Treadmills – Understanding the Technical Aspects

Treadmills – Understanding the Technical Aspects


Once you set out to buy a treadmill, you can be sure that you will have enough options available to get your mind buzzing. So the ideal thing is to have some defined ideas of what aspects are required from your treadmill, and what is simply out of the question.

Horsepower has continuously baffled buyers when they look to choose a motorized treadmill. Some dealers cash in on the confusion and rant the ‘bigger the better’ rhetoric. Therefore, you have to be well versed, or at least apparently well versed, in what you want. A 2.0 HP motor would do well for your treadmill, anything less than 1.5 is certainly going to wear out much quicker than you’d expect, so go for the optimum option. The idea is to look out for the gimmicks don’t pay heed to the terms like ‘peak horsepower’ or ‘treadmill duty’; they mean nothing in the long run when you want consistent speed. The important thing is the ‘continuous duty’; which marks that the motor will be able to produce a continuous 2HP for a full 24 hr motor usage. It is a practice with manufacturers to stamp the ‘continuous duty’ horsepower on DC motors, so having a look under the hood wouldn’t hurt either.

Now a motor’s HP will get you going, but bad Motor Electronics can mar the quality of experience you will have with your treadmill, not to mention the amounts you will have to pay for repairs! Seasoned manufacturers make sure that their treadmills have a steady clip which utilizes a microprocessor to sense the belt load and adjust accordingly for silky operation. So the best treadmills will be the ones that sense your resistance if you try to slow down, and adjust accordingly to keep the set pace going smoothly. Try slowing down a treadmill while hanging on to the handle bars, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. A low quality, cheap treadmill will show her displeasure at your rudeness by jerking and groaning, but the quality ones, I have already described.

The Motor Toque is the thing that rotates the shaft which ultimately moves against your load. So plainly speaking, the motor torque has to be high to take the load of a human body, a potentially heavy human body at that. It’s simple enough to understand that you need high torque for your treadmill. But also, the number of revolutions per second have to be low. Otherwise the treadmill might make you appreciate it at high speeds but at low speeds the high revs would really tax the motor. And consequently the motor will not last long enough to justify a good buy.

With a variety of treadmill available, the buyer should be sure what kind of Speed he wants from his treadmill. Whether you want to use it for running, jogging, or just walking determines which machine would be best for you. For walking, speeds from 0 to 6mph would do fine, but for runners the best treadmill would be the one which offers speeds from 0 to 12 mph. Running a motor at top speed of its speed limit over a long period of time is a sure way to wear out the motor is a hurry, so avoid that if you don’t like to pay for repairs. For starters, the safe speed is half a mile, per hour, to make sure that the jerk of the initial start won’t spill you over.

The treadmill’s Belt has to suit your operation style as well. If you want to use the treadmill for running the belt should be 18 to 22 inches wide at least, to keep the runner safe. While the length would have to suit long strides for runners so something between 50 to 54 inches would be good. If the length or the width is not optimum for your use, then stay clear of such treadmills, as tripping on deck moving 5 mph is very likely to have you end up doing crosswords in a hospital bed. With manufacturers competing to be the best treadmill makers, the better ones provide two-ply belts that last longer and are less likely to curl at the sides. So that’s the recommended stuff as it will last longer than a cheaper single ply belt. The treadmill Deck should have shock absorbing qualities to recommend it. Usually a good manufacturer will make sure that the deck provides ease to the user. In comparison with roads, a good treadmill deck provides almost 40% shock absorption to lessen the impact on the feet and joints. Therefore, for buyers who have joint problems, or those who don’t wish to develop any, the best thing is to go for well cushioned, pre treated decks. This will, of course, result in fewer maintenance requirements. Though more impact protection is certainly going to hit you right where it matters; on the wallet.

Though it is necessary to have the necessary Resilience, all the talk about the impact protection shouldn’t deceive you into buying a cheap treadmill with an overly soft deck. What you need is a deck that absorbs some of the impact; rubber bushings under a flexible deck serve the purpose ideally. However, when you go out to actually shop for the best treadmill for you, you have to remember that there are no set standards for cushioning and provision of resilience. The cushioning varies from treadmill to treadmill almost. Review treadmills; try out as many as you can, be critical. Don’t fall for ‘the softer the better’ sales line; resilience is not meant to make the deck spongy or bouncy, a good pair of shoes and a decent deck resilience is enough to provide relief to your feet and joints, so go for it!

For treadmill Rollers though, ‘the bigger the better’. This logic is based in simple physics; rollers with larger diameter have more surface area so the bearings have to do a lot less work in comparison with smallish rollers. Plus there is the belt to take care of, if you have small rollers the belt will have to put up with more tension and consequently there will be more repair work needed as well. And of course the larger rollers have more load bearing capacity so they need less repair work than the smaller rollers, who would be rolling themselves rugged if you regularly take up high speeds. Also, keep in mind that solid rollers are better than hollow ones, and prefer steel rollers to aluminum, which start to form an almost sand paper like material between the belt and the roller surface in quick time.

Though treadmills offer wide range of Incline options, they usually vary between 2-25%. Quite understandably, cheap treadmills have manual incline options but the costlier ones offer motorized incline features. Again, motors make the treadmill more complicated piece of equipment so the repair charges increase, along with the initial price. The thing to keep in mind about incline motors is that they should be quite about their efforts, if they groan as they increase incline then beware, they will die down on you a lot sooner than you’d expect. It can be easy to look for the widest range of choice and decide upon that, but seriously speaking, mostly you don’t need more than 10% of incline as more can be hazardous for health. So, an innovative way might be to go for the motorized incline treadmills which keep your heartbeat in check and automatically adjust the incline to keep it smooth. Those who still can’t get their heartbeat to the optimum high can just think how much they paid for the treadmill; I bet the treadmill would go downhill if it could!

Potentially the most luring thing about a treadmill is its Control Panel or console. There is a wide variety of features available on these consoles; from a speed monitor to heart rate monitor, electric incline control, distance and time, the treadmills boast a variety of features. However, too many buttons and gauges may get confusing, as well as potentially risky because they complicate the treadmill further and increase repair costs. There are LCD displays in the cheap treadmills while the high-end treadmills use LED displays that emit light from the display to make them more useful. Displays that are large simple and readable are the best options for those who don’t want to spend on luxuries such as the high-end treadmills. A great feature of some high-end treadmills is the display that show error in case some part of the treadmill isn’t in perfect health, definitely a good thing to have on hand, but not necessary. Ideally, the control panel should be the last thing on your mind when you decide on a treadmill, they can catch your fancy at one glance and then you wouldn’t make many smart choices afterwards, beware!

A Treadmill has a Motor Controller which is an electrical power board that polices the current of the motor. Usually they are either Pulse Width Modulated board (PWM) or Solid State Control Rectifier board (SCR). A PWM board provides more DC voltage than the SCR one, as it has DC current running. Therefore, PWM boards are much quieter than SCR boards, which is recommendation enough. To add to that, they require less repair services as there are no chokes and filters to worry about, and the stronger current results in more tolerance while the heavier users are on. If you still aren’t convinced then let me add that the PWM have lower electric costs, and they produce less heat as opposed to the SCR boards. Therefore, their life and performance are enhanced to make them user friendly and economical in the long run.

Heart Rate Control is essential for optimum workout in the least amount of time. The more effort you make the higher the heart rate is the simple rule with the stuff. It is ideal to have a heart rate monitor on your control panel to keep the rate in check, going over board with too much effort can damage the heart, so keep an eye on it. As for the quality of heart rate monitors, the idea is to choose one that of the interactive monitors. These not only keep the heart beat in check but also increase or reduce the incline to keep your heart rate optimum. Good heart rate control monitors use chest straps for evaluation, while other, less accurate monitors use ear and finger clip pulses for monitoring purposes. Usually, the Frame of the treadmill is made of either aluminum or alloy steel. Though steel has the potential to rust quickly but, if you take good care of it, they are stable enough to do you proud. Aluminum, on the other hand, is lighter than steel and provides easy portability, plus it doesn’t rust. However, the sturdiness of aluminum is low and it is not advisable to choose it ahead of steel for that very reason. Another important thing about frames is the way they are made. Welded frame should be preferred over bolted ones; simply because bolts and are far less durable in the long run, thought they might make moving easier, but that still isn’t enough to recommend them over welded frames.

Handlebars on treadmills are used for stability and balance so they should be within the reach of the user if he needs to use them. However, before selecting a treadmill, be sure that the handlebars do not come into the path of your arm motion whether you walk or run. The handlebars should be sturdy, avoid plastic ones as they might not last much. Plus the grips have to be comfortable for easy usage. It really doesn’t matter how many handlebars are there in your treadmill, they can be one or two rails over the front of the control panel or a couple on the sides. What does matter however, is that handlebars should be out of your way, a swinging arm hitting a handlebar on the full might not be the ideal way to exercise, so choose wisely.

Like other moving machines, motorized treadmills should have Safety features that reduce accident potential to a bare minimum. Handlebars, as we have discussed, play a very important role in safety of the users. Along with those, emergency shut off is something that needs to be present in a good treadmill. Having said that, it would be no use to have an emergency shut off switch if it is out of reach, so check that as well. Similarly, the controls to limit the incline or speed or to turn to a gradual shut down should be within the user’s reach as well. Make sure that the treadmill has a safe starting speed and a gradual shut down as well, jerky beginnings or abrupt slowing may put the user in a bit of a tumble. An inbuilt circuit breaker is always handy for expensive motorized treadmills so in case of power breakdowns or accidental power problems the treadmill should shut its system down to prevent damage to the machine.

The Warranty; A quality treadmill is a long term investment. When you pay top dollars for the best treadmills, remember that you should have a guarantee that the machine will work properly over at least over a period of 1-3 years. Mostly good manufacturers offer lifetime warranty on frames while the motorized parts, electronics along with the deck and belt should have a minimum of 1 year guarantee with labor to change the problematic parts in that period. Reliable manufacturers provide even 2-3 years warranties for the parts but 1 year of labor, which is fair enough. Guard against paying added money for extra warranty as that is not likely to do you much good. However, it is always helpful to find out if the treadmill you are looking to buy will have its parts available for some time to come. Surely you don’t wish your treadmill to become redundant material two years down the lane.

For most people, the Price of the treadmill becomes the check that hold them back from choosing the best option possible. Usually you would find that below 1000$ are the sort of treadmills we have done our best to guard you against. So for a quality motorized treadmill, be prepared to spend over a 1000$ at least. The high-end treadmills average over 3000$ so they rattle your pocket considerably when you go for those, but as we have discussed earlier the competitive market has done consumers some amount of good, so some excellent treadmills are available around the 2 K mark as well. The catch is to remember that buying a treadmill is a long term investment for you, so have to assess the feasibility according to your own resources. You can go for refurbished treadmills or used treadmills that are in good condition, but consider only quality treadmills if you buy a used treadmill, a low quality refurbished treadmill will certainly not be a good buy. Choose wisely, live well!



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