BowFlex Treadmills — A Review of Pain


I’ve been working on treadmills and fitness equipment for nearly two decades now and, most days, I love what I do. Unfortunately, today was not one of those days. Today was a Bowflex day (A Bowflex Series 7 Treadmill to be exact). You see, Bowflex is my nemesis. Whenever one comes in here at the DOJO I dread it. It’s the same kind of dread I get when Mrs. Sensei announces the in-laws are coming over and will be staying not only for dinner but for the week.

The reason I dislike Bowflex treadmills (Bowflex Series 7 and Series 5 both) is because when one comes in it always comes with a headache riding hard behind it. I know what you’re thinking to yourself, my students, “But Consumer Reports says the Bowflex Series 7 treadmills are the best thing since sliced bread! How dare you speak ill of something the buyer’s bible has placed so high upon a pedastal?”

Well, Consumer Reports is wrong.

There, I said it and I’m not afraid. Let me explain a bit about just how Consumer Reports works. The fitness industry is a very small nice market to the all-knowing editors of the magazine. So small, in fact, that new reviews are really only done about once every one to two years and then just re-edited and rerun. A lot of the products they review are discontinued models. This is because they put word out about 6 weeks in advance of an article being due for any and all treadmills which can be donated (from manufacturers or retailers). Those are the treadmills that get reviewed. Now you know why in an industry with hundreds of models, only the same few are mentioned over and over, good or bad.

If you want a real review of what’s out there, get in your car and drive down to your local gyms or sporting good stores and try some out. Either that or do your research online.

Back to the Bowflex (or, as I like to call them, the “Blowfex”). To be fair, their treadmills really aren’t that bad. They’re a nice mid-range brand. They’re a bit sturdier than a Proform or an Epic, but not as sturdy as a Sole or a Horizon, even at the higher price points. They have a lot of plastic in them which tends to get beat up pretty good over the course of even an average workout — and if you’re a hard runner, don’t expect these things to last very long.

Other problems include poor motors (smaller motors run at higher RPMs to fool consumers with false Continuous Duty Ratings), lower end warranties considering their price point, high price, poor manufacturing, and a very loud work out…I think every piece of this machine is built to make as much noise as possible.

Now, the biggest problem with buying a Bowflex Series 7 (or Series 5) is if something does go wrong. Their customer support has been some of the worst I’ve ever tried to deal with. Just try to get in touch with them! It’s not an easy job. And, if you do finally reach a live person, actually getting service can be just as difficult. The reason for this is because Bowflex, and its parent company Nautilus, have a horrendous reputation for treatment of their service providers and a lot of techs like me won’t take their jobs any more. If they can’t even get a tech to agree to pay you a housecall, how do you think they’ll be able to get your problem fixed?

Don’t even get me started on the evil known as the Treadclimber.

My final analysis on Bowflex units in general is that they’d be great machines at half the price. Don’t get stuck paying $1500 for a Bowflex Series 7 treadmill when you can get a much better BodyCraft, Sole, or Horizon for the same or less.

So what have we learned today, my pupils? That’s right: don’t buy Bowflex because they give the sensei a migraine.

Back to the DOJO for me.

-The Treadmill Sensei

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