Plenty of people have been pulled into the new fitness trend of indoor rowing. If you’re one of them, you’re probably considering getting for yourself your very own rowing machine at home. There are many benefits to this, not the least of which is not having to wait it out at the gym while the meatheads show off at resistance level 10 on the Concept2 (If you’re smart, you won’t do that).
Unfortunately, most of the top-of-the-line rowers you can see at commercial gyms and fitness centers can be a little too fancy for your budget. After all, a lot of people looking to buy their own exercise machine for the home aren’t really planning to use all those fancy features to win at a rowing competition. That’s why it’s good to have plenty of cheaper options too. Among the best ones, you can't go wrong with the Kettler Favorit.
Kettler is a German firm known for its high-quality bikes and exercise machines, so this rower does have quite a stellar reputation to back itself up. Plus, the Germans are well-known for creating some of the best products in the world. Ever heard of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Audi? Those are some world-class German carmakers there. And what about Leica, Sennheiser, Adidas, and… well, you get the point. The Germans have a reputation for making world-class products, and that includes the Kettler name.
Admittedly, the Favorit model isn’t perfect. If you’re looking for a topnotch rowing machine, you’re better off looking at the Concept2 or WaterRower models. But if your budget doesn’t allow it, the cheaper Kettler Favorit is one of the best you can get. Also, it’s one of the best models that use outrigger type rowing, also known as sculling in elite rowing circles.
In this review, we’ll take a look at the hydraulic resistance used on the Favorit and see how the piston-style rower differs from other kinds of resistance. We’ll also check out the rower’s design and ergonomics so you can see if this is suited to your particular body type.
There’s also the machine’s monitor, which is considered a must by many a serious rower. We’ll see if the monitor in the Kettler Favorit at least lives up to budget-conscious expectations or not. And finally, we’ll see just how easy (or hard) it is to assemble, store, and keep this rower in good shape.
The Kettler brand is pretty much known for building durable products that are built for the long haul, and that does include the Kettler Favorit and other rower models.
If you’re in a hurry, check out the Table of Contents below and go to the appropriate section that you’re most interested in. If not, then let’s dive right into this review.
In a Nutshell...
What We Liked:
- Sculling-type rower with oars to let you move laterally
- Highly durable; can match up to Concept2 in this department
- Hydraulic resistance makes it quieter than a mouse
- Resistance is fairly easy to adjust
- Has 50 resistance levels, plenty enough even for advanced exercisers
- Sealed rollers require little lubrication
- Seat is nicely cushioned and comfortable
- Well-padded rotating handles
- Has inclined rails for extra resistance on the legs
- Compact and lightweight; will fit in a small apartment
- Lifetime warranty on the frame
- Easy to store and maintain
What We Didn't Like:
- Basic monitor can go wonky
- A challenge to assemble because instructions are difficult to understand
Kettler Favorit Piston Hydraulic Resistance
The Kettler Favorit is a piston-type rowing machine, which uses hydraulic resistance to increase or decrease the level of difficulty of your exercise. There are a few moderate advantages to this. First, many piston-type rowers are quieter and smaller, making them a better choice for people who live in small apartments or with others who can’t tolerate the clanging and clashing sounds of an exercise machine.
Piston rowers also tend to be cheaper than air, water, and even magnetic rowers, However, the Kettler Favorit is relatively expensive compared to other hydraulic resistance rowers in the market. In this particular case, the saying “You get what you pay for” still applies. It’s waaay better than other piston rowers of its kind, but could be kind of lacking if you’re trying to compare it with a Concept2 Model D or a WaterRower Natural.
The Kettler Favorit uses two industrial-grade hydraulic pistons that you can adjust by positioning two clamps up and down each oar. You’ll need to adjust resistance separate for each arm, which could be good or bad, depending on your point of view in life.
You could say it’s a good thing, since you have the flexibility of working out one arm more than the other. Or you can say it’s a bad thing, since it’s too much of a hassle to adjust the resistance for different arms.
Thankfully, it’s fairly easy to adjust the resistance. This is not a self-regulated rower, so you’ll have to do a little bit of moving the clamps before you get your desired intensity level. First, you’ll have to loosen the clamps on the oars and move them up and down.
There are 50 levels of resistance on the Kettler Favorit – just enough to allow different people of different fitness levels to work out. Each level is indicated by one knurled marker on the oar. You need to position the clamp over the marker that indicates your desired resistance level.
Keep in mind that there are no notches on the oar, only markers that you can see but not feel when you move the clamp. This may be a little nitpicky, but it would be helpful for people who have vision problems if they could feel where they’re putting the clamps on.
Problems with Kettler Favorit Hydraulic PIstons
Unfortunately, hydraulic pistons are not exactly 100% reliable. Some people have encountered a few issues with the resistance of the Kettler Favorit. One thing that keeps coming up is that some people are having a hard time moving the oars even when they’re set to minimum resistance, as though they’re on the highest resistance level.
The problem really, has more to do with the assembly than resistance. If you’re reading this, be very, very careful to read the rower’s manual thoroughly so you don’t encounter this problem. The solution is simply to push the accordion boot on the oars all the way down to the pivot point. You’ll find that it will all of a sudden become easy to move the oars again.
Another issue that keeps cropping up is some people say it’s too difficult to move the clamps to adjust resistance. This one is very common, but it’s also very easy to resolve this issue. You only have to move the oars upright so that they’re standing up and you can adjust the clamps easily.
Finally, this isn’t an issue that’s specific to the Kettler Favorit but to all piston rowers in general. Hydraulic rowers use a combination of air and oil to produce resistance. After a certain amount of time, the oil will have warmed up and changed its viscosity, thus loosening some of the stiffness in the oars.
In cheaper rowers, you can tell this is an issue. You’ll notice a lag in resistance at certain parts of the stroke. It could be at the catch or at the end of the drive. It varies for different people. However, there aren’t many owners of the Kettler Favorit who have complained about this. The company has gone to good lengths ensuring this doesn’t happen (or at least, not so often) by using industrial-strength pistons for its machines.
Kettler Favorit Quality and Durability
For all the weaknesses of a piston rower, the Kettler Favorit stands out in this department. When it comes to durability, the Kettler Favorit can stand up to the kings and queens of the indoor rowing market. This is where the company really pulled out its big guns to ensure that your rowing machine lasts for a very, very long time. Some people had their rowers for 15 years, just as long as a Concept2 or a WaterRower would last! Now that’s saying something, considering the price of the Kettler Favorit is less than half of those.
The steel frame is constructed from high carbon that is powder coated for an extra layer of protection you don’t get with just paint, or even the wood tint you get on the various models of the WaterRower.
The extreme durability of the Kettler Favorit allows it to sit sturdily and steadily on any kind of surface. You can even put it on top of carpet and it won’t shake, rattle, or roll, thanks to its high-quality craftsmanship, as well as its very low center of gravity. And, unlike other piston rowers, issues of the shocks squeaking or the oil leaking into the floor after a few days of use are extremely rare.
The seat rollers are also topnotch. Another common issue with piston rowers is their cheap, plasticky seat rollers. If you have to buy an exercise machine that’s less than $200, you have no choice but to expect that. However, this is non-existent on the Kettler Favorit. In fact, you’ll have a grand time quietly and smoothly gliding up and down the rail on the seat rollers, which have sealed ball bearings so you don’t have to worry about them needing lubrication in the far future.
The sturdiness of the Kettler Favorit allows it to accommodate up to 285 lbs. in maximum user weight. It’s pretty close to the 300 lbs. maximum on the Concept2 Model D, but nowhere near the 700 lbs. maximum user weight on the WaterRower Natural. This is despite being so compact and relatively light at only 44 lbs., which is around half the weight of its premium counterparts.
Kettler is so confident in this product that it throws in a lifetime warranty for the rower frame. The parts have a shorter warranty of three years, but that’s still plenty of time for the smaller components to conk out if they were cheaply made. When it comes to the durability of this machine, you really can’t go wrong with the Kettler Favorit.
Kettler Favorit Rail and Oars
Like the Stamina Avari, which uses a combination of air and magnetic resistance, the Kettler Favorit has an inclined rail to give your legs a harder workout.
Some people have complained about this rowing machine not providing enough resistance for the legs. But as we have constantly pointed out, rowing is a total-body workout that recruits a lot of power from the legs.
That means, if you don’t feel your legs are getting much of a good workout, you can only chalk it up to two things. First, either you’re such an advanced exerciser that simply using bodyweight exercise no longer has any effect on you. (In that case, you might find the Concept2 Model D, WaterRower, or Lifecore R100 better for your needs.)
Second, and this is more probable, you’re doing it wrong. Rowing experts have taught us time and time again that the key to getting a good workout on the rowing machine is using your legs to drive back at the start of the stroke. Self-paced rowers rely on this principle so that their users will always be able to reach higher and higher levels of resistance as they grow in strength and power through rowing.
There’s no reason the Kettler Favorit is different. If you don’t drive with your legs, you’re not going to feel any resistance at all. And your workout will be isolated to just your core and arms, which isn’t very good since you’re not getting the most out of what you spent for the machine. Plus, the incline will give you an even more difficult workout for the legs, but only if you actually use them during the stroke. (Click here for a more detailed explanation of the rowing technique.)
Another nice thing about the Kettler Favorit is it allows you to move laterally, giving you a larger range of motion than even the more expensive rowers. This is all thanks to the oars, which you can move farther out or inside, whichever you feel like on a given day.
You can, for instance, swing the oars farther outside to exercise your outer back muscles, as opposed to keeping the elbows close to your ribs like on other rowing machines. You can also row using different grips (overhand, underhand, etc.) when you want to specifically focus on various arm muscles. If you have longer legs, you can also push the oars outside to keep them from banging into your knees at the recovery.
The use of sculling-type oars instead of a metal chain or nylon drive belt gives you far more flexibility of movement to suit the needs of various people.
Kettler Favorit Design and Ergonomics
Despite its compact size, the Kettler Favorit was designed to be able to accommodate both tall and short users. The rail is 42 inches from the foot plate to the middle of the seat. This means, give or take 2 inches of allowance, people with an inseam measurement of 40 inches can use this rower and still fully extend their legs at the end of the drive. Shorter people should have no problems either.
The rail incline also makes it easier for tall people or people who have issues stooping down low to sit on the machine. You only have to position the seat at the back of the rail, where it is highest, and get on the seat like you would on a normal chair.
The seat is heavily padded and contoured to provide adequate protection while you row. A rowing machine isn’t a lounge chair, but if you’re forced to sit on a hard, thin seat while you work your glute muscles, you’re prone to chafing and (gasp!) developing blisters on the most unwanted of places. (And trust us, you don’t want that to happen). That’s why you should be happy the Kettler Favorit has a nice, thick seat to go with it.
The handles are padded generously as well. And they also rotate to follow the natural movement of your wrists instead of forcing your skin to bunch up against it. The footplates also move, allowing you to naturally pivot on your ankles as you go up and down. This ability to move your feet slightly helps keep your back upright as you move out to the end of the drive.
Overall, the rower takes up 52 inches in length, a little more than 4 feet, and just 10 inches in width. That’s just less than a foot, as opposed to the usually 2 feet that bigger rowing machines take up.
Kettler Favorit Monitor
The monitor on the rowing machine is like the speedometer in your car. It tells you how fast you’re going so you can decide whether or not to speed up or slow down. Unfortunately, the monitor on the Kettler Favorit isn’t exactly up to par with the quality of the machine’s build.
All in all, it tries to be a basic, decent monitor that displays the data that you need. On this machine, the rower tracks pace per 500 meters (split time), distance rowed, energy (in Kcals or K-joules), total strokes, stroke frequency (otherwise known as stroke rate), and heart rate.
What’s nice about the monitor on this is it comes with its own ear-clip monitor that you can, obviously, clip to your ear so it can count your pulses and register it on the display. Granted, it’s a wired pulse monitor, so you’ll probably have to deal with the cord dangling and potentially tangling among your arms and knees. It’s free though, and nobody hates freebies, so we’ll take it anytime.
If you have a little bit more money for a wireless heart rate monitor, the Kettler Favorit computer comes with an optional T34 Polar chest strap, which you wrap around your chest to get a heart reading and send it wirelessly to the computer. We recommend getting this option for the extra price if you’re not a fan of wires and if you want to track your heart rate as you exercise.
There are many benefits to this. Research shows you get to burn a higher amount of fat when you exercise at a higher heart rate. The Kettler Favorit allows you to input your target heart rate and keep track of it so that you stay there during your desired duration.
Knowing your heart’s recovery time also gives you a reliable idea of how fit you are. The monitor has a recovery feature that rates you on a fitness level of 1 to 6 based on how fast your heart can recover.
You’ll need two AA batteries for these options to work. The monitor will automatically start itself up once you start rowing and will go to sleep when it detects that you haven’t been moving for a few minutes. On sleep, the monitor shows the ambient temperature, which is useful for maintaining the temperature of the oil for the pistons.
You can also set other goals, such as a certain distance or split time, and the rower will give you audio and visual signals to let you know when you’ve achieved your goal, which is pretty cool. Although the rower has a high-resolution LCD display (a rare thing you see even in the bestselling rowers these days), it doesn’t have a backlight, and it’s positioned at the bottom, near your feet.
The lack of a backlight and the positioning isn’t exactly optimal if you’re intent on checking your stats consistently. This makes the audio signals a little bit more useful, especially with people who don’t have very good eyes.
The not so nice thing is that there’s really no way to turn off the monitor manually. It’s always in sleep mode. So unless you actually take out the batteries, the monitor is always turned on and draining away power from the battery. If left inside, the batteries will last for a measly two weeks. A minor inconvenience, yes, but still an inconvenience. And not exactly one that doesn’t cost money.
Also, the monitor is building quite a reputation for being wonky. Some people say the monitor worked well. However, others say sometimes it would turn on, sometimes it wouldn’t. it just seems to turn itself on when it wants and just stay in sleep mode when it doesn’t.
At this point, you may have found your deal-breaker. If you want to take rowing seriously, at least as an exercise that you would like to do for a regular period of time in the future, you’re going to have to figure out at least your split time and stroke rate in some way. And a monitor that turns on only when it wants to is not going to help you with that.
However, a lot of people who are only looking to exercise to get fit and stay fit often find that they don’t really need the monitor. It is extremely useful, yes. And we personally would like to have the monitor around. But if you’re not very fussy about not knowing how many meters you’ve rowed (since you can tell by how you feel that you’ve gotten a good workout), then it’s okay to overlook the monitor. Just keep in mind, that if you want to move to more advanced levels, a monitor will be essential.
Kettler Favorit Assembly, Storage, and Maintenance
Rowing machines have a reputation for being a breeze to assemble, compared to other types of exercise machines. Relatively, putting together the Kettler Favorit is far easier than, say, a stair climber or a treadmill.
But you’ll soon find out that the Kettler Favorit is one of the more complicated rowers out there. The main culprit is really in the instructions. It’s not that Kettler doesn’t try to make it easy for its customers. Believe us, they do. The manual even has a lot of pictures and diagrams to help you make sense of what to do.
Plus, the instructions come in several languages, including English and German, so you can see Kettler is actually putting in some effort here. (If you can’t find the instructions in English, look for the one that’s labelled GB for Great Britain. It’s right under G for Germany.)
The problem really is all about the clarity of instructions. Sometimes, it isn’t clear which nuts and bolts go where, or if some of them actually go somewhere at all. It also isn’t clear which of the oars go where. Because when unattached, they look practically the same. The only difference is that the hole where the head of the bolt goes – that’s the bigger hole – should face the inside, nearer the frame.
A lot of people don’t have trouble with the instructions, though, and we’re only speaking for those with virtually zero experience assembling something. It could take you up to two hours to take a really good look at the diagrams and put everything together, but a lot of people also finish assembly in less than half an hour.
All in all, all of the major components are already pre-assembled. What you’ll need to do is to put together the oars, legs, and the foot pedals. You’re also given most of the tools to put the entire thing together, although you’ll need to have a Philips screwdriver handy.
Storing the Kettler Favorit is not overly complicated. You simply have to fold the oars down so that they lay flat next to the frame. The machine doesn’t fold like other rowers, and it doesn’t have wheels you can use to roll it into place. But remember that this is much, much smaller and lighter than other rowers. You can easily carry it into its storage corner and stand it upright against the wall.
Maintenance is also undemanding. The only thing you need to do is to wipe sweat off the machine after use. Sweat is made up of body salts, and these can cause the machine to rust over time. Also, from time to time, you need to drop viscous oil to the bearing sleeves of the hydraulic absorbers and the rowing levels. This keeps them in fine working condition and provide the same amounts of resistance as before.
Kettler Favorit Buying Options
The Kettler Favorit is available for purchase in various stores, but usually, Amazon provides the best prices for exercise machines. It’s also protected by Amazon’s reputation for being the most reliable retailer online. Plus, you often get free shipping on Amazon for high-ticket items such as a rowing machine.
That alone makes it a good deal for us, since you’re sure to pay a hefty fee for having something as bulky as an indoor rowing shipped to your doorstep.
Your purchase also includes Kettler’s lifetime warranty for the frame and three-year warranty for other components.
Verdict: Is the Kettler Favorit Right for You?
For a certain kind of user, the Kettler Favorit is the best choice for them. If you are new to exercising at home or even to rowing indoors, and you’re intrigued at what this can do for you, the Kettler Favorit could be the right beginner’s rowing machine for you.
It’s a piece of high-quality, durable equipment that will last for several years, even when you feel like you’re ready to get a more advanced exercise machine. It uses piston hydraulic rowers to provide 50 levels of resistance, which should be more than enough to help you get healthy and stay healthy, although that’s probably not going to be enough if you’re a professional athlete or an elite exerciser who’s always looking to push your boundaries.
The design of the Kettler Favorit accommodates people of many body types and sizes, from children in their early teens to adults who weigh up to 285 lbs. and/or have a height of around 6 ft., 4 in.
Admittedly, Kettler could have done more with its monitor, but many people find it okay for their purposes. For the rower’s price, it’s amazing that it even comes with its own ear-clip pulse monitor (wired, not wireless) at no additional cost. So if you’re looking forward to tracking your heart health without the extra cost of a heart rate monitor, the Kettler Favorit is your answer right there.
It’s simply the best you can get in its category. If you want, you can move on to the Concept2 or WaterRower in the future, but the Kettler Favorit is, all in all, the little rowing machine that could.
Is the Kettler Favorit not right for you? Check out our comprehensive list of the best indoor rowers this 2017 to help you find a rowing machine that suits your budget and preferences.