We put the CityRow Go Max to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Keep reading for our full product review.
People hate me for saying this, but cardio is my happy place. On most days, I’d much rather crank out a 30-minute HIIT session or a dance cardio class than downward dog my way through yoga or pulse my way through barre. But somewhere in-between all those jump squats and plank jacks, I started to develop a nasty little case of shin splints. My physical therapist friend—who happens to be a member of the Byrdie Beauty & Wellness Review Board—advised that I try incorporating more low-impact cardio into my fitness routine, like swimming, speed-walking, and rowing.
As a New Yorker, I was already (practically) a professional speed-walker and had zero access to swimming pools—but what I did have access to was a rowing studio just a few blocks up called CityRow. I fell in love with the energy of the classes right away—the enthusiastic instructors, the sleek machines, and the killer sweat. But part of me—the lazy part of me that hates commuting—wished there was a way to recreate the rowing experience at home. So when CityRow offered to let me take its CityRow Go Max—an at-home rowing machine—for a spin, I didn’t hesitate.
Curious if the CityRow Go Max lives up the hype? Read my full review, ahead.
TYPE OF EQUIPMENT: Rowing machine
FITNESS LEVEL: Beginner to expert
CLASSES INCLUDED: On-demand (and soon to launch live) rowing, yoga, HIIT, and more
PRICE: $2,195 (includes delivery and installation) for machine, $29/month for classes
INCLUDED: Rowing machine with built-in tablet, delivery, and installation
What Is the CityRow Go Max?
Inspired by CityRow’s chain of boutique fitness studios, the CityRow Go Max is a sleek, at-home rowing machine that includes a massive tablet (19.5″) loaded with virtual classes for every fitness level.
After founder Helaine Knapp saw success with her group fitness classes, she started to chew on the idea of creating the at-home rower. “I’ve lived in a studio apartment for way too long, so I wanted to create something that would take up a fraction of the space and be a very efficient workout,” she says. “By efficient, I mean less time for more results—because that’s what CityRow is all about.”
And thus, the CityRow Go Max was born. Whether you’re brand new to rowing or a seasoned pro, there’s something for everyone here, from 10-minute quickies to teach you basic form and function, to 45-minute structured rows, to the machine’s “free-rowing” feature for those that know what they’re doing and just want to zen out.
The Design: Sleek and sturdy
Everything you hear about New York is true—the apartments are small. Tiny. Miniscule. So when it comes to exercise equipment, thoughtful design with zero frills is essential to me. The CityRow does not disappoint. This is an incredibly sleek, lightweight machine—and every square inch is intentional. At 83.5″ long, you definitely need to carve out some space for this beauty, but it’s still incredibly compact for a rower. It also folds down and can be stored vertically when it’s not in use, which means you can stow it away in a tall closet or slide it under your bed if it’s elevated.
When the installers first showed me how to fold the machine, I immediately thought to myself that I’d just be leaving it out in the middle of my living room 24/7—why deal with the hassle? But it’s actually extremely easy to fold and tip into the vertical position. I’m 5’1″ and can do it by myself without any fear of it falling over or hurting me.
That, and the CityRow still manages to feel unbelievably sturdy. When I’m rowing, the machine never wobbles or shakes. The seat feels A) comfortable, but B) locked into place. No matter how fast I’m moving, there’s never any concern that it’s going to go off-kilter or shake from the pressure. I even had my Dad—who is 6’5″ and can row much faster than me—take it for a spin and he agreed that the CityRow Go Max is a solid, secure piece of equipment. We both also waxed poetic about the flywheel; it’s filled with water for resistance and makes the most delightful whooshing noise that makes you feel like you’re really in a rowboat cutting through the current. (Just be aware that you’ll have to treat the water with some sanitizing tablets every once in a while, or the water will start to turn a little green.)
The Workouts: Rowing and beyond
Yes, this is a rowing machine—but that doesn’t mean you’re confined to rowing classes. Just lay out your yoga mat or a few free weights and enjoy the hundreds of HIIT, yoga, and strength-training courses that the CityRow machine offers.
But unsurprisingly, you’ll find that most classes are in the rowing category (it is a rower, after all). There are literally thousands of on-demand options (with new classes every week) that span the full fitness spectrum, and in the next month or so, you’ll officially be able to tune in to live classes on your CityRow Go Max 30+ times per week.
I started with 10-minute classes focused on teaching you the proper form and function, as well as the benefits of rowing, then worked my way up to longer, more advanced classes that focus more on fun, interval-style sweat sessions than hands-on instruction. “I always recommend that customers try the basic classes first so they can really lock down their form,” says Knapp. “Just the smallest adjustments can really engage your core and take your workout to the next level.”
I’ve tried classes taught by most of the CityRow instructors, and they’re all extremely enthusiastic, fun, knowledgable, and body-positive (there’s no “earning your meals” or punishing tones here). But if structured classes aren’t your thing, feel free to turn on your TV or blast your favorite music and enjoy the machine’s “free rowing” feature—which will track your reps, heartbeat, and more without the guidance of an instructor.
FYI, it’s $29/month to have access to the full suite of classes (which is really affordable compared. to other rowers and fitness machines that retail closer to $49/month), but the “free rowing” feature is free.
Installation: You won’t lift a finger
I consider myself to be a fairly capable person, but technology just isn’t my strong suit. So luckily, CityRow offers a full white glove delivery and installation service included in the cost of your machine. The team not only delivered the machine to my door, but actually set it up in the exact spot where I wanted it in my apartment. They walked me through all the bells and whistles, showed me how to fold and unfold the machine, and answered every single question I had without making me feel rushed. They took extreme care to make sure I fully understood the ins and outs of my CityRow Go Max—I didn’t have to do a thing.
And this is such a small detail, but the team even wore little slip-on covers over their shoes and cleared all of the packaging from my apartment after they were finished setting up the machine. It seems insignificant, but it was so meaningful to me that they wanted to leave no trace—except for the machine of course. It was next-level care and thoughtfulness.
In general, rowing is considered a safe, low-impact exercise. But as always, you should speak to your physician before you start a new exercise routine—especially if you have a pre-existing condition, and especially if you’re investing in a piece of equipment. The machine should always be turned off when not in use, and whether you store it vertically or horizontally, keep it far, far away from your children and/or pets. (It’s a good idea to keep it in a locked room if you have young children or pets.)
Similar Products: You have options
CityRow Go: If the tablet on the CityRow Go Max isn’t a priority for you, then the original CityRow Go is most likely a better fit. The machine features the same lightweight, sleek design sans the monitor. Instead, there’s a place to secure your own phone or tablet so you can still take classes through the CityRow Go app (and you’ll save $700).
Hydrow Rower: The Hydrow is about $100 more expensive than the CityRow Go Max and features a slightly larger screen (22″ vs 19.5″), but the design isn’t quite as sleek. It’s still a great, popular machine if you have the space to spare.
If you’re looking for an efficient, compact rower—CityRow Go Max is the one. The machine offers a mix of on-demand (and soon to launch live) classes to fit any schedule, and features a thoughtful, lightweight design.