Openergo - a self-build open-source rowing machine

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The ergometer (rowing machine) shown in the photographs above is the latest in a series of designs developed by people who have become involved in the project. This one is made from plywood, other models are made from solid timber, angle iron - and even bamboo. All of the instructions for making them are available free by contacting me, Jim Flood at [email protected]

To see a short video of me being interviewed by the BBC sports reporter John Inverdale, go to

 The idea for this project originated during a series of rowing coaching course I ran in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria where imports such as rowing machines are taxed, effectively doubling the cost.

The aim is to develop a low-cost rowing machine that will be accessible to countries, organisations, clubs or individuals who cannot afford the machines that are commercially available. A further aim is to encourage youth organisations, vocational training schools and young entrepreneurs to make and sell these.

Rowing machines are now an essential part of the equipment used to develop rowing. They are used for developing good technique, for fitness and for use when conditions on the water make rowing risky. Indoor Rowing, that is using rowing machines for competitions is now a sport in its own right with thousands competing at national events and over the Internet. See:

The cheapest machines available commercially cost around £150 and the best around £1200. The aim of this project is to develop a design that can be made using basic DIY skills for a cost of £25. The aim is NOT to replace the Concept II but to provide an entry level machine that can used for fitness and competition.

The design principles will be based on those of Appropriate Technology, that is the construction, material and skills required are limited to what is available locally. In this case the specification is limited to what is available locally in Kampala, Uganda.

The title Openergo reflects the Open Source software movement. This provides software that is freely available for use, but also to be modified and improved. The best Open Source software now rivals the best commercially available software. For example, I'm using the  Ubunto operating system on my PC, not Microsoft Windows 7, Vista or XP.

These ideas for rowing machines are freely available with the aim that contributors will build prototypes, improve the design and share their ideas - and develop a rowing machine to rival the best.

One interesting development should be the development of a low-cost FES rowing machine. These are machines adapted to be used by people with spinal injuries. 

This project should be of interest to you if want a rowing machine for your own use, you would like to have more available for your own club or you are a DIY enthusiast or engineer who is keen to use your skills to help others.How about getting a group together to build and test one?

The green machine above was built by Philip Borg using 

recycled wood pallets.

Links to videos contributed by builders of Openergos: (This was build by Jorg within 13 days of receiving the instructions)      (slotted angle iron version. Updated instructions now available).  (the bamboo special by David and Sharon Filbeck who are based in Thailand)  (A belt drive model by Tim Abbott) (Build by Jack Owako of Kenya who had the brilliant idea of using bicycle hubs as rollers for the seat) (Alex Romero)  (by German Delucca of Argentina (a TV interview in French by Alan McCullagh)  (a video of the rope drive system)  (a video of the belt drive system)  A further improvement on Philip Borg's design above.  Cody Matherne shows what a great paint job can add to the design

Gustavo Saraceni of Argentina (currently living in Brasil) has produced a Fusion 360 model of a solid wood Openergo which can be accesses at (but you might need to download Fusion 360 from  (this is a link to a brilliant idea by Carlos Alcade of Argentina who has used old aluminium window frames to build a lightweight and very classy looking ergo.

Dan has developed and alternative drag system to the bike wheel;

Erika has made some great developments to the basic design. There is a video, photos and drawings at

Gene's Green machine has a great website that includes a system for using electrical resistance

A water pump version of the Openergo, contact me for more details if you are interested:

Need a Dragon Boat ergo? bike wheel Impeller version

Want to build a really classy design for the home?

Need a new blender?

Bicycle computers can be used to give a comparative read out of speed and distance. For a discussion on developing this further, go to:

Below is an exciting development by Dave Vernooy. It is a microprocessor-based monitor with all of the functions of the Concept2 display. For more information go to For a comprehensive set of instructions, visit: