What We Like
There were a lot of great features to love at the Stride-5S. For starters, for all its bulk, this thing is sturdy. No matter how hard I’m speed-walking (or occasionally, jogging), it doesn’t wobble in the slightest, as long as its feet are set up properly. (Note that you may need to adjust these from time to time.) Its build is on par with its price—this does not feel like a cheap piece of equipment. I also like the wheels it has at one end to help you maneuver it around (as best as you can, anyway, given its weight).
After reading some negative reviews, I had some low expectations for the connectivity. Some shoppers stated that the machine would turn off mid-run or worse, wouldn’t connect to their internet at all. Following the initial setup, however, I haven’t had a single issue with this—I don’t find it to be glitchy or spotty in the slightest and have never had the machine shut off on me mid-workout. This leads me to believe that this is likely an individual Wi-Fi issue and not one with the equipment, or alternately, that the machine has been placed too far away from a router to receive a decent signal. That said, I did experience connectivity issues when it came to the Bluetooth portion that caused me to dock some points from its score here (but more on that later).
In addition to its ability to pick up a strong signal from my wireless network, the machine is incredibly easy to use via its touchscreen. I simply turn it on, select which profile I want to log my stats under and select my workout.
While live and on-demand classes with instructors are always available, I tend to bypass these for the scenic options. Essentially, these are pre-taped walks or runs in well-known locations (think the Vegas strip, Rome’s Aqueduct Park and New York City’s Central Park). If you hide the stat boards while you’re moving, using this option almost feels like you’ve been transported to a new location and are merely checking out your surroundings. Considering that I like to travel and walk around in the great outdoors but hate bugs and humidity, it’s absolutely idyllic. Want to tune out and watch a show on your tablet or phone? Opt for the photo- and video-free Freestyle option instead with the machine volume lowered to focus on your personal device.
Post-workout, I love the fact that the machine keeps track of my individual progress. If you enable email notifications, as I have, the Echelon app will send your stats over immediately after your workout, including the time lapsed, distance “traveled,” your calories burned, your heart rate points and your total output of energy in kilojoules—something I find to be really fun and motivating. I always want to beat my stats, which gives me a reason to return to the machine—aka my workout—and keep the momentum going.
Speaking of stats, the machine measures plenty of them, including your rank against other Echelon runners, and I like having the option to see them or hide them, depending on how I’m feeling. They can be encouraging at times, but distracting at others, and having the ability to control their visibility at the touch of a button is great.
What We Don't Like
The elephant in the room—literally—is that this thing is an elephant. While it’s perfect for a spacious home gym or a place with lots of room, those with more compact living quarters may want to opt for the smaller Stride-S ($1,326), which has a built-in auto-fold feature. You’ll be giving up some of the sturdiness, four additional incline levels and 14 inches of screen size, but it may make more sense overall.
Even if you do have the space for the 5S, you’ll want to pay extra for setup, particularly if you have stairs, since it’s unlikely you’ll be getting this baby up to the second floor without a little assistance. It’s also difficult to set up both physically and technologically—I’m still working out the Bluetooth bit of it. In fact, I'd say setup is the worst part of my experience with the machine, earning it the lowest score in my combined ranking factors. Luckily, however, you only need to do it once, barring any troubleshooting issues that may arise. (And apart from the Bluetooth issue, I haven’t had any.)
As I mentioned, the touchscreen itself connects very well and is a breeze to use. The app and its Bluetooth connection, however, were another story, losing the Stride-5S points in both of those departments.
My other complaints are largely minor. The machine itself is well-thought out, with comfortable handle bars and a spot for your water bottle and your phone or tablet. The built-in fan at the front of the machine doesn’t do much, however—especially when you’re using the incline feature. On a super hot day, I have to set up a much largest pedestal fan alongside the machine to get through my workouts. Additionally, I wish the phone area, which is small and totally flat, was both larger and angled or placed alongside the screen, so that it was easier to position your device for easy viewing. I marked the build down just a few points for these nitpicky details.
I also find the heart rate stat confusing. The machine is equipped with a monitor that measures light from a point of contact (ie, where your hand is touching the bar). According to Echelon, as our hearts beat, they change the flow rate of the blood in our arteries, which ultimately increases our blood vessel’s volume. Once that happens, the amount of light that’s absorbed by the machine’s monitor reportedly changes. Echelon claims the machine is able to determine your heart rate by measuring the difference it clocks in absorbed light.
In my experience, it doesn’t always correlate to my movements in a way that makes sense. For example, it will show that I have an increased heart rate when I’m at the slowest point of my workout. Likewise, I've seen it plummet when I’m really giving it my all. While some of this can be explained by removing my hand from the bar (which would let in more light, changing the number) or moving it around, it always seems a touch…off, so I’m not entirely sure I trust it.
Last but not least, I think one free year of membership ($29 to 40 per month or $348 to $480 annually, depending on your payment option) should be included in the initial purchase price, leading me to dock several points from its overall value.
The Bottom Line
If you have a small, compact space, this is not the machine for you. It’s big, it’s heavy and once you’ve got it in place, it’s not easy to move around. If you’ve got the space, however, it’s a great way to get yourself up and moving.
With this machine, I’m far more likely to cut out any traditional excuses I would normally have for not getting a daily workout in. No time to go to the gym? That’s fine—the machine is right inside my garage. Rainy day that would otherwise ruin a planned walk? Doesn’t matter—it’s under a roof. Not in the mood to listen to an instructor? I don’t have to—I can choose one of the scenic or freestyle settings instead. In fact, the only deterrent I haven’t been able to conquer with the 5S is my own basic lack of motivation—but even that has been assisted by my post-workout progress reports and on-screen ranking.
Yes, it’s pricey. But if it means the difference between 285 steps a day and 3,00 to 5,000 for a 30-minute walk, I think it's absolutely worth the investment in my health. If I were to use it every day of the year, at its sale price of $1,700, that shakes out to about $4.65 per day—which is less than I spend on my coffee. Even with the added cost of the membership, it’s less than $6 per day. And I can definitely spare to invest $5 to 6 per day in myself.
- Dimensions: 81 inches long by 36 inches wide by 63 inches tall
- Weight: 315 pounds
- Weight Limit: 400 pounds
- Incline levels: 16
- Speed: Up to 12.5 mph
- Screen: 24 inches