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Rear Drive vs Front Drive Elliptical: Does the Difference Really Matter?

To make an informed decision before buying training machine, consider learning the difference for rear drive vs front drive elliptical with our help
Last updatedLast updated: November 17, 2022
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Elliptical machines are available in two types that are classified by the location of the flywheel; rear drive elliptical and front drive elliptical. The flywheel is a revolving part that creates resistance, provides stability and determines the smoothness of the motion and the quietness of the elliptical machine during operation. It also determines the price since a flywheel that weighs more than 30 pounds costs more than the lighter ones that weigh half as much and are found in budget-friendly models.

We will examine rear drive vs front drive elliptical differences in terms of features, design, settings, cost and maintenance. We will also discuss both their benefits and drawbacks so you can choose the type of elliptical machine that will be most appropriate for you.

Rear Drive Ellipticals Overview

Each type of machine features its strong and weak sides. Before taking a closer look at differences for both ellipticals, here are main considerations for rear-drive ones.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Requires less maintenance
  • Offers more natural movement
  • Suitable for less intense workouts
  • Longer stride length
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Takes up more space
  • Costs more

Front Drive Ellipticals Overview

The following are the strengths and drawbacks of a front drive elliptical machine:

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Small footprint fits limited spaces
  • Suitable for intense workouts with several incline settings
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Suitable for older individuals or users with mobility issues

Cons:

  • Requires more maintenance
  • Uncomfortable, forward leaning posture

Difference between Front Drive and Rear Drive Ellipticals

Rear Drive vs Front Drive Elliptical: Does the Difference Really Matter?

Janice McGrail who is a Harvard-affiliated expert recommends an elliptical machine Trusted Source Choosing a home exercise machine - Harvard Health Home exercise machines such as treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, and rowing machines can make it easier to get regular, heart-protecting, aerobic exercise. www.health.harvard.edu as a moderate weight bearing exercise equipment for individuals with osteoporosis. In this section, we will cover the key differences between front wheel vs rear wheel elliptical machines.

Prices

There are several factors that influence the cost of an elliptical machine. One is the weight of the flywheel. The other one is the pedal, with cushioned pedals with low strain on knees and joints increasing the price. The third determinant of cost is the size of the screen which displays vital statistics such as the calories burned and your heart rate. An elliptical machine with a large display will also cost more. Lastly, models with a higher weight capacity and a longer warranty with comprehensive coverage for the motor, frame, parts, electronics and labor also have a higher pricing point than lighter models with separate warranties for various components. You can find the best ellipticals under $500 with useful features that will offer you a good workout for your upper and lower body.

When comparing the cost of front wheel vs rear wheel elliptical, you will find that front drive models are generally more affordable in terms of initial cost. This is largely due to their smaller size which is more economical to manufacture on a commercial scale. However, they have more moving parts that might increase the overall cost over time due to replacements or breakdowns that require more maintenance.

Flywheel

Rear Drive vs Front Drive Elliptical: Does the Difference Really Matter?

The location of the flywheel is the most notable difference between front drive and rear drive ellipticals. This is the drive system that moves when you pedal and the component of the machine that offers continuous motion and resistance to your workout.

Front drive ellipticals have the flywheel in front of the machine and rear drive models have the flywheel positioned in the back of the machine. The location of the flywheel also influences the look and size of an elliptical machine; rear drives tend to be larger than front drive models but you can find the best compact elliptical machines with front or rear drives.

Most users find the rear drive flywheel better because the adjustable incline option provides a more natural stride that is better for the body. Although most front drive elliptical machines do not typically have a natural feel that is comfortable, some come with articulating pedals that mimic the smooth motion by changing the foot’s angle when you apply pressure to the foot pedals. Rear drive machines also provide a longer stride unlike front drive ellipticals which tend to have a shorter stride because the flywheel is positioned in front of your feet. When you compare a rear vs front drive elliptical machine, the former wins when it comes to the flywheel because its location offers a longer and more natural stride.

Calorie burning

Between a front wheel vs rear wheel elliptical, which one burns more calories? Most users suggest that if you choose the high incline settings of front drive models and increase the resistance level, you will get more intense workout than when using a rear drive machine. Then there are those who prefer rear drive machines because the multiple incline options at lower angles that are available with these models provide lower intensity exercises that reduce the risk of injuries. Whatever you choose, the fitness technology Trusted Source Behavior Change with Fitness Technology in Sedentary Adults: A Review of the Evidence for Increasing Physical Activity - PMC Physical activity is closely linked with health and well-being; however, many Americans do not engage in regular exercise. Older adults and those with low socioeconomic status are especially at risk for poor health, largely due to their sedentary lifestyles. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov that comes with elliptical machines can motivate you to exercise and prevent poor health mainly caused by a sedentary lifestyle.

Maintenance

Another difference between front drive and rear drive ellipticals is in their maintenance. Front drive models have more movable parts such as rollers and tracks compared to rear wheel machines. These components require more maintenance to operate smoothly and this might include cleaning the parts on a weekly basis.

The numerous parts also increase the chances of breakdown and more replacements in the long run. Rear drive ellipticals can also develop mechanical issues with the drive belt needing replacement. We, therefore, advise you to check the warranty of whichever elliptical machine you intend to buy to make sure the machine is insured against unforeseen defects. A good example is Nautilus E616 which has a decent warranty of 10 years for the frame, 3 years for parts and electronics and 1 year for labor.

You should also note that the multiple movable parts also increase the noise level of front drive elliptical machines.

Therefore, rear drive models win when it comes to the maintenance and noise levels of front drive elliptical vs rear drive models.

Incline settings and stride length

A front drive elliptical machine has a steeper incline setting that makes you feel like you are climbing stairs. The incline design of the machine also makes you lean more forward to propel yourself when working out. On the other hand, working out on a rear drive machine feels like you are walking or jogging outside because of the location of the flywheel at the back of the machine which creates a flat surface and the upright posture which offers a more natural movement. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E320001 which is a rear drive model comes with 18 inches of stride, 16 levels of electromagnetic resistance and full motion arms for total body workout. Front drive machines also come with multiple incline settings that allow you to choose less steep options if the uphill position is too uncomfortable and intense for you. Front drive ellipticals are also suitable for older persons or users with limited mobility because they tend to be lower to the ground and easier to get on and off since you don’t have to step over them.

Rear drive ellipticals provide longer foot strides than front drive models and this prevents you from feeling cramped. Another way to increase comfort is by wearing the best shoes for elliptical that will keep your feet stable on the pedals.

When considering the incline settings and stride length of an elliptical machine with rear vs front drive, it is a tie because it boils down to your personal preference. Choose a rear drive option for less incline and a front drive machine for steeper incline settings.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the differences between front drive and rear drive elliptical machines, you can make a more informed decision. Some of the factors you should keep in mind include the kind of exercise you want, your stride length, the amount of space available, the level of maintenance required to keep the equipment in peak performance, and the amount of money you are willing to spend. Your individual style and any existing health conditions will also play a role in determining the best elliptical machine for you. Also check the brand reputation from user reviews and the warranty offered for buyer protection. We have provided all the information you need to know about rear drive vs front drive elliptical machines. Ultimately the right option is the one that best suits your needs and preferences.

References

1.
Choosing a home exercise machine - Harvard Health
Home exercise machines such as treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, and rowing machines can make it easier to get regular, heart-protecting, aerobic exercise.
2.
Behavior Change with Fitness Technology in Sedentary Adults: A Review of the Evidence for Increasing Physical Activity - PMC
Physical activity is closely linked with health and well-being; however, many Americans do not engage in regular exercise. Older adults and those with low socioeconomic status are especially at risk for poor health, largely due to their sedentary lifestyles.
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