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Indoor Rowing in Beijing


This week Quiske team was checking out indoor rowing in China, or more specifically in Beijing.

Quiske was invited to the Comb+ Sinotrack three day tech company accelerator and while in Beijing we also did thorough grass root level market research on the indoor rowing market.

When in China...

make sure you're using local maps with correct information! Walking for hours and hours while getting notifications on the phone about air quality we were glancing at the local population for whether we should be wearing masks or not... On the first day we walked about 20km having decided to randomly visit any gyms we just happen to stumble upon by walking through different parts of central Beijing. Not a good strategy: didn’t spot a single gym. Also Google didn’t help us since although we used the Freedome App by F-Secure to break through the firewall, the maps did not show the correct placement of the best rated gyms, which is something we learned the hard way. We then smartened up and learned the word for sports club and typed it into Tencent maps. Suddenly the local map was full of red dots to go and check out.

Looking for gyms in Beijing

There are lots of gyms in Beijing, we just hadn’t found them because the majority of them are hidden insidde residential areas and can be high up in the highrises. On the second day we visited seven different local gyms but our next surprise was the lack of rowing machines. We had a hard time explaining the concept of rowing machines to the gym owners and personal trainers and finally some of them were able to point us to gyms having these machines…

Wild West of Indoor Rowing Machines

We finally found three gyms with one indoor rowing machine each, all of different make. A quick search on Alibaba confirmed what we found in these gyms. There is a very large variety of indoor rowing machines and brands in China and all of these were new to us. We did not find even a single Concept2 while in Beijing. However, we did find different types of magnetic rowers. And by talking to people we found out that many had heard of or had friends who had recently bought themselves a WaterRower, or at least a copy of a WaterRower.

When searching for Concept 2 on Alibaba you get a plethora of different types of rowing machine

Rowing technique measurements at RowClub Beijing

A real diamond amongst the gyms in Beijing is the RowClub Beijing, a small private club on the 28th floor of a skyscraper in a nice district of Soho Beijing. They give classes on WaterRowers focusing on proper rowing technique. Motivational videos of on water rowing at the reception puts one in the mood even if the closest real rowing club is 150 kilometers away. The training room offers spectacular views over the cityscape.

Quiske team spent two hours at the gym measuring clients and assessing rowing technique using our own system.

Based on our discussions with the rowers at the club it seems that the WaterRower is one of the most popular rowing machines in China.

Quiske with the owners of RowClub Beijing

Conclusions on indoor rowing in China

Based on what we heard from many people the indoor rowing market has started growing in China. Individual customers are starting to buy machines of their own. Also there is a large group of people who are interested in and following Crossfit, which of course also helps in making indoor rowing more well known.

We think indoor rowing could be the perfect sport for the people in urban China and here is why :-):

The perfect urban sport. Improves body composition and mental health. Anyone can do it. Low impact but high results. Reduces risk for heart disease

The most important reason to promote indoor rowing specifically in urban China is because it is the perfect sport to do indoors. Most days, at least in Beijing, the air quality is not good and a mask is recommended whenever you go out. Not surprisingly there are no joggers in the city. The good news though is that air quality has been slowly improving. Regulations on pollution are starting to take effect and we noticed an effort of planting more trees into the city. There have been local demonstrations in Beijing which may have spurred politicians to take measures to improve environmental protection. However, in the near future any endurance sport is best done indoors and for that of course indoor rowing offers the most benefits. Indoor rowing can be practiced by anyone no matter age, gender or fitness level. Even if you have some problems with knee or hip joints you can still generally row. The rowing stroke is safe if you do it right.

Pitching rowing technique in Beijing

Since indoor rowing is the perfect sport for urban China the potential market is a big one. That was also our point when pitching to investors at the Comb+ meetup:

The Quiske Virtual Coach can teach anyone proper rowing technique

Anyone can learn to row and enjoy the many health benefits that this sport gives. We do want to do business in China and so if you prefer to read our "Guide on measuring indoor rowing technique" in Chinese you can download it from here:

Happy rowing no matter if you're in China or elsewhere,

Quiske team

PS. We will arrange a webinar on Indoor Rowing technique on November 12th and 14th, ping us if you'd like an invite