles, the simple setup and the efficiency of the controller.
We used Freestyle Ride mode to complete independent rows, and covered shorter distances (500m) and longer sessions of up to 5 km. We also tried a number of classes to experience a variety of instructors and training styles.