by Rhian Hunt
Having used an exercise bicycle as the first step in recovering my muscle tone after a major teenage illness and surgery, I understand first-hand how effective this exercise equipment is at building fitness and increasing the vigor of several different muscle groups.
Like rowing, bicycling involves many of the body’s muscles, especially those of the back, and, also like rowing, it provides a smooth, constant, largely impact-free mode of exercise that is easy on the joints.
Rowing has many of the same traits. However, although both involve much of the body in each motion, bicycling is focused on the legs and hips, while rowing is focused on the arms, shoulders, and back. It is simply a matter of the fact that the muscles that are used most directly to carry out the exercise are also those which will be most heavily developed.
Some innovative designers have taken two separate kinds of exercise machine and blended them to create a product that provides several different types of workout in a single device. These machines are meant to give the user the opportunity for a well-rounded exercise or weight-loss session by letting them carry out several different exercises without switching machines – or needing to purchase and find room for other machines.
A quality-made, interesting entry in this “hybrid exercise” market is the Stamina 15-9003 Conversion II Recumbent/Rower, a machine that not only allows bicycling and rowing with different configurations, but also several strength training exercises, such as bicep curls and leg extensions.
With this machine in your home, you can switch in a matter of moments from bicycling to rowing and back again – from some of the best impact-free exercise that the land has to offer, to impact-free exercise developed as a seafaring skill in the days before engine-driven ships, without leaving the comfort of your livingroom.
Sleek and Adaptable – How the Stamina 15-9003 Shapes Up
The Stamina Conversion II Recumbent/Rower consists of a large frontal housing which contains both the flywheel for the recumbent exercise bike function and the rowing machine mechanism. Foot-pedals are mounted on the sides of this housing, and the handle for rowing exercises is located at the top rear. A sturdy but lightweight aluminum rail extends behind the frontal housing, and mounts a sliding seat with a backrest and foam padding. There is also a monitor which allows the user to track a variety of useful exercise information.
The combination recumbent and rower is about 6 feet long when fully extended, although the aluminum rail that accounts for over half of the length can be folded vertically for storage. Thanks in part to the light weight of the aluminum beam, the entire machine weighs only 102 pounds, which is less than some other exercise equipment that offers comparable performance.
The aluminum part is a one-piece extrusion, meaning that there are no weak points in it where the stress of use might eventually loosen seams or shear off bolts, and the rest of the machine is built of steel. There is a three-year warranty on the frame and 90 days on the parts.
Versatility is the greatest strength of the Stamina Conversion II 15-9003, and the machine delivers admirably on this promise in most regards. The seat can accommodate a rowing motion, sliding easily and almost noiselessly on well-machined ball bearings, and is also convenient for leaning back and extending the legs for recumbent bike pedaling. The foot pedals for the bicycling mode are extra-large and grip the soles of the shoes well, and include foot-straps, ensuring a comfortable and secure pedaling experience, while the seat is sturdy enough to give ample support to the back.
Pros and Cons
Magnetic Resistance: A Great Advantage Over Other Machines
Resistance is provided magnetically, meaning that although the Conversion II Recumbent/Rower needs power to run, there is no mechanical brake pad to wear out or squeal noisily at higher exercise settings. This is a very useful feature.
Speaking from my own experience with a mechanical-resistance bike in my teenage years, the mechanical resistor is far inferior to the magnetic one. The pad inevitably wears and the resistance becomes uneven and jerky, which, in turn, wrenches and jars the joints, while the scraping, screeching sound of the worn pad on the flywheel quickly attains the status of noise pollution. The Stamina Conversion II spares its users these problems with its effective, quiet, wear-resistant magnetic flywheel.
Eight levels of resistance can be set for exercise on the Stamina 15-9003. Oddly, the resistance is not set with keys on the monitor pad, but by using a dial knob. However, the knob is still highly convenient, and some users have noted that its textured edge makes it easy to change resistance even with sweaty hands.
The flexibility of the Conversion II’s many exercise options does not end there, although it should be noted that it is possible to switch back and forth instantly between rowing and bicycling. A resistance cord and resistance bar also let you do bicep curls, forearm curls, light leg presses, leg extensions, and several other strength-building exercises.
Finally the Stamina 15-9003 Recumbent/Rower’s monitor provides an assortment of different information that allows the user to track their progress, aim for their goals, ensure that they are remaining within safe limits, and develop their own exercise program. The monitor shows pulse rate, calories expended, distance, time, and speed, in large, easy-to-read numbers. The pulse sensors are located in the handgrips mounted beside the seat.
As I just mentioned above, the only heartbeat sensors in the Stamina Conversion II are located in the small hand-grips mounted on the sides of the seat. This is something of a drawback for two reasons.
One is that these hand-grips are held only when the machine is being used as a recumbent bike – so it is impossible to use the built-in pulse sensor for monitoring heart rate while rowing.
The other is that hand-grip sensors are much less reliable than belt sensors, so it would have increased the machine’s usefulness if the option to use a belt sensor was at least supported.
These flaws are too minor to cancel out the many excellent features of the Stamina Conversion II, but they are oversights on the designers’ part which will hopefully be corrected in later models.
There is some space for improvement in the Stamina 15-9003 Recumbent/Rower’s design in a few other areas as well. The angle of the seat-back cannot be changed, the monitor’s display has no backlight (so some outside light source is needed to read the exercise statistics tracked there), and outrigger-style rowing is not supported.
The Stamina Conversion II is excellent in many ways – the convenience of two impact-free exercise modes combined into one device, the sturdiness of its construction, its affordable price, and the provisions for comfortable use – but there are a few small problems which should have been ironed out by the manufacturer.
Where can you buy the Stamina Conversion II Recumbant/Rower?
Although several websites offer the Stamina 15-9003 at a discount over the suggested retail price, Amazon has one of the lowest, as well as being fast and reliable.