[Instrument Review] BodyCraft VR500 Rowing Machine

The BodyCraft VR500 rowing machine is acceptable. Pushing it to its limit constantly – rowing at its maximum “32” resistance for 5 minute sets, over 50 times or for roughly 4 hours, for months, and always with good form to not cause erroneous wear – I’ve found demotivating shortcuts: avoidably bent handlebar and broken plastic bits. There’s no way I’d pay $1600 for this! Maybe $50, tops, and it certainly wouldn’t be my first choice if I needed to replace my Concept2. Why?

Rating: ★★★☆☆ [3/5]

I’m not normally one for aesthetics.

The aesthetics of a tool or instrument used daily or even weekly should inspire you to think: “this thing can take a beating!” The steel slashing the plastic and the bends in the aluminum handlebar are confidence dwindling for me. When I strap in my shoes and I see those scars, I feel like I should handle this thing with the utmost care or I might break it, when I just wanna thrash on it!

Despite that, I’ve got some good numbers on this.

The biggest draw for me, other than capturing stats like strokes per minute and calories burned, would’ve been the inclusion of an increasingly more difficult resistance system. After a few weeks of exclusively rowing at the most difficult setting, it stopped providing any more resistance than a humble wheel-and-chain rower. So, I either became used to rowing at an extremely difficult setting. or I somehow broke or weakened the magnets in its internal resistance system.

Considering how easily it seems to have worn out…

This rower didn’t get a lot of use, either. I suspect I was the only person to use it over the 3 months I was enrolled in this gym. Rowers aren’t as popular as treadmills or weight machines. I’ll also typically leave the handlebars above the catch, since I’ve read about how it’s easier on the springs inside the machine. I don’t recall ever seeing the handlebars placed inside the catch where it’s intuitive to store.

A few more negatives:

“32 levels of resistance” is a silly selling point. Changing resistances takes up to 5 rows to adjust, so if you warm up at no resistance then move on to maximum resistance, your stats will not be entirely accurate. I’ve rowed on my Concept2 for years without any major wear, along with a more high-end Concept2 for hours without any visible wear. Sure, these parts are under warranty, it’s just you shouldn’t need to do that trivially.

Some positives:

This Bodycraft isn’t as noisy as the Concept2. Probably because of the seatbelt strap being used instead of a chain? The machine is bigger and heavier, too, so you don’t get that rocking motion you get when you really go at it on a lighter rowing machine. The seat is bigger and more comfortable, which after a while, you can get used to though it is nice. The rowing stats are also nice to track.

If this were the available rower, I’d use it.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t buy or recommend it.

Bendable Eddy Currents

My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.