From time to time I get emails from readers who mention that I seem to be a little hard when it comes to my Nautilus equipment reviews. To them I said, I have absolutely no problem with Nautilus. In fact, I think they have some very nice upper end Nautilus-branded equipment, and their Schwinn ellipticals are top notch as well (especially those now made by Horizon Fitness like the Schwinn 438 Elliptical).
Unfortunately, their Bowflex brand equipment comes up quite a bit short in quality. They aren’t complete junk like some of the Icon Fitness equipment, but they are generally below average when it comes to manufacture and design.
Let’s learn a bit about Bowflex before I get another Treadclimber-sized migraine from talking about their treadmills.
Bowflex began as a company selling its patented gyms back in the mid 1980s — I believe their first gym came out in around 1986. The company itself grew in to the 1990s and eventually went public in 1999 as Direct Focus, Inc. Based on their huge success selling moderately priced home gym equipment, Direct Focus bough Schwinn, Nautilus and Stairmaster in the early 2000s (is that the proper way to say that? It just doesn’t read right to me…does anyone know?), extending their reach and brand name. With the purchase of those companies, Bowflex moved in to the production of treadmills and ellipticals for the masses.
And I’ve had that Bowflex headache ever since.
In my experience and in my opinion, Bowflex has the potential to be a great brand (heck, their company has more money behind it than a lot of countries!), but they seem to cut a lot of corners in their quality. You’ll get a great, solid frame with a lot of low-end, flimsy plastic parts, a so-so warranty and a smallish, over-torqued motor. The bummer is they have a great name from their huge market presence (Hi, I’m Michael Polinko and this is a real Bowflex body!) and that will goad a lot of people into purchasing their below average treadmills. Thankfully, they only have 3 different units this year.
Pass on Bowflex and save yourself my headache.
- Bowflex Series 3 Treadmill – small motor, thin belt, bad warranty. 2 Buddahs.
- Bowflex Series 5 Treadmill – thin belt, over rated deck motor and poor incline motor. 2 Buddahs.
- Bowflex Series 7 Treadmill – over geared motor, iffy electronics and poor customer service give this treadmill 2.5 Buddahs.
-The Treadmill Sensei