So You’re Seriously Interested in the Bowflex Treadclimber?
Don’t Make the Mistake of Buying a Treadclimber Without Knowing These 6 Facts!
The problem with a lot of review sites is they really don’t tell you anything that would help you make a decision on whether this is the way to go or not.
To make that a little easier, I’ve done an analysis for you on buyer feedback for Bowflex Treadclimbers using such highly respected online sellers such as Amazon.com. I believe nothing speaks louder than actual customers when it comes to tread climber reviews.
A Mixed Reception
The Bowflex brand has been in the market for a while now, having released the TC1000, TC3000 and the TC5000/5500 series of treadclimbers a few years ago. They met with a mixed reception, many people finding that they were great, and an equal number of others being very disappointed.
These have been recently replaced by a later release of machines called the TC5, TC10 and TC20. The TC10 and TC20 are direct replacements for the earlier models, with the TC5 being a new ‘budget’ model that is purely mechanical – it does not have an electric drive motor.
I decided to investigate why the earlier model treadclimbers attracted such mixed customer reviews. It is too early to get a statistically significant sample for the TC5, TC10 and TC20, but since they are using the same basic technology, this investigation still has merit.
Getting to the Truth
What I did was to take buyer feedback comments; analyze the main issues in them; and to then calculate a weighted star rating. It is instructive to look at how buyers felt with the earlier models (some of which are still around on Amazon etc), and to see how Bowflex has responded to this.
With TC3000 and TC5000 models, customers who bought Bowflex Treadclimbers had the following issues.
- Reliability – customers found that the machines could often be noisy, hydraulics not functioning properly and prone to failure of critical mechanical parts such as belts.
- Value for Money – Linked to the reliability issue. People who purchased these machines and then had issues more often than not compared their experiences with machines that cost less.
- Weight – Seen as heavy beasts. The weight came in around 220 pounds (100kg); and hence not that easy to move around.
- Self Assembly – This is a big one. These machines are delivered in two/three cardboard boxes. A lot of customers found that it was a complex, time consuming operation to assemble them. Customers had issues with the quality of the Assembly Manual, feeling it left a lot to be desired in terms of clarity and detail.
- Customer Service – Those who experienced issues felt that Customer Service did not respond adequately nor timely to their issues.
- Usability – some felt some of the modes (Treadclimbers are a 3-in-1 machine) did not meet expectations, and that caution was required to ensure that a user wasn’t ‘flipped off’ the machine during operation due to small size of treads.
Real User Rating
What I did was to take the individual customer rating reviews, which went from 1-Star (Very Unsatisfied) to 5-Star (Very Satisfied), then weight them by the number of readers who thought that a particular customer feedback/review was ‘helpful’. So if a review that was voted as ‘19 of 19 people found the review helpful’ got a greater weighting than if it was ‘4 of 19 people found the review helpful’. Hopefully this makes sense.
My weighted ratings ranged from 2-Star (Unsatisfied) to 3-Star (Neither satisfied nor unsatisfied) for the Bowflex TCx000 series of machines. This is in contrast to the 3-and-half-Star to 4-Star ratings bandied around by various ‘expert’ review sites at the time.
So What’s the Problem?
- Reliability – To me, reading the reviews carefully, the biggest cause of the reliability issues is the Self Assembly task. It’s not something that you could complete in 20 minutes, having read the Assembly Manuals. More like a few hours. A customer who is perhaps not that deft with tools may inadvertently mis-align a component, cross thread a bolt so on and so forth. For me personally, I’m not that great with tasks requiring mechanical skills! Nor do I have the desire to learn; and I know I’m not alone out there. Bowflex Treadclimbers are a sophisticated, precision piece of technology, that much I do know.
- One service Bowflex does offer (depending on location) is a home assembly service. It costs a couple of hundred dollars. When you consider you’ve paid over $3,000 for the latest TC20, this seems great value to enable you to start burning calories without any initial hassle. Otherwise, look in your local directory for a tradesperson who can put it together for you properly. Hassle free assembly by an expert is at most a couple of hundred bucks – go figure.
- Value for Money – this is an interesting one. Bowflex Treadclimbers are a 3-in-1 machine, being able to work as an elliptical, treadmill and stairclimber machine. So to do a real comparison with price, add up who much it would cost you to buy a separate elliptical, treadmill and stepper/stairclimber machine of equivalent quality. I think you’ll find you will be saving serious money with the treadclimber. Also, you have one machine in the corner, not a room full of machines.
- Weight – The latest TC5, TC10 have small wheels to allow them to be moved around. The TC5 weighs in at 163 pounds (74kg), with the TC10 at 158 pounds (72kg) and the top of the range TC20 at 218 pounds (99kg). The TC20 has now been fitted with a retractable handle to allow it to be moved around. Again, because of the amount of functionality built into a treadclimber machine, one of the tradeoffs is weight. It has more components in it than a single function exercise machine.
- Customer Service – Certainly there have been issues in the past. The best approach to satisfy yourself is to contact their customer service BEFORE you buy a treadclimber. Are they helpful, polite? Can they answer basic questions? Are they prompt in their responses? Do they know their stuff? Customer service means different things to different people. Only you can decide on this one.
- Usability – Varies from customer to customer, but Bowflex have re-designed the TC20 to have longer foot treadles for a more comfortable machine to use. They are a 3-in-1 machine designed to give you the maximum cardio results, without taking up a huge amount of physical room
You Can Get Immediate Results
- Unless you are good at tasks that require mechanical dexterity, then get your treadclimber machine assembled by someone who knows how to go about it. That way, you can start getting the benefits immediately from your home based exercise program. After all, that’s why you’re buying it! Not for the challenge of putting together a mechanical jigsaw puzzle.
- Check out the customer service BEFORE you buy. You must also keep in mind that these machines do require minor periodic maintenance to keep them in tip-top condition.
- And don’t forget to make sure that this style of cardio machine is for you.
You Actually Risk Very Little
Even after having done all this, and you buy a Bowflex Treadclimber and you’re not happy, they offer a 6 week 100% satisfaction guarantee return policy. If you’re not satisfied within the first six weeks, you can make arrangements with their customer service department to return it for a full refund, less shipping, handling and assembly fees. Refer to their customer service department for full conditions.
The New Release of Treadclimber Machines
How will the new TC5, TC10 and TC20 machines shape up? Only time will tell, but Bowflex have put a lot of energy into their latest releases to deliver a highly sophisticated cardio exercise machine that is capable of delivering superior results. I’ll keep you posted.
Wishing you every success with your new cardio exercise program!
PS. If you want to read more about treadmill machines in general, then get my FREE mini-report “5 Facts About Treadmills”. Head over to the sidebar and sign up. It’s easy.