First Degree Fitness Viking II Black Reserve Water Resistance Rower

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Viking 2 Black Reserve

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300 lbs54.5 lbsWater,
4 levels
Frame: 5 years
Parts: 3 years
Wear: 2 years

The First Degree Fitness Viking II Black Reserve isn’t too much different from the Viking II AR that we’ve previously reviewed here. It weighs slightly less, though, and features black painted side rails. It’s definitely a heavy-duty piece of fitness equipment and delivers the workout conditions required by an Olympic level athlete.

Technical Details and Specifications

  • Assembled dimensions: 84L x 22W x 21H inches (213L x 56W x 54H cm)
  • Assembled weight: 54.5lbs (24.7 kg) w/o water; 71.5 lb (32.4 kg) w/ water
  • Supported weight: 300 lbs (136 kg)
  • Frame: Wood (American Ash)
  • Footrests: Adjustable, with straps
  • Resistance: 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 / Parts 3 years / Wear parts 2 years

Frame construction

The FDF Viking II Black Reserve fluid rower features an American Ash wood frame with a luxurious finish and metallic fixtures. The front section that hosts the water tank and the rear board that connects the two rails have a natural color finish. The side rails have a black finish, with the Viking 2 logo sticker.

The fully assembled machine is fairly large. It takes 84″L x 22″W (213 x 56 cm) of floor space. To these dimensions, it is recommended to add at least two feet of clearance on each side and at the rear of the unit, in order to have plenty of access and usage space.

On the other hand, the rower can be stored vertically. It can rest on its front rubber stabilizer and wheels. Also, the transport wheels attached to its front base facilitate its relocation.

The FDF Viking II Black Reserve rower isn’t extremely heavy. Its net weight is approx. 54.5 lbs (24.7 kg). However, considering that its tank has a maximum fill capacity of approx. 4.5 gallons (17 liters), with the tank filled to its maximum, the whole unit should weigh around 71.5 lbs (32.4 kg). In case you’re wondering, the water can remain in the tank when the rower is stored vertically.

The machine’s rails are fairly long. They provide enough travel for the seat in order to accommodate users up to 6’7″ (201 cm). Both the rails and the seat’s construction are durable enough to support users up to 300 lbs (136 kg).

Last but not least, the rail runners (the beams on top of the side rails) are made if heavy-duty nylon material. This comes with several advantages. They produce much less noise than metallic rails, during rowing. Also, the gliding surface is also much tolerating with any small particles that may fall on it. As opposed to that, if the gliding beams of a rower are metallic, even the slightest dirt particle fallen on it will result in bumps and clicks during rowing.

Seat and other parts

The First Degree Fitness Viking II Black Reserve rowing machine features a sturdy seat, which combines wooden, steel and ABS elements. Its side panels are made of the same Ash wood as the rest of the unit. Its top features a contoured and textured surface, designed to prevent the user from sliding off during rowing. It does not have any cushioning, though. The top part, the side wooden panels, and the wheels are held together by a set of solid steel rods.

The seat is equipped with eight wheels. Four of them are placed on top of the rails, while the other four are on the inner section of the rails, with the purpose of adding stability to the seat. The wheels integrate high-grade, sealed ball bearings and have a rubber outer shell in order to provide a very smooth and quiet seat travel.

The rower’s footrests are adjustable. They’re designed to accommodate athletic footwear of all sizes. They also have heel guards and velcro straps, offering all the stability required. They do not offer the possibility to pivot your feet during rowing, like the ones on the Stamina X 35-1442. However, the angle of the board is 45°, the optimal angle required for rowing.

The machine is equipped with an ergonomic, flattened handle, with a slight curvature towards the user. Therefore, it provides a more natural hand positioning, reducing the stress on your wrists. It’s attached to a heavy-duty nylon strap, which is designed to last for many years of use. It also does not require any lubrication and generates less vibration than a chain drive, like the one on the Concept2 Model E or D.

Water tank and resistance

This First Degree Fitness rowing machine includes the same patented, 4-level water tank, as the Apollo Pro II or the Newport AR. As we’ve mentioned above, it has a capacity of 4.5 gallons (17 liters), and in order to be functional, it requires to hold a water quantity between 2.3 and 4.5 gal (9 – 17 liters).

The tank is divided into two chambers. One is the “active chamber”, the other is the “storage chamber”. There is a dial with 4 levels on top of the tank which offers the possibility to move water from the storage chamber into the active chamber in order to get a higher overall resistance output, and vice-versa. The tank integrates a 3-blade metallic impeller which spins into the active chamber as you pull the handle, generating resistance.

Just as any other fluid rower, the FDF Viking II Black Reserve offers a dynamic response. In other words, if you pull faster, the impeller will also spin faster into the water tank, generating more resistance. This being said, the resistance output is strictly related to your stroke rate.

With the tank at its maximum (4.5 gal) fill, and with the water level dial set to “MAX”, the rower generates a consistent resistance output, great for users who want to train at an Olympic level, or for users who want to achieve a high cardiovascular activity.

The tank does not have a drain installed, but the box includes a siphon pump which allows you to easily fill or empty the tank. Several chlorine pills for water treatment are also included with the rower.


The First Degree Fitness Viking II Black Reserve is equipped with an advanced console which also has 4 levels, so you can correlate it with the resistance level selected on the water tank to benefit from more accurate readings. It uses 2 AA batteries (which are not included), and has an 8-window display which tracks time, 500M time, distance, strokes per minute, calories per hour, wattage and pulse.

The machine is not equipped with any pulse sensors. Therefore, in order to benefit from a pulse reading, you have to opt for a wireless chest strap (sold separately).

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.

The computer 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.

Last but not least, the rower’s computer unit features a USB function. This allows it to connect it to a PC via USB cable, in order to work with various First Degree Fitness apps, such as the Fluid Coach and NetAthlon 2 XF. These apps give you the possibility to save and track your workout data online or to compete with other rowers.

Assembly and Maintenance

The front frame section with the water tank and footrests comes pre-assembled. Therefore, the assembly only requires you to connect the two rails, add the seat, the console, and finally connect the rail assembly to the front part with the tank. This shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. All the necessary tools are included, and the manual provides very clear assembly instructions.

For maintenance, the rail guides should be kept clean to prevent damage to them. The water inside the tank should be periodically treated with a chlorine pill. Other than this, it is also recommended to periodically check for loose parts, and re-tighten them if it’s the case.

The Pros

  • Luxurious design, which can also be a motivation factor;
  • Durable frame – can support users up to 300 lbs (136 kg);
  • Can be stored in an upright position;
  • Easy to handle and transport;
  • Water resistance system, providing the most natural rowing feel that you can get;
  • Dual-chamber water tank, with 4 distinctive 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;
  • Rower for users of all levels;
  • Little maintenance required;
  • Easy to assemble;
  • Excellent warranty.

The Cons

  • A chest strap transmitter for pulse monitoring is not included with the unit.


The First Degree Fitness Viking II Black Reserve is a water resistance rower featuring a 4.5 gal tank with 4 tension levels. It has a beautiful wooden frame design with long rails in order to accommodate tall users. It includes an advanced console which is compatible with several rowing apps. In all, it’s an excellent fitness machine for users of all levels, great for a full-body cardio workout, stamina and strength development, muscle toning and weight loss.

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