Not everyone has a huge home gym or the space for a permanent rowing machine. Thankfully, there’s an excellent range of fold-up rowing machines on the market today in the UK. Today we’re looking at some of the better folding machines that won’t hog too much space in your home. (Or set you back a fortune!)
I’ve been a keen rower for many years now. These machines offer a fantastic way to get in shape, toning both your upper and lower body, and working your cardiovascular muscles. It’s a form of exercise that’s perfect for people of all ages, as there’s little to no impact. And it’s something you can do at any level. Whether you want to just get in shape or are looking for an intense sweaty workout.
Adding a rowing machine to your home or home gym is one of the best things you can do for you and your family’s health. And with the rowers we’ll be looking at today, there’s no need to have lots of spare room to install it.
So let’s talk about the Freedom Air 2 rowing machine. Although not the cheapest fold-up rower on the market, this is by a fair margin the best of the bunch. Let’s get stuck into why we think this is the best and why you should absolutely get this one if your budget allows it.
Great for new or experienced users looking for a challenge
One of the things budget rowers, in general, don’t do very well is provide a serious workout for anyone with experience. If you’re already in good shape and you’re looking to improve or maintain that then this rower has sufficient stability and resistance for you. That’s not to say it’s not ideal for beginners too – because it is. Just that, unlike some cheaper foldables, this rower has the clout some more experienced rowers will need.
Top-notch build quality
Build quality in general is superb, especially when you consider this is a folding rower. The Freedom Air uses a combination of magnetic (flywheel) resistance and air resistance to give you a solid workout at any level. Everything feels sturdy and of the best quality. There’s 16 levels of resistance that can be adjusted with the built-in computer to give you some interesting workouts.
Good after sales support and warranty
If you haven’t heard of JTX before, one of the things they’re known for is after sales support. Can’t figure something out? Something missing? They’ll sort it out fast and for free. There’s even a 2-year in-home service warranty. Again, this is something you won’t get on the cheaper products in this range.
The on-board display is fantastic
One of the most commonly cut corners in cheap folding rowers is made with the LCD display. That’s not the case in the JTX Freedom. The bright display here accurately shows any information you could think of, from calories to distance. More impressive is the built in programmes that can dynamically adjust the resistance to make you get more out of each workout than just rowing at the same pace.
Verdict: There are just too many things that this rower does that other cheaper folding rowers can’t do. It’s of course around twice the price but you get what you pay for. If you have the cash, you’ll find everything you need with the JTX Freedom Air 2.
- Impressive built quality
- 2-year in-home warranty
- Wide range of useful programmes
- Gym quality machine
- Huge 150kg user weight capacity
- Easy fold system makes folding away a doddle
- Great on-board computer & display
- Not the cheapest rower on the market
Sportstech is a German brand, and as you’d expect, they’re known for their engineering standards. The RSX500 has everything you’d expect from a gym standard rower, all sized up for people up to a max of around 6’6.
The whole thing is built around a 7kg magnetic flywheel that delivers 16 levels of resistance. Magnetic resistance is always smooth and even, no matter how high you crank it up, and stays surprisingly quiet even on the highest settings as there’s no friction from moving parts.
The only sound is the rotation of the flywheel itself, which is generally low enough to watch TV or have a conversation.
Construction is good, with an aluminium frame that can take up to 120kg (265lbs.) As already mentioned, the rail is long enough for people of around 6’6, or 38-inch in-seam, to sit comfortably.
But one of the biggest reasons to go Sportstech over other options on this list is the multimedia system. A lot of rowing machines don’t invest the same amount into controls and workout systems, as a rowing machine is relatively simple.
But Sportstech understands that instant access to all your metrics, and interactive workouts, can have a huge effect on motivation and drive.
That’s why this rower has a 5.5-inch console that can be linked into your tablet or phone, giving you constant updates and up to date numbers, whether you’re going for a gentle cardio workout, or pushing for time on the Wi-Fi enabled competition mode.
Verdict: This rowing machine is easy to recommend; it’s sturdy, it’s comfy, it’s big and reliable and the online connectivity is spot-on. We like everything about this rowing machine and it’s simple and easy to fold to a compact size.
- Tough design with good upper height
- Easy assembly
- Pre-set workout programs are excellent
- Quiet rowing action
- Compact folded size
- Foot pedals need more grip
If you’re looking for something beyond a budget folding rower, one of the best ones we’ve seen recently is the RX800, from NordicTrack. It’s packed with the same engineering as their awesome treadmills but stands on its own two legs (well, 4 actually) as a bloody good rowing machine.
Combined air-based and magnetic resistance
This is an air-based rower so you can put as much (or as little) as you want into your stroke and the machine will push back accordingly. It also packs an extra punch due to some sneaky extra resistance from some magnets on the flywheel.
It’s easy to fold and store
The RX800 is dead easy to store and can be scooted way into another room if you don’t want it lying around. That being said, it’s actually a really good looking machine, compared to some of the clunky beasts we’ve seen. So it’s ideal if you’re looking for a permanent fixture in a home gym or other room in your home.
Top notch display and decent quality speakers
There are built-in speakers that you can actually hear while you’re rowing if you don’t want to get your headphones a tad sweaty while you’re ‘rowing for England’.
The display and performance monitor here are also worth mentioning. The 5″ screen is really easy to read and comes with a lot more info than you can get on the cheaper, budget rowers. It’s also backlit so it doesn’t have that awful thing where you can’t see the readout in low light.
There are 20 workout programs on this folding rower and they all offer something a bit different to help keep you motivated. And the seat and handlebar are comfy too, which isn’t always the case on rowing machines.
Verdict: Although it’s twice the price of some of the rowers in our top guide, you definitely get your money’s worth with NordicTrack gym gear. This awesome rower absolutely does not hog all your space, either folded or extended out. A brilliant, high-quality folding rower from a top brand.
- NordicTrack’s usual top quality
- Sturdy rower suitable for heavier users
- Quiet rowing action
- Plenty of resistance
- Easy to fold
- Battery only display
- Not suitable for experienced rowers looking for a lot of resistance
Next up we’ve got a folding rowing machine that’s ideal for beginners up to medium levels and comes in at a decent budget price too. The XS Sports R310 is a stylish looking machine with a solid build quality that offers a smooth, quiet rowing experience. There’s nothing about its action that gives away its budget-friendly price tag.
Folding and storing the rower is quick and easy work. It’s also one of the more portable ones we’ve seen, thanks to how light and easy it is to move about. Small transport wheels make moving it between rooms a painless task.
It’s easy to assemble and easy to use. One handy tip is to lay out all the parts before you start. As with any home gym equipment, this will take a lot of the hard work out of putting your new rowing machine together.
Highly recommended for anyone on a budget
It’s a great choice if you’re looking to get back into shape from the comfort of your own home, without spending loads of cash. It’s got a solid build and folds away easily. Most importantly the Sumi gives a brilliant workout.
Build quality gives a positive impression. Firm, tubular steel means there’s nothing wobbly or cheap feeling about it.
The LCD display does what you need. Like most displays in this price range, the information is basic and the data is largely calculated based on the number of stokes. The resistance is provided via a 4kg flywheel and there are 10 levels of magnetic resistance to keep you busy.
Pedals are wide and the ergonomic seat is about as comfy as any rowing machine seat is. That is to say, it’s hard. Some users prefer to add a small cushion while they’re getting used to it.
Verdict: For the price, this is another good fold-up rowing machine. It looks good and it folds away to a respectable size.
- Solid build
- Very fast to assemble
- Budget price
- Smooth and quiet
- Light and easy to move and store
- Limited LCD display typical of the price range
Another budget rowing machine here, this time from the good folks at Charles Bentley. Sitting at just under the £200 mark, this is a worthy fold-up rowing machine that is ideal for beginners.
The Charles Bentley folds up easily and is about as compact as any of these machines are. Once collapsed, it can be easily moved around and stored.
Resistance is an elastic rope mechanism that offers 4 levels of resistance. It actually has some pull on it and while it might not be powerful enough for advanced rowers, most beginner or home users should find plenty here to improve their fitness.
There’s a pretty standard LCD display here that keeps track of the essentials. It’s nothing fancy but will track your strokes, distance and calories – which is a really important one. The max user weight is slightly on the lower side at 100kg. However, it’s worth noting that this machine feels very sturdy to sit on and use. There’s no wobbling you might expect at this price point.
Speaking of the price, another pleasant surprise was that this folding rower is nice and quiet too.
- Good budget price
- Robust design
- Quiet, smooth operation
- Easy assembly
- Great value for money
- The seat might be uncomfortable for some users
- Not ideal for experienced users
Looking to get into some home rowing, but don’t want to spend a fortune? You might just want to take a look at the Body Sculpture Folding Rowing machine. Hovering just over the £100 mark, it’s not going to break the bank and for the price and offers a cheap alternative that’s pretty good.
Assembly has to be one of the fastest and easiest builds of pretty much any fitness product we’ve seen. Not the most important factor but it’s nice not to have to faff around putting stuff together. 10 minutes and you should be ready to rock and row.
You might be pleasantly surprised at how sturdy this machine is, and you don’t have to be on the small side to use it either. You can get a good workout with any awkward wobbling you might expect from a budget folding rower.
There are only 3 resistance levels here and the highest one isn’t exactly difficult.
If you’re an experienced rower looking for a serious challenge, this might not be the machine for you.
Anyone looking to get started rowing, not needing a high level of resistance should be fine with this one.
The machine folds down to a small size and is really easy to move around. If space is an issue, then this is a good choice. It can be wheeled into a cupboard or another room and doesn’t hog too much space.
One downside is that it can be slightly noisy and definitely isn’t the quietest rowing machine we’ve seen.
The pedals are nice and wide, with straps that fasten your feet in very securely so there’s no slipping out when you’re exercising. For anyone new to rowing, there’s also a free DVD included with plenty of exercises to get you in shape.
- Budget price under £100
- Does a number of other exercises
- Sturdy design
- Easy going rower for new users
- Only 3 levels of resistance
- Can be a bit noisy
- Power users may need something more substantial
Read our full Body Sculpture BR3010 review here