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Nice Elliptical Trainer
on January 26, 2011
Of the "consumer grade" elliptical trainers sold online and in some of the big box stores the E35 is one of the best. I've done a lot of research and the Sole has a smooth solid feel that many of the others (especially less expensive ellipticals) can't match.
The most important thing to remember is the best machine is the one you'll USE. If you have a jerky, clunky, noisy, or otherwise unpleasant elliptical you're less likely to use it regularly.
What you want in an elliptical is a solid frame that doesn't flex much when you really pound on it at higher resistance levels and work hard with your arms. If you try that on a cheaper machine, it will rock, flex, creak, squeek, clunk, etc. The E35 passes this test.
And you want a heavy flywheel (hidden inside) to smooth out the motion so it's not jerky. The resistance should feel constant throughout the stride. The E35 does. Front or rear "drive" doesn't seem to matter much.
You need good bearings at all the pivot joints to avoid "clunks" during the stride and keep it quiet. You also need good wheels that ride on solid tracks. Again, the E35 has all this.
Unless only shorter (as in under 5'10" or so) people will be using it, it's best to have a stride length around 20" not 17-18" like many of the cheaper models. For taller people a shorter stride feels "choppy" and isn't as fluid or pleasant. The E35 has a 20" stride.
The heart rate monitor grips tend not to work all that well when you're moving. That's true of even the $5000 club machines. As your hands move around on the sensors it confuses the electronics so your heart rate isn't that accurate or is only displayed sometimes. If you want accurate heart rate, use a chest strap. The E35 is somewhat rare in that it comes with a chest strap monitor (known as telemetric or telemetry). So that's a plus over other models including the Livestrongs.
The above are the most important. Everything else is much less important. Like the power elevation (incline) on the E35 works smoothly but doesn't make a huge difference in your workout (at least to me). A backwards (reverse) stride and changing your hand positions makes a much bigger difference.
The consoles all have various gimmicks and features but many of them won't get used much. The speakers for your iPod/MP3 player sound terrible--headphones work much better. The fan is a joke. You can't tell it's even on once you're working out. And fancy training routines add some variety but are not that likely to get used either. What usually works best is either a constant resistance, a ramp up-level off-and cool down routine, or an interval routine (hard/easy/hard/easy/etc.). Everything else is just kinda fluff--especially when it's easy enough to tap the resistance up and down yourself whenever you want during your workout.
Many manufactures play up the ergonomics of their machines. Some angle the foot pads in. Some (like the E35) have adjustable foot pads or variable strides. Some have the footpads closer together (like the Livestrong and Horizons). To be honest, unless you have really odd body mechanics, I think most of it is marketing hype. If you look at the $5000 machines, they typically have none of these features and are used by hundreds of different people a day at health clubs without any ergonomic issues.
It's worth knowing that Sole, Xterra and Esprit/Spirit are all made in China by the same parent company--Dyaco in headquartered in Taiwan with a US office in Jonesboro AR. Sole is mainly sold online and at Sears and Dicks Sporting Goods. Xterra has a different dealer network including some of the warehouse stores. Esprit and Xterra both have models similar to the E35.
Another big manufacture is Johnson that makes Horizon, Livestrong, Vision and AFG. Again, all the home grade products are actually made in China. I bring this up because Johnson has a better reputation for customer service than Dyaco. If you have a warranty issue, need parts, etc. you'll likely spend less time on hold with one of the Johnson brands.
NordicTrack, Schwinn and Nautilus are all the same company. And all seem to have more customer complaints. All 3 brands have been bought and sold sometimes more than once so don't assume because they were good in the past they still are.
ProForm is a favorite brand in the big box stores. And I couldn't find any that compare to the E35--but most are also cheaper.
I've compared the similarly priced Livestrongs to the E35 side by side and prefer the E35. The Livestrongs are nice but not as well made, had a few squeeks, and seem to have more complaints about problems on the various forums. The Horizon products (same company) have lots of bells and whistles but just don't feel right to me.
Vision makes some really nice ellipticals but they're mainly only sold through specialty fitness dealers and cost more than the E35. The same is true of Octane, Diamondback, Precor and Lifefitness. I've tried all of them. There's also Smooth, Star Trac, True and a few others with good reputations that I have't tried.
A good resource is treadmilldoctor dot com for relatively unbiased info on all the brands and brief comments on many of the models.
So that's my research and opinions. I hope it helps someone! The E35 is hard to beat for the price.