First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR Rower

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The First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR is almost identical to the FDF Daytona Challenge model. It basically has the same type of water tank and frame design, the main difference between the two machines being the color of the front part of the frame. It’s a durable rower designed for home use.

Technical Details and Specifications

  • Assembled dimensions: 77.8L x 20.9W x 20.1H inches (197L x 53W x 51H cm)
  • Assembled weight: 55 lbs (25 kg) w/o water; 92.5 (42 kg) with water
  •  Weight capacity: 300 lbs (136 kg)
  • Frame: Aluminum / steel / acrylic combo
  • Footrests: Adjustable, with straps
  • Resistance type: Water, adjustable (4 levels)
  • Fitness computer: Time, distance, strokes per minute, watts, calories/hour, 500m split time, HR capable, USB port
  • Warranty: Frame 5 years / Tank and seals 2 years / Mechanical 2 years / Wear parts 1 year

Frame construction & parts

The First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR rowing machine combines aluminum, steel, and acrylic parts in its construction. The front part of the frame which sustains the water tank is made of steel. This also stands for the small rear stabilizer. The seat’s rail, however, is made of heavy-duty anodized aluminum. This material not only is highly resistant to corrosion, it also promotes a very smooth movement for the seat.

The seat rail is rated for a user weight capacity of 300 lbs (136 kg). It’s long enough to accommodate users up to 6’7″ (201 cm), allowing a full and healthy leg extension.

The seat features a contoured top and a thin layer of padding for optimal comfort. It rests on a durable steel frame which integrates Delrin® low friction rollers with highly durable ball bearings. The rollers are concealed to maximize safety. In case you’re wondering, the seat is approx. 14″ (35 cm) wide. Also, its top is situated at approx. 13″ (33 cm) above floor level. Therefore, entry and exit shouldn’t be too difficult.

This First Degree Fitness rowing machine is equipped with a set of size-adjustable footrests. They feature rear guards and straps so you can perfectly stabilize your feet during rowing. Their angle is non-adjustable, though. They are attached to a metallic plate with an angle of approx. 45° which is optimal for foot positioning during rowing.

The machine is fairly large, especially lengthwise. It’s 77.8″ (197 cm) long and 20.9″ (53 cm) wide. It’s also recommended to allow at least two feet of clearance on each side and at the rear for safe operation. But on the other hand, the unit can be stored vertically, resting on the front metallic guard of the water tank. When stored in vertical position, its footprint is reduced to 20.1″ x 20.9″ (51 x 53 cm). Also, the water can remain inside the tank when the unit is stored vertically.

In terms of weight, the unit is approx. 55 lbs (25 kg) without water in the tank. The water adds approx. 37.5 lbs (17 kg), so the trainer with a full tank of water weighs approx. 92.5 lbs (42 kg). This weight adds stability, though. Plus, the rear stabilizer features rotating polygonal caps which can serve as levelers.

Despite its weight, the machine can easily be moved especially when it’s already assembled. Its front base features two small wheels which facilitate its relocation.

The FDF Pacific Challenge AR is equipped with a slightly curved pulling handle. The curvature promotes a natural hand positioning and reduces the stress on the wrists. The handle is also covered by a layer of rubber foam material to provide a comfortable and secure grip.

As opposed to the Concept2 rowers, this machine features a nylon strap drive, not a chain drive. This nylon strap is designed to withstand wear and tear. It also generates less vibration than a chain and doesn’t require lubrication.

Last but not least, this rowing machine features a gray paint finish. The steel parts are double-coated with a corrosion resistant paint, while the aluminum rail has its own natural polish.

Water tank & resistance system

As opposed to the WaterRower models, the First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR features an adjustable water tank. It is divided into two chambers, the “storage” chamber and the “active” chamber. There’s a dial on top of the tank with four levels of adjustment. This dial allows the water to be transferred from one chamber to the other, increasing or decreasing the overall resistance. For example, if you set the dial to the lowest setting, 3/4 of the water will move to the storage chamber, leaving the active chamber with only 1/4 of water which results in the lowest resistance. Conversely, the 4th “gear” generates a level of resistance similar to the one required by Olympic level athletes.

The rower’s water tank is made of heavy-duty polycarbonate material. It has a capacity of 4.5 gal (17 l). It’s recommended to be filled with a minimum of 2.3 gal (9 l) of water. It features a 3-blade impeller attached to a bungee cord which facilitates its recovery.

Like most rowing machines with a water resistance system, the FDF Pacific Challenge AR offers a dynamic response during rowing. In other words, the fastest you pull, the more resistance the impeller will generate. This results in a sensation similar to rowing a real boat through water. Also, the impeller doesn’t generate a high level of noise when rotating into the tank. Most users have described the sound generated as being “soothing”.

Exercise meter

The FDF Pacific Challenge AR fluid rower is equipped with a fitness meter similar to the one of the Newport model. It has quite a few extra features over the average basic unit. To begin with, it is equipped with a large LCD display which is divided into several sections, so you can see all the workout metrics at once. It indicates time, 500m/time, distance, strokes per minute, distance, calories per hour, watts, and pulse.

The unit has four level settings; it’s recommended to select the level that corresponds to the selected level on the water tank. For example, if the tank is set to level 3, you should also select level 3 on the console. This way, it can calculate your statistics accurately.

The meter unit is telemetric. It can track your pulse via a wireless HR chest strap transmitter. However, an HR chest strap is not included.

For distance, the computer offers the possibility to add 1000m for each press of the larger button. Also, this button covers the unit’s reset function. By holding it down for 3 sec., the unit will reset. It’s powered by 2x AA batteries, which are included. Also, it auto-pauses 5 sec. after ceasing the activity on the rower. It also automatically shuts down after 5 minutes of inactivity, all the values being reset to zero.

The unit also has a USB function. Its USB port allows you to connect it to a PC via cable in order to work with various First Degree Fitness online apps. This way, you can track your progress online and even compete with other users.

Assembly & Maintenance

The trainer’s water tank comes pre-assembled and attached to the front steel frame. Therefore, you only need to attach the rail, the seat, and the rear stabilizer. This shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. Once the unit is assembled, fill the tank with water and it should be ready for use. The manual provides clear assembly instructions and set up instructions for the console. Also, all the tools required for the assembly part are included.

For maintenance, it is recommended to treat the water inside the tank with chlorine pills. Several chlorine pills are included with the machine, which should suffice for several years of use. Other than this, it is recommended to periodically inspect the machine for loose bolts and parts.

The Pros

  • Sturdy frame – can support users up to 300 lbs (136 kg);
  • Superior aesthetics, aluminum and steel frame;
  • Can be stored vertically, and the water doesn’t require to be removed for storage;
  • The rail is long enough to accommodate users up to 6’7″ (201 cm);
  • Easy to handle and transport;
  • Water resistance system, providing the most natural rowing feel that you can get;
  • Dual-chamber water tank, with 4 distinct water resistance levels;
  • Contoured, ergonomically designed seat;
  • Advanced, 8-panel fitness computer, that tracks time, 500m time, pulse, distance, strokes per minute, calories per hour and watts;
  • USB connection, for online workout data tracking, or competing with other rowers;
  • Smooth and quiet operation;
  • Little maintenance required;
  • Easy to assemble;
  • Excellent warranty package.

The Cons

  • No LED backlight on the console;
  • No HR chest strap.

Bottom Line

The First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR is a fluid rower equipped with an adjustable water tank and mid-range console with online connectivity. It’s a durable trainer, its rail and seat can support users up to 300 lbs. It features an ergonomic seat, adjustable footrests, and can also be stored vertically. It’s a great machine for full-body cardio training, stamina development, muscle toning, and weight loss. It’s not one of the most affordable rowers but does offer an excellent value for the price.

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