I'll be frank: I don't trust anyone who works out for fun. I enjoy moving my body for exercise disguised as fun things, like skiing or hiking or paddle boarding. But, like, signing up to run a 5K on Thanksgiving morning or doing a trendy spin class for "fun"? I'll stick to happy hour, thanks.
So when I got the opportunity to test the Aviron Strong Series Rower ($2,199) whose whole schtick is gamifiying rowing workouts, I was suspicious. Extremely suspicious. Because anyone who's ever been 2,000 meters into a sweaty rowing session knows there's really nothing "fun" about it.
Well, dear reader, consider me the newest member of the "exercising is fun" camp. After almost three months with my Aviron Strong rowing machine, I'm here to report it's the most fun machine on the market. More on that below. (And, bonus: Aviron is having an end-of-year sale, which means $300 off rowers.)
What is the Aviron Rower?
The Aviron Rower is a "smart rower" akin to the tech-y rowers from Hydrow, Ergatta, and Echelon. This means it remembers your stats and connects you to virtual classes, allowing you to track your metrics and progress every time you work out. How Aviron stands out, however, is how it "gamifies" rowing. Per the Aviron website, it "uses habit-forming psychology and game design to keep you motivated and excited." From short, individual challenges to live competition where you can "play" against other rowers in real time (and get points if you win!), Aviron really aims to make rowing fun. The Strong Series rower is an air-magnetic resistance hybrid model (these are the different types of rowers—including the ones Aviron offers).
The Aviron Strong vs Impact Series Rower
Currently, Aviron offers two different rowing machines: The Impact Series Rower, which is also an air-magnetic hybrid rower, and the Strong Series Rower. The main difference comes down to its design—the Strong Series rower is crafted to be more accessible and comfortable for a wider ranger of body types, with features like an adjustable foot rest, a low slide rail, a wide ergonomic seat, and a weight limit of 507 pounds. The Impact's limit is 397 pounds—you can read more about it in our full Aviron Impact review.
Other key differences include:
- Storage: The Aviron Impact is a folding smart rower, while the Strong is stored upright.
- Screen: Both rowers use a super high-tech, 22-inch touchscreen display to show workouts, stats, and games. But while the Impact's screen pivots, the Strong's screen rotates 270-degrees left, right, up, and down.
- Fan: Sweaty rowers will enjoy the Strong's cooling "gills" which directs air back at you as while row—a feature the Impact doesn't have.
- Price: And, of course, the price. The Strong is $300 more than then Impact ($2,499 vs. $2,199.) This doesn't include the monthly subscription ($29/month) that unlocks classes, games, challenges, and more.
The Aviron Strong: My honest review
After testing my Aviron Strong for the past three months, I love this machine. It's genuinely fun, and this is coming from a girl who doesn't not believe in working out for entertainment! There are so many games, classes, guided programs, and other entertaining ways to make you forget you're rowing in the first place.
What I love
- Its versatility: If you're someone who gets bored on monotonous machines, the Aviron was made for you. There are so. many. programs. It's almost overwhelming how many different ways you can row. For traditionalists, there's a smattering of guided programs, classes, and coached training sessions ranging from intense cardio and endurance to relaxing stretches and technique training. For those who want to catch up on Bravo TV, there's streaming to pretty much every app (Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, YouTube, etc.), so you can track your stats while watching Real Housewives. And for those who need something a little spicier, there are games, competitions, live challenges, scenic rowing routes, more. There's a game where you're a scuba diver and you have to "swim" away from a hungry shark—every stroke puts more distance between you and said shark. In "Pros vs. Joes," you can race against a selection of professional athletes and Olympic rowers to see how you stack up. Or, you can log on with your Aviron friends and challenge them to a live endurance competition. Tl;dr—I truly didn't know how exciting exercising could be until I got an Aviron.
- Its design: The machine itself is sleek. Made from a steel-and-aluminum body, it's high-quality and modern, which is important considering it's a $2,500 piece of equipment. The 22-inch screen is large, touchscreen-enabled, Bluetooth-compatible, and high-definition, making it easy to read your stats, track progress, and connect to your Airpods or other devices. And it's portable—there are wheels at the screen-end of the machine, so you can lift near the seat and push/pull it exactly where you want it to go.
- Its beginner friendliness: Above anything else, I love how user-friendly and welcoming the Aviron is to beginners. Like weight-lifting or cycling, rowing is extremely technical and takes practice, practice, practice. I consider myself a beginner rower and found the machine so helpful in learning the basics: How my wrists should feel on the handle, how to make the whole rowing motion more fluid, what metrics like "strokes-per-minute" and "split" mean. While the games are fun, the guided programs and instructor-led classes are key for first-time rowers who want to learn how to row correctly.
Seriously—I love using this bad boy and will tell anyone who listens. Sometimes when friends come over, the first thing I say is, "Do you want to try my rowing machine? You can get chased by a shark," and I'll make them try it just so they can experience Aviron fun.
What I don't love
- Its height: I didn't realize how low my ceilings were until I got this rower and stood it up. (It fits, thankfully, but there was a lot of breath-holding as I was moving it around.) The Strong is large as is, but standing it up is even larger (it measures out at 7 feet tall)—if you have low ceilings like me, its height is even harder to miss. If you're tight on space, go for the Impact Series rower which can be folded up and is a bit more compact.
- Some of the graphics are glitchy: Do you remember when you would play Sega as a kid and the screen would randomly buffer? Like, the sound and music would continue on, but the screen would freeze so that the graphics got all wonky and stuck? That's what happens with some of the graphics. I've noticed it particularly on the shark chasing game and a few of the scenic rowing routes. It's not the worst thing in the world, but noticeable enough when you're trying to out-row a ravenous Great White.
- The price: It's a luxury smart rower with a luxury price tag. Be prepared to shell out nearly $2,500 on the machine plus an additional $29/month for access to all the bells-and-whistles, which is a steep, inaccessible price for many people.
Is it worth it?
After testing the Aviron rowing machine for the past three months, I do genuinely think it's worth it. Albeit very expensive (and quite tall) it's replaced my $60 a month gym membership because it's so effective. It's taught me how to row properly and effectively—I've seen my form improve so much in the short time I've owned it. And whether I'm in the mood to sweat my ass off or just want to squeeze in a quick stretch, there's a class for every time and place.
Even more, it's proved to me that exercise doesn't have to be unenjoyable. While you'll never see me sign up for a Turkey Trot, you'll definitely catch me rowing away from sharks and zombies on my Aviron, something I'd never thought I'd do. And that's worth every penny.
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