For a low cost, solidly-built, basic rowing machine, the frugal exerciser could do worse than to try the HCI Fitness Sprint Outrigger Scull Rowing Machine, a compact, steel-framed rowing machine which uses pistons to provide resistance, allowing the user to adjust resistance through 12 different levels.
The machine has both the virtues and the flaws of the piston-rower, including the ability to adjust the tension precisely at the cost of potential piston problems. The rowing arms are set in the outrigger position, which provides a slightly different workout than other types of rowing machines, and requiring a larger exercise footprint (although the arms fold for storage).
All in all, the rower is good introductory machine for the casual or frugal rower.
Dimensions and Weight
When assembled and extended for work, the HCI Sprint Outrigger is wider than it is long, thanks to the scull rowing position of the rowing arms. The machine is about 4.5 feet (55 inches) long, but almost 6 feet (68 inches) wide when set up for use. The height of the machine is 15 inches, but since the seat is mounted high up, getting onto and off of the rower should present few problems.
The weight of the machine is 65 pounds, and it folds into a much small size for storage.
Easy Assembly, 1-Year Warranty
Users report that the machine’s assembly is quick and easy, taking no more than 10 to 15 minutes and requiring no tools save the supplied hex wrenches.
The machine is packed in a single box, so you will not need to track several boxes separately through the mail.
The HCI Outrigger’s construction is nearly all steel, without lightening aluminum but also without flimsy, breakable plastic. There is a one year warranty on all parts, which means that with normal use, the rowing machine is likely to last a minimum of several years.
Seat, Footboards, Weight Capacity
The seat, unusually, slides on two thick steel rods rather than being mounted on a single or double rail with wheels. The seat is comfortable, however, and there are two frontal footboards that can be adjusted for different sizes of user. The footboards pivot slightly to allow the leg to move naturally during the rowing stroke. The weight capacity is a solid but not outstanding 275 pounds.
Resistance – 12 Levels by Piston
Resistance is provided by two pistons, which can be adjusted to 12 different settings of resistance. You will probably not need to worry about the Sprinter Outrigger Scull being too weak for you, for the resistance settings are, by all accounts, not to be considered flabby. Even the lowest setting has quite high resistance, as Brandon May put it in his humorous but informative review, when he stated
"It’s all about the hydraulic pistons, if you do not have a decent amount of muscle (mostly children, hippies and very petite women such as my lovely girlfriend) you might find the resistance even at level one to be a bit much."
Piston Problems with Some Rowers
A minority of users have also reported problems with the pistons themselves.
One user stated that the resistance knobs tend to slip while you are rowing, so that the pistons will end up pulling at different levels of resistance.
Another reported the pistons beginning to squeak, then squeal, then finally bursting while being used in a thirty-minute workout.
By contrast, other users, including Brandon May, who was quoted above, have found the machine to work reliably after weeks or months of heavy, constant use. This suggests that the Outrigger is manufactured to fairly high standards but has somewhat weak quality control, allowing the occasional "lemon" to slip through and be sent to a final customer. The potential buyer should be aware that this possibility exists, and that it does not seem to be inevitable.
A Very Basic Computer Monitor
The computer display of the HCI Fitness Rowing Machine, mounted on the frame between the footboards, is extremely basic, and you should be aware that the data it offers is very limited.
Even the most pleased customers state that the computer monitor is extremely limited and ‘primitive’ by modern standards. Time, stroke count, total strokes, and calories are the only functions it offers, besides several very basic “exercise programs” based on strokes and calories.
There is no heart rate function and a separate device would be needed to track this measurement.
A Few Special Monitor Features
The monitor does have a few positive features as well, however. The numbers displayed on it are large and easy to read, even in fairly dim light (although it lacks a backlight, as is true for many rowing machine monitors). It also stops its measurements when you stop and resumes them at the point where you left off, assuming that it is the same session and the monitor is not switched off in between.
Pros and Cons
- Simulates very well the natural motion of rowing.
- Easy unpacking and set up. No tools required except for the provided wrenches.
- Folds up. Easy to fit under a bed.
- Less expensive but very similar in function than its competitor Kettler Kadett.
- The appearance and design of the machine is not that elegant.
- The foot straps are made of velcro which may wear out relatively fast.
- There is a tendency for the handgrip cushions to slip off.
- Getting the piston resistance balanced has its learning curve. You need to fiddle a little bit with the position of the knobs in order to achieve an equal pressure.
- The resistance of one of the rowing arms tends to weaken as you row and requires that you adjust the knob. As you keep rowing, the hydraulics get hot. The heat changes the resistance of the two arms unevenly calling for readjustment the knobs.
Generally speaking, the HCI Fitness Sprint Outrigger Scull Rowing Machine is a plain, no-frills, low-cost outrigger rowing machine that offers a decent workout at an affordable price. With the simplicity of its monitor and the potential for mechanical problems with the pistons, it is probably not suitable for advanced users.
However, those who only intend to use the machine for casual exercise or at a fairly basic level (without a lot of fancy measurements) will probably find it be a good buy and a good exercise machine. This rower is great if you are looking to engage in some form of aerobic exercise and lose weight. It is a nice way to enjoy these nightly workouts in front of the TV!
As Luke from Kansas city says in his review:
“I would definitely recommend the Sprint. It may not be the highest-end rower out there, but for the money it’s an excellent product and one I expect to get many years of service out of. And with free shipping from Amazon (they said it would be 3 weeks, but I got it in one) you just can’t beat it.”
Best Price and Discount
The best buy on the HCI Fitness Outrigger is to be found on Amazon, which also offers free shipping. Discounted used machines are available as well.