If you think your home gym is too small for an elliptical, you may be mistaken. There are several folding ellipticals on the market these days that can fold and be stored vertically- literally cutting their footprint in half.
This space saving feature can allow homes that were once thought to be too “floor space challenged” to handle a full size elliptical the chance to do just that.
But let’s be real- having the ability to fold is a really convenient feature, but you need a little more than that to justify purchasing one.
Because folding or not, at the end of the day, this elliptical has got to work. If your folding elliptical is to junky to use, we all know you aren’t gonna use it.
Luckily, this guide is here to show you what to look for in a folding elliptical to make sure you get one you’ll be happy with. I’ll also present my top 3 picks in this category based on the criteria I show you.
Alrighty, let’s jump right in.
How To Pick A Folding Elliptical
Picking a folding elliptical really isn’t any different than picking a non-folding one. The only difference is the fact that these machines do also fold for storage.
There are a lot of folding “ellipticals” out there if we use the most inclusive definition of the cardio machine, but you’ll quickly notice none of these tiny little pedalers with handles made this list.
That’s because we’re talking about the best folding models here. And to be the best, you have to score highly in the following criteria:
One of the quickest ways to tell a high-end elliptical from a lemon is to check the stride length. The simple truth is that nicer ellipticals come with bigger stride lengths and less nice ones come with smaller stride lengths.
To make sure we’re all on the same page here- the stride length is how far the pedals move front to back during use.
Larger is better because it gives you a more natural feel of running or walking. With small stride lengths, you’ll feel like you’re marching in place (which I don’t consider a particularly entertaining or comfortable exercise).
How long is big enough?
Well, most high-end ellipticals come with a 20″ stride length and this is because at this length, most users can exercise comfortably.
There are a lot of nice ellipticals that come with 18″ stride lengths, which isn’t awful. But at 18″, taller users might notice that they’re having to cut their stride a little short of what might feel natural.
I’d stay away from any machine with a stride length less than 18″ unless you’re under 5′ tall.
For comparison’s sake, some of the most affordable “ellipticals” come with 11-14″ stride lengths.
Check out my article on finding the right stride length for more info.
The flywheel is another important feature to consider because this is what provides your resistance and gives your elliptical its “feel”.
Elliptical flywheels are just like the ones found on spin bikes– heavier is usually better.
I when I say heavy, I’m talking at least 20 lb. You’ll notice most high-end home ellipticals have flywheels in the 20-30 lb range. Folding ellipticals tend to have flywheels that are a little lighter, probably to make them a little easier to fold and move.
Heavier flywheels build more momentum as they spin, which creates a smoother ride with less jerking or catching between strokes.
It also gives you more resistance to pedal against. The resistance levels on the elliptical obviously have something to do with this too, but having a heavier flywheel (in theory) should allow for more overall resistance.
Junkier models will come with tiny flywheels or not even state the flywheel weight at all.
Personally, I’d shoot for at least an 18 – 20 lb flywheel to ensure a pretty comfortable ride with plenty of resistance to work with.
The warranty is another dead giveaway of a sub-par elliptical (I’m running out of politically correct ways to describe these cheap machines that call themselves ellipticals, I don’t mean to be judgy, because these little machines are better than nothing when it comes to exercise, but come on- these things are cheap for a reason).
Cheaper models may come with a 1 year guarantee or no warranty at all. All I can say about these is – buyer beware.
High-end ellipticals will come with warranties that are divided into 3 parts: frame, parts, and labor.
The frame warranty should be the longest of the bunch. We should expect a lifetime warranty on the frame for any decent home elliptical.
The parts warranty is the next longest and we should expect anything between 3-5 years from respectable ellipticals.
The labor warranty is always the shortest because companies just can’t afford to pay for labor costs on all their equipment for prolonged periods- it would be the end of them.
One year on labor is pretty standard, but some awesome warranties will give ya 2 years on labor.
So, to summarize things here: the best ellipticals (folding or non-folding) should come with:
- Long stride lengths (at least 18″)
- Heavy flywheels (at least 18 lb)
- Great warranties (lifetime frame, 3-5 year parts, 1 year labor)
If you concentrate on those 3 specs, you’ll have a lot more success in finding a folding elliptical that’ll hold up and work well.
Of course you’ll also want to consider the more entertaining features, like bluetooth and workout programs, but those things are just icing on the cake.
Ok, I think you got it. Let’s get to my top picks based on this criteria.
|Stride Length (inches)||Flywheel Weight||Warranty|
|Horizon Evolve 5||20"||20 lb||Lifetime frame
3 year parts
1 year labor
|NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE9i||18"||18 lb||Lifetime frame
5 year parts
2 year labor
|ProForm Smart Strider 895 CSE||18"||18 lb||Lifetime frame
3 year parts
1 year labor
|Horizon Evolve 3||20"||18 lb||Lifetime frame
3 year parts
1 year labor
The 3 Best Folding Ellipticals For Home Use
#1 Horizon Evolve 5
Horizon’s Evolve 5 elliptical claimed the #1 spot here because it has the most impressive stats where it really counts. Although it’s lacking in a few higher-end features (like power incline and bluetooth), it comes with a heavy flywheel, large stride length, and great warranty.
The Evolve 5 comes with a 20″ stride length, which is a rather impressive feat for a folding elliptical. Turns out it’s actually really hard to find this on folding models.
The Evolve 3 is really the only other folding elliptical that can match the Evolve 5’s long stride length.
When it comes to the flywheel, the Evolve 5 is equally as impressive. This elliptical is packing a 23 lb flywheel that is well beyond our 18 – 20 lb threshold. With 20 different digital resistance levels to play with, you should be able to get as intense a workout as you can handle here.
Horizon backs this model up with a nice guarantee: lifetime frame, 3 year parts, 1 year labor.
The Evolve 5 has plenty of other stuff going for it too, like 39 workout programs, a 300 lb weight capacity, and ViaFit/Passport compatibility.
And let’s not forget the folding- Horizon’s FeatherLight folding mechanism makes it really easy to fold the pedals vertically to meet the console.
I actually like Horizon’s folding mechanism better than any of the other’s. All you have to do is pull the handle at the bottom and the pedals fold right up. Very easy.
Overall, the Evolve 5 has a lot going for it beyond the folding feature. A very smart choice. See full review.
#2 NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE9i
NordicTrack’s SpaceSaver SE9i is a rear drive elliptical with some really impressive features. One could make the argument that this should be in the #1 spot…it’s a tough call and I think it really depends on what’s most important to ya.
For me, I’d rather have the larger stride length and bigger flywheel the Evolve 5 offers.
But the features on the SE9i are impressive.
But starting from the beginning, this elliptical has an 18″ stride length. Not bad, but definitely a reduction from the 20″ we saw above.
The SE9i also has an 18 lb flywheel. Again, smaller than the flywheel mentioned above, but should still have enough mass to it to spin smoothly.
Those are really the only 2 categories the Evolve 5 wins in. When it comes to the warranty, NordicTrack has really got this elliptical’s back: lifetime frame, 5 year parts, 2 year labor.
This is an amazing warranty and really about as good as it gets in any price range.
When it comes to extra features, the SE9i is pretty loaded: 30 workout programs, HD touchscreen display, and bluetooth chest strap included to name a few.
This elliptical also comes with power incline up to 10°, which is a nice touch.
And of course the SpaceSaver folds- simply unscrew the screw on the console, fold it down to meet the pedals, and then tilt the whole thing up vertically. Space saver indeed.
Overall, if you’re looking for some more hi-tech features on your folding elliptical, the SpaceSaver SE9i is a great choice. See full review.
#3 ProForm Smart Strider 895 CSE
Finishing up our short list is the ProForm Smart Strider 895 CSE, which is the most affordable elliptical of the bunch. It’s actually affordable enough to be considered a budget elliptical in my book.
This elliptical is very similar to the NordicTrack SE9i above. Probably because both brands are part of the same happy ICON Health & Fitness family.
There are a few small differences in terms of features, but the biggest difference (and the real reason why this one ranked #3 and that one ranked #2) is found in the warranty.
The 895 CSE also has a 18″ stride length and an 18 lb flywheel. You know, not bad, but not perfect either. Both are impressive for a folding machine however.
The warranty on this machine is good, just not quite as good as the one we see on the SE9i above. ProForm backs this elliptical up with the following warranty: lifetime frame, 3 year parts, and 1 year labor.
Which really is a great guarantee on a budget elliptical and definitely better than most.
In terms of features, the 895 is a little different than the SE9i. Here’s a sample of what you can expect: 32 workouts, 7″ HD touchscreen, and a 1 year complimentary membership to iFit.
This machine also inclines up to 10°, which is pretty awesome considering the price.
In terms of folding, the 895 CSE folds just like the SE9i. These two models really are very similar, so if you like the SE9i but want to save a little cash, the ProForm Smart Strider 895 CSE is a nice option. See full review.
Honorable Mention – Horizon Evolve 3
I was wrapping up this list and thought I should throw in a little bonus for ya. Horizon’s Evolve 3 is a smaller version of the Evolve 5 and is a solid elliptical in its own right.
The biggest difference between the Evolve 3 and the 5 is the flywheel weight. That and the size of the display screen.
The Evolve 3 also has a 20″ stride length, which I love. This model only comes with an 18 lb flywheel, so significantly smaller than the Evolve 5’s.
This model comes with the same good warranty and very similar features. One thing I’d like to point out is how easy this elliptical (and the Evolve 5) is to assemble. You can have either one of these machines up and running in minutes.
This elliptical has the same easy folding mechanism as the Evolve 5, making it a piece of cake to store.
Overall, this is a smaller version of the impressive Evolve 5. If you don’t mind the smaller flywheel, you can save yourself about $200 with this model. See full review.
If you want the benefits of owning your own elliptical, but don’t think you have enough floor space, a folding model could be just what the doctor ordered.
Having the ability to fold the machine when not in use can save you a lot of space. Folded up, these machines only take up about 2′ x 3.5″ worth of floor space.
When you’re looking for a folding model, keep in mind what’s important- stride length, flywheel weight, and warranty.
If you ask me, it’s important to find an elliptical that’ll run smoothly and will last first and foremost. I think this is more important than tech features, but to each their own.
The ellipticals on this list were picked based on the above criteria. I encourage you to check them out and do your own research to see what you think.
In the end, it’s all about finding the right fit for your needs.
I hope this guide was helpful. If there are any questions or concerns leave a comment and I’ll get right back to ya. And, if there are any awesome folding ellipticals that I missed, please let me know.