In its first year in a Consumer Reports treadmill review, Vision Fitness nabbed the company's "Best Buy" rating, while both True, Landice and Precor were the only three of 15 to take the top "excellent" rating in all three categories ranked.
"We're excited," Vision Fitness President Greg Waters told SNEWS.
The company had only suspected the review was in the works, he said, since the magazine had contacted someone in customer service a couple of months ago to ask for some information about the T9200 -- the model that eventually appeared in the June 2003 issue called "Get in Shape, Indoors or Out."
"It's hard to get on the edge of your seat (before publication) with some of these reviews because you don't know what's going to happen," Waters added.
The company also didn't know the magazine had hit until a retailer called to congratulate them on May 8, and Waters then tracked down the magazine the next day. Results? Since that weekend, traffic to the company's website has tripled, Waters said, and requests for literature have quadrupled.
"We're selling treadmills because of it," he said. "It's helping to sell products, for sure."
Consumer Reports said in its explanation that the overall score is based mainly on exercise usability, ergonomics, and safety and construction, including durability. Several months ago, a representative of the magazine had told SNEWS another treadmill review was in the works since fitness equipment has proved to be a popular area for its readers. The magazine defines "usability" as "how intuitively a user can adjust the incline level, set the belt speed, get information from the console display, and monitor the heart rate." It explained "ergonomics" as design of the belt area, foot rails, handrails, motor housing and folding mechanism. "Construction" covered motor horsepower, electrical wiring, hardware and weld quality, deck thickness, flywheel design, and durability testing. It also cited prices as approximate retail.
Given a perfect score of three excellent "blobs" (those are the colored CR circle ratings) were True's 400 HRC ($2,200), which was top of the list; the Landice L7 Pro Sports Trainer ($2,900) in second; and the Precor M9.31 ($2,850), actually in fourth place overall. The Life Fitness T3 ($2,400) was listed in third over all before the Precor although it was given one notch lower (a very good) for construction. Fifth overall went to the Precor M9.33, then came Vision's T9200. Next came, in this order: Reebook RX 5000, Star Trac TR901, Horizon Fitness Tsc2, Image 10.0, NordicTrack C2200, ProForm CT 1160, Tunturi J7F, ProForm CrossWalk Advanced 525x and, in last overall, the Weslo Cadence 450.
Prominently missing was product from SportsArt America, Bodyguard, Pacemaster, and even Smooth or its retail brand Evo.
If you go to www.ConsumerReports.org and enter the Report code 601 (on the lower right), you'll get free access to the magazine's pictorial of each console display -- through July 7. For a short time the June article on features is available online, but the ratings are only available to subscribers. Another tip: Scroll to the lower left and note ongoing consumer discussions on different products, with one on treadmills started last week. You can register for free to take a peek at what consumers are saying about treadmills, their workout needs, and other comments on brands.
SNEWS View: It's utterly refreshing to see the venerable CR rate top brands and not just the lower-end stuff it used to focus on. Those now are mostly at the bottom of the list and earn pretty low "blob" ratings overall. Of course, no review is perfect, nor will it actually claim to be, but CR makes the best all-around attempt than others out there, and seems to listen to feedback each time. Congratulations to Vision for getting such notice â€“ and sliding in right behind $2,200 to $3,000 treadmills with its $1,350 model.