A frequent question that I get from consumers is how do they compare different ellipticals. That is an interesting question if you are thinking about buying ellipticals and not necessarily an easy question. You have to think of two main things when comparing ellipticals; durability and biomechanics. These are the most important factors in my opinion. A secondary consideration is the features, programs and connectivity that the machine has. In this blog post I’m going to look at durability of designs first and then the biomechanics second and try to give you some information of the issues involved in comparing ellipticals to each other.
There are three different types of elliptical designs that most ellipticals are made upon. I will insert our internal terminology here. Front drive, rear drive or center drive ellipticals. Each of these types is determined by the position of the flywheel in relation to the position of the user on the machine. The original ellipticals were all rear drive. Precor first marketed ellipticals and they have foot pedals that you stood on which were attached to a flywheel located behind you in a plastic housing and the arms the pedals were attached to were attached to a wheel and ramp system in front of the user. Lifefitness soon came out with a competing machine that eliminated the wheels but still had the rear flywheel design. Since these machines were patented, other manufactures moved the flywheel to the front of the user with wheels behind them to get around the patents. Finally a center drive was created as a third alternative to scoot around patent law.
While patents drove these innovations, these machines have different durability inherent in their design due to the distribution of stresses and forces on the machines. In our experience the most durable of these machines tend to be the front drive machines. It is easy to distribute the weight of the user between the rear wheel mechanism and the front flywheel to allow for minimal repairs and failures. Rear drive machines tend to be next in durability in our experience for similar reasons as the front drive machines, however due to differences in designs we have found that some machines have more complicated mechanisms than others.
Center drive machines tend to have the worst durability of these machines in our experience. We used to think this is inherent in the design but now we believe this had more to do with marginal manufacturers producing machines with these designs than anything inherent in the design itself. For example, when True Fitness began producing center drive machines, they had very few failures in comparison to other center drive ellipticals. Of course True Fitness is a noted quality fitness equipment manufacturer.
This gives you some information about the inherent quality in different elliptical designs and the reasons for them. Next week I will dive into biomechanics. See you then.