On a rowing machine, you don’t want to be wearing clothes that are too baggy as the fabric can get caught between the seat and the beam it slides on. It’s not a disaster if that happens, but it can get annoying if your shorts keep getting caught there while you’re trying to get a serious workout. It’s better to wear shorter, tighter-fitting shorts (nothing ridiculous), but just enough to ensure it doesn’t the material doesn’t hang down.
The most commonly damaged piece of rowing equipment is the skeg, which is a metal or plastic fin that comes out of the bottom of the boat to help maintain stability, and to assist in steering. Since the skeg sticks out below the hull of the boat it is the most vulnerable to damage, however it is relatively easy to replace skegs by gluing a new one on. Hull damage is also a significant concern both for maintaining equipment, and for rower safety. Hull damage can be caused by submerged logs, poor strapping to trailers, and collisions with other boats, docks, rocks, etc.
However, I own an air rower and have zero worries about maxing out it’s ability. I can completely exhaust myself on any type of workout. Air and water rowers are the chosen resistance type by Olympic athletes and any athlete looking to train their full-body cardio. I don’t think they would choose this resistance type if they felt they could max it out.
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Outside of resistance type, we found the number-one arbiter of ride feel to be cord quality. Water ergometers tend to employ nylon cords, while air ergometers feature metal chains — a durability factor we anticipated would result in our favoring air. But while all three water rowers aced our expectation of smooth, high-tension strokes, perfecting the chain seems to be more difficult: Some tug with just a slight rumble, others feature bouncy, grinding chains that are incredibly loud, something akin to angry snoring. As for nylon, the best wind and unwind like elastic silk — no slack, no sound, no catching, just perfectly even tension throughout the stroke.