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The Schwinn 520 Recumbent Elliptical Trainer is a combination of Airdyne, elliptical, and recumbent bike, all in the one machine. This not only reduces the impact of conventional elliptical training on your joints, but can also provide a more challenging recumbent bike workout.
This review takes a look at the design in more detail, together with the console features and pros and cons from the customer reviews. We’ll also guide you through how to create a workout with elliptical equipment that offers no pre-defined resistance settings.
With such a range of unique design features, it’s difficult to know where to start.
The seat is fairly typical of Schwinn’s top of the range recumbent bikes, with a ventilated seat back and ergonomic contouring to help you maintain good posture while you cycle.
The handles that wrap around the seat cushion have been designed with a low profile to make it easier to get on and off the elliptical.
This also keeps them within easy reach to hold onto if you want to track your heart rate.
In terms of how well the Schwinn 520 caters for different user heights, the main adjustment option is in the distance between the seat and the pedals.
There are a number of settings along the length of the main support rail to choose from, placed close enough together to make sure you find the ideal range of motion for your own height and body type.
To help guarantee a stable platform from which you can perform your workouts, the Schwinn 520 also features 4 base stabilizers, strategically placed around the rail assembly front of the frame. Their height can be quickly adjusted to compensate for any slight unevenness in the ground you have the machine setup on.
But perhaps the most important feature to talk about is the actual foot pedals themselves, and the 14 inch stride length that forms their range of motion.
This is essentially a machine that takes many of the benefits of the highly popular AD6 Airdyne, and combines them with the low impact nature of a recumbent bike.
Although you don’t have the ability to train your upper body at the same time like you do with the AD6, this is a much better option for anyone that’s recovering from an injury or has reduced mobility.
It’s also ideal for anyone looking for a recumbent bike that offers more of a challenge than your traditional recumbent resistance systems, while eliminating undesirable joint stress.
Even the smaller design features, like the water bottle storage area attached to the seat will make your workouts more productive and enjoyable.
Schwinn 520 Recumbent Elliptical – Features Summary
- Unique Airdyne fan system provides smooth progressive resistance
- Striding motion from a 14 inch elliptical footpath engages more muscles than a bike for a more effective workout
- Oversized, flexible footplates allow for multiple foot positions
- Easy to read display with scrolling time, calories, speed, distance, heart rate and RPM
- Ventilated, contoured seat back encourages good posture and is designed for hours of comfort
- Single stage high torque drive belt for long lasting use
- Extra padded seat
- Single stage high torque belt drive
- Safe, reclined seat position
- Cooling fan motion helps maximize user comfort
- Simple set up for Calorie, Distance and Time goals
- Accurate, integrated grip heart rate sensors for easy fitness monitoring
- Non-intrusive console position
Display console design
In keeping with its unique frame design and recumbent elliptical system, the Schwinn 520 also includes a display console that’s been positioned in a way that makes it less obtrusive and easier to read than your standard displays.
Although the button functions are fairly basic, the LCD screen still allows you to keep track of all your most important workout information.
This includes time, calories burned, distance, speed, and pedal revolutions per minute (RPM).
Despite the fact that there aren’t any preset workouts to speak of, you do have the option to create a goal orientated training program.
This essentially allows you to choose from time, calories burned, or distance, and set a target that you would like to reach or exceed in your current training session.
The console itself even provides you with a small storage shelf for if you want to read your favourite book on an e-reader or tablet while you workout.
You can even adjust the position of the console attachment to reduce potential glare on the screen using the console support bar.
Ease of assembly
Another of the benefits of combining the glide motion of an elliptical with the low profile design of a recumbent bike, is the fact that there is much less assembly involved.
As with the majority of Schwinn fitness equipment we review, the Schwinn 520 user manual walks you through the setup using steps and diagrams that are comprehensive, yet easy to understand.
Before you start, there’s a clearly labelled parts list that lets you check to make sure you have everything you need.
This covers everything from the bolts and washers, to the tools you need (all included).
The actual base unit that houses the Airdyne fan drive system arrives already pre-assembled, and once you have the base stabilizer bar and rail assembly in place, the rest becomes much easier.
Even the seat assembly is fairly straightforward, including the connection of the cables between the console arm and the seat frame.
We admit that the assembly instructions don’t provide full textual explanations like some user manuals, but the quality of the exploded drawings and fact that each step has been split out onto its own page makes the whole process really very manageable.
Once you have the machine fully assembled, if you do need to move it between rooms, you can use the transport handle at the front to lift the machine onto its transport rollers.
Despite weighing around 100 lbs, this actually only requires one person to do, and is much easier than attempting to lift and carry the elliptical, or even taking it apart and attempting re-assembly.
Due to the level of detail in the instructions and amount of pre-assembly that’s already done for you before the machine arrives, you shouldn’t have any trouble assembling the Schwinn 520 in less than 60 minutes.
Creating a workout without preset programs
If you’ve already taken a look at some of the more traditional elliptical machine designs, you might have noticed that there are no controls to vary the resistance on the Schwinn 520.
This would normally be what you could use to adjust the intensity of your workouts, but with no preset workout programs or resistance controls, how do you create an effective workout?
The answer lies in Schwinn’s Airdyne technology, whereby a fan driven Airdyne system is used in place of a conventional flywheel.
This means that if you want to increase the resistance, you simply pedal faster, with slower pedalling doing the opposite and reducing the resistance.
There are a few different workout programs available for Schwinn’s AD6 machine that can also be used with their 520 recumbent bike, with the most effective being a variation on Tabata intervals.
A quick search will reveal a range of well written articles that go into this type of workout in extensive detail, but we’ll also provide a quick summary in this review.
If your main goal is calorie burning, you can’t ignore the effectiveness of Tabata. Studies have shown that this variation of interval training can burn up to 13.5 calories per minute, and double your metabolic rate for 30 minutes after you finish exercising.
This is essentially where you will use the elliptical motion and Airdyne resistance of the Schwinn 520 to pedal fast up to a higher resistance level, maintain that level for 20 seconds, and then reduce your speed again for the next 10 seconds as a rest period.
You repeat each of these ‘cycles’ 8 times to form a highly effective 4 minute workout.
Although the Schwinn 520 isn’t your typical recumbent bike, it’s still proved popular among fitness enthusiasts looking for a new cardio machine for their home gyms.
The high average review rating and impressive percentage of 4 and 5 star ratings is mainly due to a number of important design features.
These range from the BioFit Comfort seat design to the inbuilt goal setting options.
To gain a better insight into which features these were, we took a look at the collection of reviews currently available on Amazon, and put together the following lists of pros and cons.
- No electrical connection required (console powered by 2AA batteries)
- Height adjustment feet ensure the machine remains stable throughout your workout
- A smaller footprint than traditional elliptical machines
- Contoured seat helps you to maintain good posture
- Compact seat cushion is provides added comfort, but also the space to move your legs through the required range of motion without feeling restricted
- Console arm allows you to position the screen at an angle that’s easy to read
- No need to program any resistance levels or workout programs
- Infinite levels of resistance
- All the low impact benefits of a recumbent bike (less impact on knee joints, better support for your lower back, low profile makes it easier to get on and off the machine, etc.)
- Adjustable seat makes the Schwinn 520 suitable for a wide range of user heights, from 5 feet to 6 feet+
- Targets for your current workout can be programmed into the console
- No backlight to the LCD screen
- No way to preserve your targets when the machine powers down. You need to set them each workout
- Labels on the console are quite small and difficult to read
- Some people were disappointed with the lack of manual tension resistance settings
What’s covered by the warranty?
- Frame: 5 years
- Parts and electronics: 1 year
- Wear parts: 3 months
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