Jack’s experiences

Jack, from Portand Oregon, USA, explains his experiences to a potential rowingbike rider in the San Francisco area:

Hi Bill
Derk cc’d me with your latest question and his reply, and I just thought I’d give you my input because I have so much less experience than he does and thought you might want to know how the bike feels to a novice.
I got interested in the rowingbike ten years or more ago. I lived in San Diego and was using a Concept 2 rowing machine because it’s such good exercise, which I wanted to optimize because although I have a reasonably healthy body I don’t really like exercise and wanted to make every minute count.
The Concept 2 is fine, but godawful boring. I thought “gee it would be much less drugery if you could row yourself down the street, like a rowing bicycle or something” and that’s how I found the rowingbike on google.
Of course, there’s the American made ‘row bike’ too, but there’s no comparison between that and the design and construction excellence of Derk’s machines. He’s kind of a mechanical genius.

I bought a 222 CVT model and rode it when I had time, and it was great. Then a couple of years ago I retired, moved to Portland, converted the CVT to a Revolver model, and later also bought the Carbon 209 model, and now I have time to start riding more.

I’m an engineer, and I’ve been thinking and reading about the comparisons between riding a bike and rowing. From what I’ve learned and also felt intuitively, it comes down to something like this; a bicycle is pretty much the most energy efficient mode of human powered vehicle known. You can expend 30 watts of power and choose to walk 3 mph, or to ride a bike at 10 mph. That’s the good part about conventional bicycles. Now, to me, here’s the not so good part. Yes, this is highly energy efficient as a human plus machine system. But what is the effect on the human’s body?
Not so great if one takes into account more than just energy efficiency of the man/machine system. The cyclist is crouching over handlebars, sitting on a hard prop between his legs, overworking his legs and doing no healthy exercise with his back (other than stressing it in one position) or his arms, abdominals, chest, etc.

Rowing the rowingbike, as a HPV system, is slightly less efficient than the bicycle – mostly because of the lag in energy input during the recovery strokes. The efficiency of the stroke itself, however, is very high, due to the attention to detail of the rowingbike’s design…on the power strokes you’re propelling yourself very effectively, and, in my experience, much more enjoyably, than whirling your legs and feet around in a circle on the crank of a bike. The rowingbike has such low friction that on level ground you can take a break after 2 or 3 strokes if you like and just cruise along on momentum for a long way. And the comfortable reclining seating position decreases air drag a lot, which makes the rowingbike especially effective at speeds above 15 mph because you’re not presenting as much frontal area to the wind as you do riding a conventional bicycle. As speed increases, air drag becomes increasingly problematic and energy-robbing on a conventional bicycle.
It’s kind of funny that rowing the rowingbike, once you get a little bit of technique, is much easier and more enjoyable than it looks. People I pass remark that it looks like a workout, and perhaps it is, but their comment surprises me because it doesn’t feel like working out – an activity which to me is onerous – it just feels natural and totally engaging. And when the ride is over, there are no aches and pains, which is a testament to the rowingbike’s perfect use of the human physiognomy. After a ride, you just feel energized and good. But to your question:
The rowingbike can climb any reasonable hill. As for really steep hills, I personally don’t enjoy climbing those on any bike…I don’t like to suffer that much. If I encounter one as part of a ride, it’s something to get through, but not the reason I’m out there. If you’re riding with a group on any moderate route, you’re going to easily be able to cruise along with them on the rowingbike – they’ll probably be envious of you as you recline in the seat on your coasting breaks, at their speed, while they have to pedal continuously to maintain it.

Let me know about any general or specific questions you have – I’d be glad to answer any and all to the best of my ability. I love to ride the bike best and I guess to talk about it second best.
Of course I’d be happy to show you the bike if you are up this way. Also, I visit San Diego in the winter and take the bike with me, and would be happy to drop by on my way south if you like.

Jack Cronk