Ohiyo!

Posts three days in a row?! The Treadmill Sensei is back! It’s amazing what someone can do when they have an entire day to dedicate to one task, with no interruptions beyond doing laundry for their wife. I do the laundry, the dishes and take out the trash and for that my wife puts up with me without too much complaint. I also kill spiders and open jars.

For this installment of the Read Mailbag we have a reader who wants to know about the difference between Sole Fitness equipment and Spirit Fitness equipment in terms of quality. Let’s see what Jen has to say. Take it away, Jen!

I like your site very much, and it seems to have alot of information that has helped me to start to figure out which elliptical to purchase.

Right now I have it narrowed down to the Sole E55 and the Spirit XE550. I know that they are basically the same, but I, of course have the guy at the specialty fitness store telling me that the Sole brand is just a lower level of Spirit, and that I should definately get the Spirit since it is basically the same price. Is this true or are they the exact same machine? Also, I have read a little about the new Esprit line, and that the EL-7 has an automatic incline ramp included as well. I don’t see it on the Spirit site yet and I can’t seem to find anything else about it. Do you know much about this new line and specifically the EL-7? -Jen

Jen:

Thanks for your note, Jen, and I’m glad you enjoy the website. I want to start off by addressing a very common misconception readers seem to have — especially if they’ve spoken with some of the shadier retailers out there. Sole Fitness and Spirit fitness are two different companies. Sole is out of Utah and Spirit is in Arkansas. Spirit has been around since the early 80s and started off as a manufacturer, I believe, of farm equipment. Sole has been around since the early 90s and began as a supplier of bicycles. Both companies re-brand and sell equipment from an OEM company called Dyaco. OEM stands for “original equipment manufacturer” and is how a lot of companies do business. What it means is that Dyaco (with factories in Taiwan and China) manufactures the equipment and then paints and labels it for their clients. Dyaco became the 100% owner of Spirit Fitness back in 2004 (I believe) and, from what I understand, this past year may have purchased a stake in Sole as well (rumors were to the effect of 20% but I doubt anyone knows for sure).

In the past, Sole and Spirit bought the same basic equipment, had it painted different colors and sold it under their own label/brand name. So, for example, pre-summer 2007 you had a Sole E55 elliptical which was essentially the same as the Spirit XE350 elliptical. Different paint jobs, different labels but the same “under the hood” and using the same off-the-shelf parts. Where the two companies differed was in what happened with those units once they landed in the US. Sole and Spirit are two different companies in respect to their QC process and their customer service. A funny thing that I’ve heard about happening is that a customer will go in to purchase a Sole treadmill or elliptical and then a shady salesperson will “upgrade” them to a Spirit for a slightly higher cost. Do NOT buy in to this, especially with the 2006-2007 models because they are the same units and should be the same, lower cost.

This past summer (2007), Sole and Spirit both redesigned their equipment in order to help differentiate the two lines of product from one another. Because of my huge ego, I like to think it happened because our website opened up the flood gates back in 2006/2007 by letting everyone know they were selling the same equipment under two different names. Nowadays, you wouldn’t mistake a Sole treadmill or elliptical for a Spirit one even in bad light. Sole has stuck to the fantastic feeling, longer frame ellipticals while Spirit has moved to shorter profile with more of a stepper feel to their ellipticals.

As for Sole being a lower level version of Spirit, this is definitely not the case and often comes from overzealous or borderline shady salespeople. The two companies sold the same equipment, although the Spirit versions tended to have a higher price for some inexplicable reason. That’s still the true today — you’ll find that the Spirit equivilent will be priced $100 or more than its Sole counterpart. This may be because Sole has a much higher sales volume than Spirit and is able to bring in higher quality equipment for a lower price. To tell the truth, the two companies are very similar. Sole is the more experienced, cooler bigger brother while Spirit is still young and going through some growing pains because of its smaller sales volume. You’ll continue to see a lot of good things from both companies.

Before I forget, you asked about the Esprit line in general and the Esprit EL7 Elliptical in specific. The Esprit line is basically just a repainted version of the pre-2007 Sole treadmills and ellipticals. Since Dyaco owned the molds that Sole used for their equipment in years past, they decided to re-release the units with a new white paint scheme to be sold exclusively online. It’s a decent idea because it gives consumers the chance to purchase some great equipment for a very low price.

About the Esprit EL7 elliptical: the reason you’re not finding a whole lot of information on it is, from what I’m hearing, because Spirit pulled production on the model and it is currently not shipping. I’m not sure why, but it may have resulted from issues with the new technology or it may have just been a reworking of their product mix. Spirit hasn’t had an incline trainer in the past and this technology can be a bit difficult to get perfected. As with any new technology, it is best to give it a year or so for the manufacturer to get all the bugs worked out before buying in to it.

This may change in the future, but as of right now I’m hearing the Esprit EL7 ellipticals are not available. If anyone has any info to the contrary, please email in and I’ll write and update.

I hope this helps, Jen, and thanks again for the great questions! Take care and good luck in your search for fitness!

-The Treadmill Sensei
http://www.treadmillsensei.com