Schwinn Airdyne vs. Concept 2 Rower

c2 rower versus airdyne schwinn

 Schwinn Airdyne vs. Concept 2 Rower

What is the best piece of cardio equipment for your gym, CrossFit box or home fitness facility?  Forget the elliptical, the Tony Little Gazelle, or your standard treadmill. These cardio machines, don’t hold a candle to these two main workhorses: The venerable Concept 2 Rower, and the Schwinn Airdyne.

There is no arguing the fact that virtually every CrossFit facility has Concept 2 Rower. But the lesser known workhorse that is seeing a groundswell of interest is the Schwinn Airdyne. Here is a quick breakdown comparing the two.

Concept 2 Rower. A human polygraph machine

Concept 2 Rower. A human polygraph machine


 The footprint of the C2 rower is very small when it is tilted up on its head while being stored, but when being used, these rowers are quite lengthy and require quite a bit of space. Get a few in a row and you can say goodbye to a fair chunk of your gym, each rower needs a space that is 9 x 4 feet (36 square feet). The Airdyne has a smaller footprint while being used (10 square feet approximately) 4 foot 10 inches by 2 feet 1 inch  L x W.  Airdyne is approximately 1/3 smaller for footprint. Theoretically you could have 6 airdynes in the space you could fit 2 rowers. Advantage: Airdyne



Ease of Use: 

Teaching a new person how to row can be tricky, and there are even courses on how to refine your technique on the C2 rower. Even athletes sometimes have a tricky time grasping the concept of the pull, and separating the moves: Legs / Arms/ Back. People are continually trying to improve their rowing “technique”, and all the while their ability to work hard on the rower and the ability to generate power is hampered. On the Airdyne the only thing you need to really focus on is getting the seat high set correctly and then basically you are just asking them to pedal and push and pull… Lesson over. Within a few short minutes, someone can auger themselves right into the ground with an Airdyne.

Advantage: Airdyne

A bacon powered morning rowing effort

A bacon powered morning rowing effort


The price of a brand new C2 rower is anywhere from $850 to $1200. There are some used ones if you check Craigslist, but they get snapped up pretty quickly by CrossFitters. On the other hand you may come across an Airdyne at a garage sale. They have been around for over 30 years and come up quite frequently on Craigslist or Kijiji. I picked up mine or $150 and a buddy picked one up last week for $30. Typically a used one can be anywhere from $150-400. New airdynes range from $300-$1100 depending on the model. Lots of these beauties are still kicking around, but with the increasing popularity of Airdynes in MMA facilities and CrossFit boxes you have to be quick to snap them up.


Advantage : Airdyne


Both of these machines are fantastic because of the fact that the work on them can be quantified on the monitor. Essentially both the C2 and the Airdyne are human polygraph machines where you can’t hide or go through the motions. On both you can really work hard, but the rower requires more skill and proper positioning to really be in a good position to generate power. The other downside of the rower is that effectively it is a “pulling machine” where you are also using your legs. The airdyne is a particularly effective device because of the fact that when your legs get tired you have to use more arms in a pushing & pulling motion. In terms of bang for your buck you can’t beat an Airdyne for warming up for your workout.

The versatility of the Airdyne can’t be matched by the C2 rower. Basically on a rower you can row, with some minor variations, on the Airdyne some people for very creative in using the handles and pedals in various positions to elicit a variety of exercise stimuli. With a C2 rower there is a bit of a rest on the catch, but on an Airdyne, it is all suck, all the time, there is no rest.  I know that I can row on a C2 for an hour, but the thought of spending an hour on the “dyne” is something that nightmares are made of. Remeber the movie “The Princess Bride”, in that movie I think this was the earliest model of the Airdyne.  Video

Advantage: Schwinn Airdyne


Fun Factor


Certain newer models of the rower have the fish game on the monitor. It’s sort of fun, but not really useful for training.

Airdyne: there is nothing fun about the airdyne. Unless you can share the fun with friends. 

Just try it for a minute hard, and try to hang on. The current record for 1 minute at Mark’s Gym is 48 calories. I’m still working on beating it when I can summon the courage to try it again.  Also the seat on the Airdyne really doesn’t make it fun at all. Every cyclist knows that a fatter seat does not equal comfort. Learn how to change your Airdyne seat. 

Advantage : C2 rower


This one is a toss up. Concept 2 rowers have been around since the mid 1980’s and the Schwinn Airdynes have been manufactured for over 30 years with their designs remaining relatively unchanged. The warranty on the Airdynes is stellar for home use. Frame – 30 Years; Parts – 3 Years; Electronics – 3 Years; Labor – 1 Year; Wear Items – 1 Year.  Concept 2 is similar : Concept2 Model D and Model E Indoor Rowers are backed by a limited 2-year and 5-year warranty. I’ve used both extensively and have never had to replace parts on either, or had any problems with either of them.

Advantage: Tie C2 Rower / Airdyne 

 Schwinn Airdyne vs. Concept 2 Rower Conclusion

If you are serious about fitness then you will probably get both of these exercise tools. But if you had to pick just one, or space is an issue, then I’d say get a Schwinn Airdyne. This is a serious tool that can get you fit fast, the learning curve is low, and it works more muscles in different planes than a rower. Don’t just take my word, try it for yourself!

Click here for a list of Airdyne workouts

Click here for a good partner rowing workout

 Concept 2 Rower versus Schwinn Airdyne

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