it's always something
Join Date: Aug 1999
Jan 2005 Consumer Reports includes treadmills and ellipticals
Grab a copy if you think you will be purchasing a treadmill or elliptical in the near future. You can also view the full report online if you subscribe to their online service for 4.95 per month.
In a nutshell, they did not like any of the models you buy a Walmart, Sears, and similar stores - made by IconFitness (ProForm, Nordictrack, Reebok, etc).
They did like the expensive models by Life Fitness, Precor, Landice, and Vision Fitness. You usually need to go through a specialty fitness shop to buy these brands.
The full article was very informative. I can't post the entire article, but here are some highlights:
When you're paying $400 to $3,500 for a treadmill or elliptical exercise machine, it's reasonable to expect it to work properly. The disappointing news from our tests is that a number of machines had problems, from annoying ďclunkingĒ sounds to mechanical failures that seriously affected performance.
The good news is that we found several CR Best Buys among the 22 treadmills and 10 elliptical exercisers we rated, many with features designed to keep you sticking with your exercise routine. Our findings also suggest that you get what you pay for, especially if you work out frequently.
Lemons: Too many machines donít work properly
Our tests this year included a dismaying number of lemons--elliptical exercisers or treadmills that came with or quickly developed problems. Many of the problem-prone machines were from Icon Health & Fitness, the maker of NordicTrack, Pro-Form, Reebok, Image, and Weslo machines that are mainly sold in mass-market retailers such as Sears, Sports Authority, and Wal-Mart.
The companyís elliptical exercisers had numerous problems. The Pro-Form 1080S arrived at our labs with a defective resistance mechanism that couldnít be adjusted, so we couldnít alter the workout intensity. We ordered a second sample, but it had a similar problem. We summoned a repair technician, who replaced a defective console on one machine and the resistance-adjustment motor on both, which solved the problems. Later, a hand-grip heart-rate sensor started to come loose.
The NordicTrack CX 990, another Icon elliptical, clunked when we pedaled. We managed to reduce the clunking, but we couldnít eliminate it. The Reebok RL 525ís console had electrical problems; a second sample worked fine.
The New Balance 9.5e, made by Fitness Quest, developed a clunk during testing; it was annoying, but it didnít affect performance, so we left it alone.
The treadmill that gave us the most trouble was Iconís NordicTrack 7600 R. On three samples we bought, the running belt wouldnít maintain the proper tension, so we had to readjust it every few hours, no small feat. (Other treadmills seldom need the belt adjusted.) Icon sent us replacement parts, but the first shipment was incomplete and a second set of parts didnít fix the problem. Because of the big inconvenience involved in continually readjusting the belt tension, we cannot recommend this model.
The Keys Fitness Ironman M4 had a circuit breaker that kept tripping; a second sample worked fine. With the Spirit Inspire IN400, made by Spirit Fitness, an incline-adjustment control didnít work and the display made 1ís look like 7ís, 4ís like 9ís.
In the Ratings of treadmills and ellipticals, the quality score for these models reflects the severity and frequency of these problems. Most of the trouble we experienced would be covered under warranty, but it can take weeks and multiple phone calls to get a machine fixed--enough time to discourage even passionate exercisers. By contrast, the machines we bought for $2,000 and more through specialty fitness equipment stores had very few sample defects.
Besides buying a pricier model, you can protect yourself by looking for an adequate warranty or buying an extended warranty. Meanwhile, Icon and makers of other problem machines must improve quality control.
How to choose
First decide whether you want to devote the money and space to a big exercise machine. A living-room workout is the height of convenience, but of course, you can get fit exercising outdoors or at a gym. If you decide to buy a treadmill or elliptical exerciser, see Which best suits you? for the pluses and minuses of each and how much you need to spend. Then consider these tips:
Try it out first. Every model is a little different, so you shouldn't buy one before using it in the store. That's especially important with elliptical exercisers because the movement is less familiar than walking or running, and each machine has a slightly different pedaling profile.
Decide which features you'll use. Some, such as exercise programs, can make a workout more varied and less boring, which may get you on the machine more often. But don't pay for frills you don't care about.
Consider your space. Elliptical exercisers, which do not fold and are hard to move, and nonfolding treadmills take up as much floor space as a couch. If your workout room does double duty, a folding treadmill can save you about 6 square feet.
For a treadmill, consider your workout intensity. If you'll usually walk rather than run, any of the tested models will suffice. Decide based on your budget and the features you want. If you run, construction sturdiness is paramount. Choose from the models that scored at least very good in quality in the treadmill Ratings.
For an elliptical, make sure you can change your mind. Because each machine has its own feel, try it out before you buy and make sure the store will let you return it if you dislike using it. See our elliptical Ratings and CR Quick Recommendations.