Connected fitness adrift a tale of two rowers

Connected fitness adrift a tale of two rowers

Connected Fitness Machines: Are They Worth the Price?

Ergatta Rower Ergatta’s games have a more aesthetic, rhythm-based vibe that sneakily teaches you the rowing basics.

Sitting in the middle of my living room is the sleek and elegant Ergatta rower, priced at $2,499.99. Meanwhile, at The ENBLE’s office, the utilitarian yet sleek Aviron Strong rower, priced at $2,199.99, waits for attention. These two rowers may appear different at first glance, but they share a common flaw: I rarely feel compelled to use them.

It’s not because they’re bad rowers. In fact, if this were a traditional review, I would rate them both a solid seven out of ten. Both rowers deviate from the typical connected fitness machines by offering small gaming experiences instead of instructor-led classes. The Ergatta reimagines rowing with aesthetically pleasing abstract games that secretly teach you the fundamentals of rowing. The workouts are meditative and calming, especially with the soothing sound of real water. On the other hand, the Aviron Strong offers a variety of straightforward games, including a thrilling escape from a digital shark. What sets it apart is the ability to stream Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Disney Plus on its screen.

So, what’s the problem? Despite working out almost every day, I rarely feel inclined to hop on the rower. It’s not a matter of accessibility; there’s a rower both at the office and at home. It’s not about efficiency either; rowing engages 86 percent of the muscles and provides low-impact cardio. It’s not that I don’t enjoy rowing either – I actually like it quite a bit. The issue lies with these rowers’ limited and specific approach to interacting with their hardware.

Sometimes, I crave a lively instructor equipped with sparkles and rainbows beaming their radioactive positivity at me. However, neither Ergatta nor Aviron offer classes that cater to this need. Ergatta, in particular, lacks any classes at all, while Aviron’s selection is limited, with mediocre music choices. Furthermore, neither machine allows me to listen to my own music during workouts. I long to watch my favorite TV shows during longer rows, but that’s a no-go on the Ergatta. While the Aviron Strong does provide streaming services, it requires a subscription and access to specific platforms. If you don’t have these subscriptions or need to pause your Aviron subscription, you are left with a machine that only displays metrics on a fancy screen.

Here’s the thing – why should anyone pay a hefty price to be restricted in how they use a supposedly owned device? When I return these machines after reviewing them, I never miss the hardware itself, but I do miss the content. However, is access to this content worth the additional upfront cost of thousands of dollars, not to mention the monthly subscription fees?

For me, the answer is a resounding no. Instead, I find that alternatives are readily available at a fraction of the price. Other rowers on the market, such as the Concept2, offer a beloved and affordable option at $990. Water rowers with similar features can be found in the range of $500 to $1,500. Spin bikes and treadmills are available for $300 to $1,000. Fitness trackers can provide metrics for as little as $200 to $500, and fitness apps often come with community features at a cost of $40 to $70 annually. If none of these options suit, free YouTube classes can also be accessed with a smartphone and a cheaper rower or gym equipment.

When considering the state of connected fitness as a whole, it seems most people are voting with their wallets. Companies like Peloton, Hydrow, and Tonal have faced business challenges and layoffs. Lululemon’s expensive acquisition of Mirror has proven to be a misstep. The truth is, the premium nature of connected fitness no longer aligns with the current economy and consumer sentiment. As inflation rises and economic challenges persist, forking over thousands for a single-purpose device with paywalled content feels like a bad deal.

As a reviewer, I find it increasingly difficult to recommend these expensive products to the average consumer, especially when more affordable alternatives exist. Smartwatches offer coaching, reminders, and health alerts at a significantly lower cost. Apple Fitness Plus integrates seamlessly with existing Apple products and provides downloadable classes, on-screen metrics, and compatibility with various machines. Garmin watches offer a free training plan based on personal metrics. Even Peloton has shifted to app-only subscriptions, although plans to reintroduce the costly Peloton Tread Plus are in the works. Thus, it’s clear that the flexibility and affordability of these alternatives outweigh the benefits of connected fitness machines.

In conclusion, the future of connected fitness must involve affordable options that separate hardware from content. Companies need to provide consumers with the flexibility to choose platforms that suit their needs best. Until this shift occurs, these connected fitness machines will continue to feel overpriced and limiting. Personally, I would gladly pay a small monthly subscription to play Aviron or Ergatta games on my gym’s rower, but until that’s a reality, I’ll explore more cost-effective and flexible fitness options.