Why Is My Elliptical Rough?

John M. from Highland Park, IL asks, “why is my elliptical rough when first starting out, but then smooths out after I have been riding it about 3 minutes? After it warms up, everything works as it should, it’s just unpleasant starting out. Do I need to have you come out for service?”

Great question John, thank you for sending that in. This is a behavior that has been noticed by many elliptical users, and the solution, while goofy, works. I can’t speak to the condition of the remainder of your machine, but it is not necessary to have us out for this issue alone, provided it resolves itself soon after you begin your workout.

Most ellipticals utilize a wheel of some sort, with a convex or concave wheel running on a rail or within a track respectively. These wheels are generally made of a material similar to an inline skate or skateboard wheel. Depending on the manufacturer, and sometimes varying from model to model, wheels may be harder or softer to match the machines intended use. Generally, a softer wheel material will result in a smoother ride, ideal for a home setting, whereas a harder wheel will wear down much less quickly and is better suited for a commercial setting.

Convex Elliptical Wheel Within Track

Concave Elliptical Wheel On Rail

We find this issue to be more prevalent on the home use models and their softer wheels. We have discovered that as the user works out, heat builds up from the friction between the wheel and the rail/track that it rides on. This softens the wheel even further enabling the user to experience a highly cushioned workout, but this also results in the wheels becoming out of round when cooling.

Once the user completes their workout, the warm, soft wheels are then left sitting on the hard rails. As they cool, the wheel material is so soft and the rail is so hard that the wheel surface begins to conform to the shape of the rail. This is generally not enough of a difference to be visually apparent, but you will certainly notice it during your next workout. After the user warms the wheels back up, they soften and return to their round, even shape.

Now, how to get around this. If your wheels are internal and inaccessible, unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done. If your wheels are accessible, you can lift the pedal arms on to blocks which will allow the wheels to cool down with no weight on them. Due to gravity, this may not solve 100% of the roughness but it will solve 95%, if not more. Yoga blocks or massage rollers are just about perfect for this, in a pinch you can use those guest room throw pillows no one ever uses for anything else.

We Finally Have A Purpose In Life!

Using proper lifting technique (your knees, not your back!), lift each pedal arm, one at a time. Rest a block on a stable portion of the wheel rail or floor. Then, lower the pedal arm back down onto the block, ensuring the wheel is not resting on anything. Repeat for the other side. You may need to adjust the placement of the flywheel to allow the arms enough room to be properly propped up. Use wooden or foam blocks to avoid scratching the rails, metal items should never be used. While the pedal arms are propped up and off their tracks, do not use the unit, it is unsafe to operate. Prior to your workout, perform the same steps in the reverse order to prepare your elliptical for use.

Lifted Concave Wheels

Lifted Convex Wheels

Concave Positioning Of Foam

Convex Positioning Of Foam

For this demonstration, I used a piece of rigid foam insulation I had laying around the garage. These are available at any home project store and are easily cut to the appropriate size with a utility knife.

Look For The Pink Panther, Keep Away From Fire

Either way, John, don’t worry. If you choose to raise your pedal arms for your own comfort please do so, but there is absolutely no reason to not leave them as is. That short time the wheels are out of round will not cause any damage to the machine and is how it was designed to be operated. Thank you again for your question!

 

A special thanks to Dale Noack at 2nd Wind Exercise in Aurora, IL for letting us use their showroom for these equipment photographs. 

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