Reader Mailbag: Problems with Life Fitness 9500 treadmills and Star Trac Pro Treadmills

Ohiyo again, faithful students of the DOJO!

I hope the holiday weekend is treating you all well. Tonight we dip back in to the reader mailbag to try and help out a reader who is having problems with the treadmills at his gym. Let’s see what we can do to assist him.

Dear Treadmill Sensei,

I came across your website from a google search on the topic of treadmill belt slippage. I recently joined a new gym that has two types of treadmills, Life Fitness 9500 HR & Life Fitness 9700 HR treadmills, and Star Trac Pro treadmills. This gym is much more expensive than the other one I used to go to that had the exact same equipment. At the previous gym I had no problems using either type of treadmill.

My problem is that about 90% of their Life Fitness treadmills have belts that slip when you run faster than 6.0 MPH. I’m not a small guy, about 260 lbs, but I believe this should be well within the specifications of that model. The Star Trac Pro treadmills don’t slip but they make horrible vibrations and pounding noises if you run faster than about 5.5 MPH. Obviously, lighter/smaller users (women) that walk or jog do not exhibit these symptoms, and that does comprise the vast majority of their users. I have complained to the gym about these problems and they seem to think I’m either nuts for implying all their treadmills don’t work, or just too heavy for all of them.

I have a few questions for you:

– Am I being unrealistic? Can 260 lb guys not run faster than 6.0 MPH on this class of treadmill?
– The gym uses Durabelt brand belts on their treadmills. I suspect this is a cost saving measure, do you know this to cause problems?
– How does a treadmill repair expert verify that the belt won’t slip for heavier users if the repairman is a small person?
– Could the problem with the startrac treadmills be that they don’t have them on a soft floor?

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I understand you’re running a business, and you’re under no obligation to reply to my email with any kind of response without compensation. I’m just frustrated, and you seem very knowledgeable on the topic, so I thought it was worth a try.

Many thanks, Jim

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Nihango, Jim!

Thanks for your note. From you description it doesn’t sound like you are crazy at all. It does sound like there are problems with your gym’s Life Fitness 9500 treadmills and Star Trac Pro treadmills. Life Fitness and Star Trac both produce some of the highest end commercial treadmills out on the market. Both should have no problems with a 260-300 pound user running even at their max speeds without the slipping you’ve described.

Without actually seeing the treadmills myself, it sounds like either the belts aren’t properly aligned and adjusted or the decks are older and worn down. If the belt adjustment is off it could be from high usage (and would just need a couple of quick adjustments at the rear of the machine) or the rollers might be damaged or defective. If that’s the case it’s a little tougher to fix, but still pretty simple. If the decks are worn down and need replacement, then it could be a major issue for the gym. If they’re smaller and are short on their repair/replacement budget, then the higher expense of obtaining a new deck might be keeping them from maintaining their machines. It doesn’t really sound like a problem with the motors because then you’d be feeling changes in speed more than belt slippage.

As for the loud noises on the Star Trac Pro treadmills, I’d say there is definitely an issue there. Even on a hardwood style floor, the Star Trac Pro treadmills should still be fairly quiet machines.

From my experience it sounds like the gym has machines that are older and no longer under manufacturer warranty — either they’ve had the machines for a long period or they’ve purchased remanufactured equipment to save cash — and they are not able or willing to keep the units up to fighting shape. It sounds like most of their users are smaller and they figuring risking the annoyance of a couple of larger clients is worth it to avoid paying to have their equipment repaired properly.

My suggestion would be to see if you can have the gym manager or owner watch you during a treadmill workout to see the problem. If they see the problem and don’t fix it, I’d say get the heck out of there and move on to a more responsible gym.

Please let me know how things work out for you and don’t hesitate to email me again with any questions or comments you might have.

Take care.

The Treadmill Sensei

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