The Advantages of Rear Drive Elliptical Trainers

You will notice that all of the Smooth elliptical trainers are rear drive.  That is in comparison to front drive machines.  There are certain ergonomic and mechanical advantages to a rear drive machine.  And in fact, the original elliptical trainers were rear drive.  The front drive machines came into play in order to get around certain patents.  And in many cases the front drive machines were a poor substitute of the original concept.

Mechanical Benefits

The major benefit of a rear drive elliptical trainer is that there are fewer moving parts and consequently there tends to be fewer service issues and less maintenance.   With most front drive ellipticals you have pedals that sit on rollers that run along tracks.  There are two problems with this design.  First, with continual use you may have problems with the stability of the pedals.  There are more joints that can potential loosen.  Second, the tracks tend to gather dust and grime and require regular cleaning and lubrication.  In fact, without proper cleaning the rails can get pitted and dirt can accumulate giving a bumpy feeling.

Ergonomic Benefits

Rear drive elliptical trainers do a better job of positioning the user over the mechanics.  One of the biggest complaints with front drive machines is that the user tends to have to lean forward during the elliptical motion.  When you have to lean you are more likely to have heal lift, resulting in numbness in your foot. 

In addition, the rear design offers a superior elliptical stride. You tend to have more inertia with a rear drive machine.  Precor, the originator of the elliptical trainer built their machines with rear drives specifically for this reason.  You get a smooth and natural elliptical motion that makes the user feel like they are running in the air.  With front drive machines the elliptical motion gets distorted and consequently does not mimic the natural motion of the body. 


You will find in general, and there are some exceptions, rear drive machines tend to be more stable and provide a more solid feel.  That is because they are often longer in length and the weight of the machine is better distributed between the front and the back.  The disadvantage is they tend to take up more space than front drive ellipticals. 

 Of course, this does not mean a cheap rear drive elliptical trainer is going to be superior to a high-end front drive elliptical.  There are a number of factors that come into play in building a superior elliptical trainer including the overall engineering and quality components.  However, when it comes to comparing rear drive to front drive ellipticals at comparable prices, the rear drive machines often hold the advantage.  

About the Author

Fred Waters has made his career helping individuals find fitness equipment that is right for their body and their budget.  You can check out his elliptical reviews at Fitness Equipment Source, where he praises many of the Smooth rear drive elliptical trainers.

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