Not Martha

Schwinn 430 Elliptical Trainer

update: Jan. 8th, 2009 — I just wanted to make a note that it has been a year and we both still use this machine on a regular basis. I still love it and it hasn’t developed any problems. My new years resolution is to get in more calorie burning exercise time and I’m actually looking forward to using the elliptical to watch tv, I mean, do more cardio.

I know two things for sure: I need to exercise more often and I’m not a people person. Gyms are a strong demotivating factor for me. I’m also not a jog in the rain person, or a get up early to jog so I don’t have to do it in the post-4 pm complete darkness person. Or, let’s face it, a leave the house to exercise type of person. And that’s why last year we got an elliptical trainer, which, shocking to everybody, we continue to use on an almost regular basis. I love it, no seriously I do. And I’ve never once been tempted to use it to hang wet laundry on to dry.

We did a little research, got advice from friends who had done a lot of research, made special trips to sporting goods stores to try out certain models and decided to buy the Schwinn 430 even though we hadn’t found one to try out in person. We would have liked to buy it from a store but none anywhere near us had it, so we bought it from Amazon, and it’s a happy ending.

Before I go into more details, here is the one thing I love about the 430 that I had not found mentioned anywhere else: the foot pads on the Schwinn 430 are slightly closer together than other Schwinn models (and other ellipticals we tested) and it feels like a much more natural stance for me. I’m a few inches over five feet and have short legs. A friend with a similar height has mentioned that she has some trouble with her ellipticals foot pads being just slightly too wide apart. Scott is of a normal height and the footpads are situated just fine for him as well.

[update: I found a Schwinn 431 in a sporting goods store and the foot pads are the same as on my 430, which is to say they are also comfortably close together.]

We decided on an elliptical because it was low-impact, after we moved our exercise space became part of a room with concrete floors and general aerobics started to remind me I was old via pain in my knees (lovely). Below are some points about how we chose the Schwinn 430.


Research. When researching elliptical machines I got some advice from a friend to look into the Schwinn 418, which had been mentioned as a best buy in Consumer Reports in 2005. (Note: I have not peeked at CR since, so they might have an updated list.) I turned up lots of advice that only the expensive machines are really worth it, but I simply didn’t have a few thousand dollars to spend. Consumer Reports listed the Schwinn as a sturdy, inexpensive elliptical trainer. We tried both the 418 and the 438 models in sporting goods stores and liked them. The 438 has the added advantage of running off of battery power instead of needing an outlet, and having a plug in for a chest strap heart rate monitor as well as a few other fancy things. You can compare Schwinn models in the table in the product description over at Amazon.

The Schwinn 431 is a new model for this year, and I cannot say how it compares to the 430, but oh look, the 431 has a place to hold an MP3 player and cuts 3 inches off the footprint. (What do the model numbers mean relative to what features they offer? I have no idea.)

[update: As of late February 2009 Amazon is showing that the 418 and the 438 models are no longer available. I was able to try the Schwinn 431 in a sporting goods store and found the foot pads to be a comfortable stance, closer together than other brands and the same width as my 430. The 431 has a fan, which I certainly wouldn't mind. Schwinn has released a new model, the Schwinn 460, which includes a fan placed beneath the LCD screen (so you can still watch television from over top the screen?), a chest strap heart rate monitor, and variable stride lengths.]

Space. After looking online we found the Schwinn 430 on Amazon as being slightly less expensive than the 418, but what caught my attention was the smaller footprint. It is only four inches shorter than the other models, but it’s four inches that don’t stick in front of a door frame.

Height. We were a little concerned about the 8-foot ceilings in our basement being too low, but we have plenty of space above our heads. We’re both under six feet tall. I don’t remember it being lower than the 418, but a friend with that model says it looks like the pedals are lower to the ground, and therefore allow it to be in a lower-ceilinged room, than hers.

Price. What can I say? The 430 is the least expensive of the Schwinn ellipticals. It wasn’t hard to decide we could live without the backlit display and the built in fan. The 430 has been known to go on sale at Amazon. We got it when it was about $100 less than it’s selling for now, and the sale price was our the motivating factor to go ahead and order it. And right now it’s Free Shipping! (Though, this one usually has free shipping, at least when I’ve checked.) I think the Schwinn 418 Elliptical Trainer has dropped in price since we last looked at it (perhaps to make way for the 431?) so if when comparing it to the 430 the additional $50 price might be worth it.

Reviews. Reading through the comments at Amazon I found that most complaints had to do with missing parts in the boxes customers received, but nearly everybody liked the elliptical machine itself. We unpacked our boxes and checked everything against the parts list carefully before we began assembly. Everything went together as expected, and our box came with a note about a misprint in one of the steps so Schwinn seems to have gotten the message that there was a problem in the assembly directions. Other people at Amazon talked about the machine developing squeaks, something we’ve encountered as well but we’ve always fixed with a fairly effortless loosening or tightening of bolts.

Amazon. Amazon’s free shipping included two guys carrying the box to the landing inside my front door. From there we opened the boxes and took the pieces into the room to be assembled. Customer reviews indicated that if there were any missing parts, Amazon was good for the replacement.

In general. It acts the way an elliptical should. It’s quiet enough to watch television while using it. It has a hand grip heart rate monitor so you can see how you’re doing. It has a few workout programs that vary — one that goes up and down plateaus, one that climbs and drops, etc. You choose your program and how long you want to work out when you start, and it displays your progress. You can adjust the resistance level at any time while you’re working out. It keeps track of speed, distance, heart rate and calories while you’re working, and displays them when you’re finished as well. It doesn’t store this information past the current session. And if you’re driven crazy by watching a timer count down, you can choose to burn a certain number of calories instead, this is one I’ve found to be a great motivating factor to work harder and be done faster. (Though, this isn’t necessarily the best way to fat calories and calorie estimates on equipment are never accurate, something to keep in mind.) Also, if you’re dedicated to doing 30 minutes but still hate watching a clock tick down, there is a toggle button that will display interval instead, enough to keep me from obsessing over how much time has passed. The stride is a good shape, and the handles allow you to grip at different places, it has a cup holder and a place to hold a book open.

Anything else? The Schwinn 430 isn’t as sleek looking as the 418 or 438, but it’s proved to be great for us. I do the old trick of only watching certain dvds (Gilmore Girls) when I’m on the elliptical so I’ve actually started looking forward to working out. Despite my love for the Schwinn 430, it’s not pretty and it does take up a lot of space in our small house. Still, it’s a trade off I’m willing to make. And I have plans to use some hospital track to shield it away when not in use. The machine has wheels at one end so I can move it around if I need to. It feels perfectly steady while in use.

One thing that is a little silly – the console appears to be brought over from an exercise bike. One of it’s programs is called “A Ride in the Park”. And while you’re moving a little man on a bicycle appears on the display (you can see him in the lower right hand corner above). Despite this, I like the various programs and the bicycle guy has never bothered me, he’s quite cheerful actually.

· comments [31] · 01-17-2008 · categories:seattle · shopping ·

31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 leah // Jan 17, 2008 at 6:40 am

    I have that very same model! I did a bunch of research as well and got a great price on Amazon as well as free shipping. It’s really awesome. My husband and I put it together with no problems in about 2 hours. It’s really quiet and has a great feel to it. We put it in our living room and I watch some trashy TV show while using it to motivate me to use it! :)

  • 2 sarai // Jan 17, 2008 at 7:38 am

    This is really helpful info. I used to have an elliptical and liked it so much more than going to the gym. But now we live in a teeny apartment and there’s really no room. When we move, I’ll definitely look into these models!

  • 3 SaraD // Jan 17, 2008 at 7:59 am

    This is such a nice coincidence! I just ordered this machine from Amazon last night and was a little worried since I’m not exactly rich and $600 is a lot to spend on one item. Thanks for putting my mind at ease! I can’t wait until I receive it!

  • 4 marielle // Jan 17, 2008 at 8:27 am

    Filing away for future reference. I sure wish I had the room for one of these right now, because you know what?

    I need to exercise more often! And I’m not a people person, a get up early to exercise person, or a leave the house to exercise person!

    So, save for the weekend hikes, I’m not an exercise person at all. Bah.

  • 5 Amanda // Jan 17, 2008 at 8:42 am

    I just bought the 431 from Amazon. Right now they have a deal where if you purchase it anytime before Jan. 31 you get a $100 Amazon gift card. So that brings the price down to $699. Great deal with free shipping and I was sold! Can’t wait for it to get here!

  • 6 leanne // Jan 17, 2008 at 9:38 am

    We have the 438 and I love everything about it EXCEPT the magazine rack. It’s not deep enough for a book and the side handles get in the way of an open magazine so it’s actually kind of useless. We never use the fan attached (we use the stronger free standing fan we have), so if that’s a deciding factor I can tell you it’s not worth it. I do love that it picks up my wireless heart monitor (that was my deciding factor) and all the workout programs.

    When the new Harry Potter book came out, that became my “workout book” and at one point I went through 2 workouts in a row because I didn’t want to stop reading. I now have a couple DVR’d shows that I only watch while on the elliptical and it totally helps.

  • 7 Stephanie // Jan 17, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! I’ve been planning to buy an elliptical for a while, and I usually look every few months and start doing a little research. I’m having surgery in 2 months, and I know I won’t be able to get to the gym for a while afterwards, so I finally have a real reason to invest in an elliptical. All your info will be great!

  • 8 splatgirl // Jan 18, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Fact: Eliptical training has a lower rating of perceived exertion (RPE) than any other type of cardio. I don’t have one. I am a decades-long NordicTrack addict myself.
    Factoid: Having a dog is the best workout motivation ever, and they totally don’t care about the weather, which, as it turns out, is a win. Being forced at dog-stare to exercise outdoors year round actually makes winter suck a whole lot less…to the point that I sort of like it now.

  • 9 Chelsea // Jan 20, 2008 at 6:33 am

    Thanks for all the info on your elliptical search. I would love one when I move into a house which will hopefully be within the next year.

    Yay! You’re on Ravelry!

  • 10 melissa // Feb 9, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Thank you for the great review. I just ordered it via the link in your posting. I hope you get credit for that…

  • 11 Adam // May 21, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Missing from the box: 2 foot mount plates. So obnoxious. It looks nice and sturdy though.

  • 12 Monia // Nov 9, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    I really need to work on my thighs and stomach. is it possible to loose weigh using this machine? can someone advaice me on that;
    thank you

  • 13 megan // Nov 10, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Monia – You can get plenty of cardio in on this machine but as with any plan to loose weight you also have to do some strength training, which the elliptical does not offer. You can do HIIT with the elliptical, or longer stretches of low impact cardio — I watch television shows. Best of luck.

  • 14 Lisa // Jan 12, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Ha! Thanks for posting an update on this. It’s that time of year, and I’ve got fitness on the brain…

    Actually, I’ve got ditching my barely used gym membership on the brain, and since the only piece of equipment I use there is an elliptical machine, I figured I might as well just buy one of my own. I googled for this post since it was the only recommendation for an elliptical machine I’ve seen (and I trust you!). :)

  • 15 Christina // Jan 31, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    This is by FAR the best review I’ve seen on this product anywhere! THANK YOU! I just purchased this elliptical tonight but it won’t be delivered until next week. You described me a to a “T” when you said you are not the type who likes the gym or the outdoors! I LOVE to do my workouts in the privacy of my home… and sometimes that means 10pm!

    Again… thanks for an amazing review!!

  • 16 megan // Feb 1, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Lisa and Christina, you are welcome, I hope you get lots of use out of the elliptical. I do find that I can go for a long time as long as I have something to watch.

  • 17 Rachel // Mar 16, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I’ve been shopping around for an elliptical machine for a few weeks and I have to say this is the best review I’ve seen out there!! I also can’t find a 430 to test out in a store, but I think I’m going t bite the bullet and buy it off of Amazon.

    And seriously – taking the pieces of out of the box before going down the stairs? I feel like a giant moron because I’ve been thinking of all the ways to get this box into my basement – it never occurred to me to take it in pieces haha!

    Anyway thanks again, best review ever :D

  • 18 megan // Mar 16, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Rachel – I’m glad you found it helpful. I think I went into so much detail because I couldn’t find as many reviews as I would have liked myself. Anyhow, as I mentioned above, I’m still really happy with it and have been using it four or five times a week lately. Any elliptical is expensive but this was definitely a purchase we found to be worth it.

  • 19 Jerry // Mar 17, 2009 at 8:15 am

    By any chance, do you have any pictures of the elliptical machine in your home. Just to see what it looks like in a real home and the amount of space it takes.

    I really would like to buy it, but haven’t been able to find it locally on display to try it out.

  • 20 megan // Mar 17, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Jerry – I don’t have any pictures yet but I’ll see if I can find time to get some in the daylight soon.

  • 21 Jerry // Mar 17, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you for looking into putting some pictures.

  • 22 debra // Mar 26, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Thanks for the awesome review! I’m very close to buying this machine–I wanted a treadmill, but living on the second floor of an apartment building made me think my downstairs neighbors might start hating me if I did that (I tend to do late night workouts). One question–did you find that you needed to purchase a mat for this machine? Does it jiggle around on a hardwood floor?

  • 23 megan // Mar 26, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Hi Debra,

    We have carpet so I cannot say if the machine wants to move around. It has at least six, maybe more, rubberized points of contact with the floor. Going down to play with it right now it seems like all the movement is taken by the bars that connect the hand grips and the pedals to the fly wheel. I made some very dramatic strides throwing my weight back and forth and that didn’t appear to make most of the frame move at all. Then again, I simply cannot say that this would be the case on a hardwood floor and on top of a neighbor.

    Have you read through the reviews at Amazon? People are quite willing to point out faults and/or share their experience there.

    Does anybody have advice for Debra?

  • 24 Dawn // Aug 11, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    We have been researching ellipticals for a while now and were very overwhelmed because there are SO many out there. I kept coming back to the Schwinn 430 because of the many positive reviews, even though I couldn’t find one to try out personally. Plus, we didn’t want to spend a fortune to work out! I just ordered this on Amazon before I found your review! I am feeling very positive now that we made the right choice on picking this machine! Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough review! A big help! God Bless!

  • 25 Jamie Mullen // Mar 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Could you tell me where you were able to try one of the schwinn ellipticals? thank You!

  • 26 megan // Mar 12, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Hi Jamie – We tried Schwinn ellipticals at a Sports Authority store nearby. At the time they didn’t carry the 430, but they did have at least one of the higher end models we were able to compare to those of other manufacturers.

  • 27 Rebecca // Aug 23, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Thanks for the review. I have found the 430 to be perfect for my needs as well. Upon reading the manual they mention that when using the handle bars that you will burn more calories. Do you know if the calorie counter is just basing the calorie count on strides alone? Is there an estimate as to how many calories you burn when also using the handle bars? I was wondering because this elliptical is counting calories much lower than the elliptical I had been using at the gym (by about half).

  • 28 megan // Aug 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Hi Rebecca – I do not know how the machine counts calories, but I’ve read over and over again that the calorie count for elliptical machines is notoriously incorrect. I’ll also point you towards this discussion of proper form on an elliptical over at Ask Metafilter:

    http://ask.metafilter.com/156824/I-thought-I-knew-how-to-use-the-machine

  • 29 Lisa // Aug 28, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Hi Megan. How is the machine holding up? I have a different brand of elliptical machine that I bought off of Amazon about 3 years ago. It’s now beginning to squeak badly and displays a maintenance light. Given the price that I paid for the machine (about $400) I don’t think it will be worth it to try to service it. So I may be in the market for a new elliptical. Just wondering if they all tend to wear out after about 3 years. I think you’ve had yours for about 2 years and wonder if it is still in tip-top shape. Also how heavy is your machine? Are you able to move it around the living room as needed?

  • 30 megan // Aug 29, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Lisa – I still use the machine about twice a week and it hasn’t developed any noticeable squeaks or rattling. I’ve had this machine since January of 2008, so it’s 2 years and 8 months old. I adjusted it once (the manual shows you how) when we first got it but it’s been great ever since.

    I’m not certain how heavy the Schwinn is but it does have built in wheels in the front of the structure it sits on. You lift up the back of the base and it’s fairly easy to move around the room. The way they’ve designed it you have some leverage, sort of like a wheel barrow. It’s one of the features I liked when I was shopping for ellipticals.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions!

  • 31 Melanie // Mar 20, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Thank you so much for your valuable input and insight! I bought the same machine about a year ago after reading your review and the comments, which was extremely helpful.

    I love the eliptical; it’s an easy and comfortable way to work out. I had been using the nordic track for many years, but developed issues with my back and needed an alternative. The eliptical does the trick, a great, low stress workout in the comfort of your own home while watching your favorite TV show.

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