on February 1, 2012
I personally own a F85 2011 model. Here is my take on the treadmill that you are considering...
Treadmill shopping is a daunting task, especially for a "researcher" like myself. I'm not going to discuss specs or most features -- lots of sites can fill that void. About 85% of what I found on the internet was garbage -- very obviously someone looking at a spec sheet that had never been on THE treadmill.
Let me outline my treadmill experience, my quest, my purchase, and my thoughts on the treadmill we are PERSONALLY USING:
First off my history, I've been a runner for the past 30 years. At one time I was very competitive but due to knee injuries now run recreationally at a pace between 8-10 minutes a mile for health. I have a wife who runs/walks, a son who runs in cross country, and a 9 year old daughter. Our regular users range between 50# and 225#. We have been life long health club members, until moving out to the sticks in the past 6 months. So I'm accustomed to running on Precor and Lifefitness treadmills at the YMCA. I've also used Spirit, TRUE, and others at hotels. I've used proform and nordic track treadmills at relatives. I liked the YMCA treadmills, thought the general hotel treadmill was fair-good, and hated the junk that my relatives were suckered into buying. (I also own an Octane Fitness Q37 elliptical. Very pleased with it also).
Secondly, my quest. I spoke to fitness stores who badmouthed Smooth and Sole (predominately internet brands). I noticed some vocal fitness store owners who badmouthed those same products in several runner's world message board threads. I spent an hour on the phone talking to Smooth fitness folks. I spoke to the main guy that travels all over west michigan repairing any brand of treadmill. I looked at the leading consumer's research magazine (which gave the non-folding model of this treadmill a "best buy" rating). I'd recommend you axe out any reviews that are from folks who have never been on the treadmill in question or a variety of treadmills. This is how Weslo treadmills have estatic reviewers that sing the praises of thier subpar treadmills. In all honesty I was looking for the treadmill that most closely resembled my YMCA experience at the lowest price. If that is your quest plan on spending $1,800-$2,500. (I got one for about $1,800 delivered and assembled, Took two guys about an hour to put it together).
Thirdy, why a sole F85?
1. I only care about the running experience. I love the solid construction, the 22" belt, and the feel of the running deck. It most closesly resembles my YMCA experience. The difference between a 22" belt and a 20" belt is significant for this daydreamer. This running deck really feels right.
2. I don't care about heart rate monitors or programs, but this does have them. (Any treadmill in this price range has a sufficient motor, incline, warranty, etc.). If you are after a fancier fan, ILive fitness programs, or speakers you will want to go elsewhere. In the end those things do not matter at all.
3. The Smooth brand had some major problems in my estimation. First off it does not show pace per mile (only MPH) -- what real runner does not care about pace? This flaw raised huge questions about the input of actual runners in making their product. I also could not see a smooth treadmill in person prior to purchase -- and wasn't willing to take that leap of faith. Finally, it seems that they encourage reviews amongst both paid sites and owners. They were in my final mix but these red flags were too much for me.
4. I ran on a consumer Precor in the same price range. I felt the feel of the running experience was inferior to the F85 -- and it was bare bones compared to the F85 features.
5. The repairman I spoke with has an experience base unlike anyone else. He has been repairing fitness equipment full time for over 10 years. He has agreements with several brands to do warranty service (but not Sole). He also does not have a vested interest. His input on the construction and repair history of Sole treadmills was positive and did nothing to disuade me from purchase.
Lastly, my thoughts on this treadmill after about three weeks of family use.
1. Everyone loves it and I remain very positive about the actual running feel/experience on this treadmill.
2. Only problem is the fan quit working. (Which is so close to the feel that when the fan was working that I probably won't bother to fix it).
3. We ran on it at Dick's sporting goods prior to buying, go look try one out there if you wish.
4. At the YMCA some of the newer treadmills may be slightly better than this, some of the ones that have been around awhile are slightly worse.
5. The "handles" are not as sturdy as a $5,000 treadmill when supporting your weight. I use them frequently to jump on and jump off the moving belt. They are sufficient, but I can tell the difference.
6. If it were up to me I'd program the belt to speed up and slow down more rapidly.
Best of luck in your search. It's only a good purchase if you actually use it! Bump me if you have any questions...
on December 26, 2010
This treadmill looks very nice and feels very solidly built. I was able to assemble myself in about an hour and everything lined up perfectly. It runs relatively quiet. The display shows all parameters (distance, time, calories, speed, etc) all at the same time. My old treadmill had one numeric display that would cycle these parameters. The lap display was also a very nice added feature. The integrated fans do not blow very hard, but provide a nice breeze. This treadmill has built-in speakers. While they won't please audiophiles, they are more than adequate for working out. The deck folds up smoothly with almost no effort.
The only negative point about this treadmill is that the speed does not change very fast. This is most annoying when slowing down. It took about 45 seconds to slow from 6 mph to 2 mph. Perhaps this is a safety feature, I would have liked it to be a bit more responsive. It does speed up much faster than that, however.
The treadmill was delivered in two days. The delivery folks were going to leave it in the garage because that is all they are responsible for. However, my wife slipped them a little cash and they carried it to the basement. Like I mentioned, the unit was very easy to assemble by a single person.
Excellent display. Ease of assembly. Solidly built. Quiet. Speakers.
Speed adjustment a little sluggish.
I've been exercising on the Lifefitness' commercial model treadmill at my gym for over three years. It's a great treadmill, and I've never had any issues or complaints. Since it's a commercial model, it's huge and bulky; it's probably built to last long for the heavy usage at a gym or a fitness center. Well, that's good, except the price of over $5000. That's a half of ten grand. Their noncommercial models are maybe $1000 less, but I still can't say they are in an affordable price range. Having said that, the Sole F85 is well under $5000, to be exact it's now at $2000 with free shipping. I am mentioning the price first because at this price, I think the affordability comes first when considering a treadmill. And I think F85 is affordable without sacrificing the quality and the value compared to Lifefitness' overpriced models.
Assembling took about an hour by myself, and I did not have any issues with missing parts or mismatching joints. The assembly instruction wasn't the easiest thing to follow, but it did the job. One difficult thing in assembling was the weight. This machine is very heavy to move around, so I recommend finding the perfect spot to put this before you start assembling.
Operating was quick and easy for me since I've been using Lifefitness treadmills for a long time, but, generally, anyone can figure out the operation within a couple of minutes. All the buttons are big and responsive so it's easier to access when running fast. Both inclining and speeding was gradual but quick. Also, the safety key worked well; when I pulled it, the treadmill immediately slowed down and stopped. There are incline and speed buttons on the side bars as well, and that's kind of convenient for a quick change. Lastly and most importantly, it runs smooth.
I consider a couple of things seriously, however. A) Comfort. It is important to have enough space on the treadmill when running. F85 might be slightly smaller in width compare to Lifefitness' bigger model I am used to, but I did not feel crammed on this one either. The second to take seriously is shock absorption. I do not have strong knees and I can't run on the asphalt so it is important to have a good shock absorption system. I've been running around 3 miles/day a couple of times a week for over a month now, and I don't have any pain (yet) on my knees and feet. The final aspect to consider is the noise of the machine. I can tell Sole's F85 is quieter than Lifefitness' when under 5mph, but when I run around 6mph, I think the noise level is about same. But I do like that this machine is less noisier in low speed; this perk is particularly convenient, because often times I choose to run in low speed at night when my son is asleep, and fortunately, this machine is minimally noisy that it does not wake him up (he is quite the light sleeper).
There are some additional features I'd like to mention. The first is the cooling fan. There are two fans above the LCD screen, and it's only position adjustable (not speed). The size is quite small (like the ones in the computer box), so I didn't expect much, but actually, it was very nice to have them running while exercising. The fan speed is not too strong or weak; it just gives little breezes, but it feels different from not having one before. Another feature is the technology. This treadmill doesn't offer too much current technology such as ipod/iphone compatibility, usb port for data output, color lcd with catch animations and graphics, etc. And that's what I like about. Less technology is better on some things, I think, and this treadmill is one of them. I'm sure there's a treadmill that can support all kinds of devices and do everything wireless, but had the manufacturers put all these techie features in the F85, the price wouldn't be at this range. And it is no secret technology outdates too quickly, so I find this important. I've seen this happening on my ipod speakers and many iphone compatible accessories. I can't just change my treadmill every year. The LCD screen is not color or touch screen, and I could care less; I do not think it's necessary as well. However, there are those who would disagree. I also favor the fact that I can lift and position the deck, which can help save some room if you live in a small or apartment or simply want to make a little extra room around the machine. I find this feature pretty awesome!
There are a couple of cons. There are two deep pockets big enough for water bottles on the dash board and that works well for me. But there are other bottle holder pockets under the dash board, probably at knee height, and it's not a convenient spot to put and grab bottles while running. Another con are the speakers. I can connect my iPod (only audio input), but the speaker quality is not too good (this part of technology I do find important). I was not expecting too much, but these speakers can be better quality, considering the price of the machine.
Overall, the machine is easy to assemble and use, is affordable, and valuable (more motor power than Lifefitness' lower end model). Lastly, the quality of the machine is high; it's built in heavy steel, and is meant to last a very long time. So long as consumer takes good care of the machine, this treadmill could last years. The machine also comes with various warranties: lifetime on motor, deck, and frame, and 5 years on electronics, belt, rollers, and other small components, and 2 years on labor (this information can be found on the website). For all that is offered, this machine is perfect for anyone!
on October 20, 2011
My husband bought me this treadmill for my birthday. I was training for my first half marathon and was not always able to run outside / with kids.
I am 5'5" and 125 lbs. This was a great treadmill for me. My husband is 6'2" and 195 and it was also sturdy enough for him to run on and even walk
on when wearing full military gear. I love that it folds up and locks, the little kids can't pull the deck down. When you take it down it glides down.
My main complaint would be when using a higher incline (say over 7) for walking uphill, the handles and built in heart rate monitor become useless. I am not extremely tall and I have to hunch over to reach them which throws off your balance. We both wish they would raise up with the rest of the machine or were adjustable. See my Pros and Cons below.
I would say its overall its a great home machine for the money! We have been pleased.
-the built in mp3 jack
-built in speakers (although don't expect stereo quality)
- the speed settings
- the max weight limit.
-fold up / locking deck
-heart rate strap included
-fans are almost useless
-handles become useless on a high incline
-belt slows down super slow from a run to a walk
-NO cool down feature
on January 10, 2011
Overall a great product. As others have said, this is a nice heavy machine - nice in the sense that the heavier more solid machines have a better track record. We ended up needing help getting it into the basement while it was still in the box since it is kind of a beast to move around. I was able to put it together without too much difficulty; the only element that gave me trouble was the plastic cover on one of the handles (also noted by others). This is a very minor complaint since I was able to get it together in the end - it was just a bit tricky. If you are at all handy, you should be able to put this together yourself. It would help to have a helper but I put it together solo so it is not that daunting a task.
The controls are easy to operate and the machine has a very solid feel. The deck is very easy on knees - I have rather serious pain from time to time in my knees and have not experienced any on this machine yet, which makes me very happy. There is a bit of a lag in getting the speed all the way cranked up or down, but I understand that this is to provide a longer lifespan on the motor, etc. so that seems like a reasonable tradeoff. We are quite satisfied with the way it functions.
We have moved it a couple times to find the best place, and it has a simple and elegant mechanism for folding, rolling, and unfolding. Not that these machines usually get trundled all over the place, but this one is relatively easy to maneuver.
on June 10, 2011
I purchased this treadmill in February 2011 and had nothing but problems with it. Whenever I walked on the treadmill it made creaking noises that seemed out of the ordinary. And whenever I changed incline it made even more creaking noises. Then the rear roller went out and the motor starting making noises The HR monitor never worked properly, always having erratic readings.
The bottom dust cover on the unit (new to 2011) came with a huge crack in it, and I have a theory that the unit was likely dropped either at the factory or during transit. While not common, these things do happen. So how did I test this theory? I return the defective unit to Sole and requested a replacement, which they were prompt to approve.
It has now been three months since the new unit arrived and I have not had any problems with it. The treadmill makes ordinary, expected, noises; the motor runs smoothly; the incline works flawlessly; and the heart rate readings are always accurate. So maybe my initial theory was correct. In any case, I would rate this a "nigh flawless" because it is. The only improvement that I wish Sole had made was (a) to have a place above the fans to dock an iPhone or iPod for watching movies; and (b) to have buttons to adjust sound while exercising. The fans could be beefed up a bit too. (Sole: if you are reading this, this is how to make a perfect machine!).
UPDATE 7-4-2011: Just noticed that my treadmill has about a 2 foot crack in it just left of the center. So I guess we'll see how Sole handles this one. I'll post again after it's resolved. Stay tuned!
on February 15, 2011
This is a very nice feature rich treadmill, but be forewarned that comes at the price of a very heavy constructed piece of equipment. If you want to put it in a carpeted room I recommend that you get a mat as well as put a piece of plywood under the unit as it is likely to eat mats and carpet. The manual also cautions to place the treadmill on a hard surface to avoid damage to surface and equipment.
on July 13, 2011
I own a 2011 F85 purchased thru Amazon.com. At the overall level, it is a decent unit, fairly quiet. My quibble: 1) while it does support two users, you still have to enter all of your details (weight and age) each time you use the unit. Why can't I just enter a Login screen and login, and then use whatever program that I want to use? Why do I have to enter all of the info multiple times. Then again, it might be user error. My wife loves this treadmill, and uses it regularly. Itis a little noiser than I thought, but it is still possible to watch TV or Movie while using it. Sole tech support is responsive if you call them, not real responsive if you email them. I have had two minor issues requiring the shipment of parts and Sole handled this quickly and efficiently. Local tech support in San Jose is great, a company called Rough and Ready, like the tech a lot. I am 6'2" and pushing 290lbs and this unit fits me pretty well. I do most of my walking outdoors, but I do use the F85 for interval training or for walking uphill when I want a short but intense workout. I would buy this unit again, but probably not thru Amazon. Their delivery company leaves a lot to be desired, in fact they put a 24" scratch in my family room hardwood floor, thank you very much.
on July 24, 2011
I've only owned it a few weeks but its sturdy and runs great. I ended up buying this one because of the wider running deck. You wouldn't think that 2 inches of width would make that much difference, but it does. That last sentence temps me to leave inappropriate remarks but I'll refrain. Only complaint is that it changes speeds kind of slow. I remember reading something about the speaker quality. They are not Bose, but they work. The fan is not that helpful but looks nice. Overall great so far. I'll update if something changes.
on January 18, 2011
I am really looking forward to using this, but thought a warning was needed to counter previous reviews that describe this assembly as a snap. The machine is VERY heavy for one person and while the assembly is not complicated, it really does require 2 people. I am having problems with some of the parts not aligning...the body being too narrow to accommodate the top. Still working through it, but if I could do it all over again, I would go ahead and spend the $200 more to have Sears deliver and assemble this product.