The Bowflex TreadClimber TC10 is an upgraded version of the TC5, in a collection which also features the
top-of-the-line TC20. (Update: Bowflex just released the TC200, which is the new top-of-the-line TreadClimber).
As a combination of treadmill, stair climber, and elliptical trainer, the TC10 takes advantage of steeper inclines to help you burn calories at a faster rate than conventional cardio machines.
There are already thousands of highly rated reviews available on Amazon and the Bowflex website, so what is it that makes this model so popular?
That’s just one of the questions we’ll be answering in our Bowflex TreadClimber TC10 review, where we look at everything from workout programs to warranty coverage to help you decide if this is the best choice of machine for your own home gym.
Design and safety features
Although the incline can be increased to an impressive 40%, this isn’t what makes the TreadClimber unique, as NordicTrack’s Incline Trainers also feature a similar gradient.
What really sets this machine apart from others in the fitness industry is its isolateral motion, whereby the Treadles move independently of each other and the incline adjusts based on your stride.
This adaptive motion reduces the impact of your foot fall on the belts, which helps to protect your knee joints and lower back better than conventional outdoor running or jogging.
But if you were to compare the TC10 to a light commercial treadmill, you would notice the maximum belt speed is considerably lower.
This isn’t a limitation caused by the steep gradient, as NordicTrack’s incline machines also ramp up to 40%, yet still manage to offer a top belt speed of 12 mph.
In comparison, the TreadClimber TC10 is capped at 4 mph, making it better suited for walking and light jogging workouts than it is for all out sprints. We would also recommend using this machine for steady state cardio instead of interval training for the same reason.
If you’re looking for a similar range of motion that supports HIIT workouts and aren’t worried about losing the tread belts, the Bowflex Max Trainer might be a better fit.
The M3 and M5 Max Trainers are specifically designed to support high intensity workouts with a shorter duration (down to just 14 minutes), yet still provide an impressive calorie burn rate which they say is better than a treadmill.
But back to the TC10 and you’ll notice a number of familiar features, such as water bottle holders, hand rails, and a safety key that can connect you to the console.
But one of the features you might not have seen before is the resistance control system, which is comprised of two Hydraulic Pistons and offers 12 possible settings.
Setting the range of motion
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Hydraulic Cylinders on fitness equipment, which have become a popular feature amongst some models of indoor rowing machine, as well as some of the more compact stepper machines.
So how does this benefit your workout, and how do you find the perfect setting for your height and fitness level?
Firstly it’s important to point out that due to the configuration of the Treadles, the Hydraulic Cylinders work independently of each other. Because the intensity settings of the Cylinders are adjusted manually prior to starting your workout, it’s important to make sure that you have the same level selected on each side.
This is something to bear in mind if the TreadClimber TC10 is going to be used by more than one person. There’s no way to store the selected Cylinder settings, so you would have to remember which level you selected during your previous workout if you each use a different range of motion.
As for the benefits to your workouts, the nature of the Hydraulics means that you experience a very smooth and fluid movement throughout your stride, which absorbs the impact of your footfall and cushions your joints. This also helps prolong muscular fatigue by maintaining a more consistent workload.
Each Cylinder has a clearly labelled dial as an indicator of the degree of motion the Treadle will move through. By rotating the dial through to its ‘Min’ position, you’re effectively reducing the amount of Treadle movement and creating a less intense workout. Likewise, rotating the dial towards the ‘Max’ setting increases the range of movement and the intensity of the workout.
The ideal setting for your height is where the Treadles displace enough to compensate for the impact of your stride, which Bowflex recommend as approximately 3 inches.
Bowflex TreadClimber TC10 – Features Summary
- Speed range: 0.5 to 4 mph
- Electronic functions: Speed, distance, time, and calories
- Maximum speed: 4 mph
- 4 display screens for optimal workout tracking
- G.O. Coach technology supports a weekly workout goal
- Stores and tracks 1 user
- Great compact design that fits easily in any home
- Minimum ceiling height: The treadles are 14 inches off the floor at their highest point. Add 14 inches to your height plus a couple of inches for clearance.
Display console design
If you’re used to using a treadmill or elliptical trainer, the first thing you’ll notice about the console is how simplistic the design is in comparison.
As we saw when reviewing the TC500 Treadclimber and machines in the Max Trainer collection, Bowflex don’t tend to include much in the way of entertainment features. Unfortunately this means no MP3/iPod connectivity, and no full color web-enabled touch screens like we’ve seen on some of the top-end NordicTrack ellipticals.
So why do we think this is a good thing?
One of the reasons we won’t often make direct comparisons between equipment from Bowflex and other companies is because of how unique the designs are. With their ‘PR’ collection of home gyms this meant using their innovative Power Rod technology to create resistance. Likewise, their Max Trainer has won awards for its design, which is a combination of the best features from a stairclimber and elliptical trainer.
In short, Bowflex focus on delivering home fitness equipment that’s effective for achieving your fitness goals, while keeping the price as affordable as possible. This means compromising entertainment features for a more efficient workout experience, which is a decision that’s proving incredibly popular based on the feedback from thousands of online reviews.
As for the TreadClimber TC10, the console features 4 separate LCD screens, each used to display just one or two pieces of workout information in a way that’s easy to read. This helps to highlight your time, distance, speed, number of calories burned, and your progress towards the weekly G.O. Coach™ fitness goal.
The TC10 display console features clear workout feedback, but no power incline settings
G.O. (Goal Oriented) Coach™ acts as a form of motivation to help you workout for at least 90 minutes each week. The display shows three columns, each representing 30 minutes. As your workout progresses, the height of the relevant column increases until all three are fully highlighted, at which point you have achieved the 90 minute workout goal.
Unfortunately this is as far as the TC10 goes in terms of goal setting, with no option to change the duration metric to something like calories burned, distance, or vertical climb. It’s also the closest you’ll get to having a preset workout program, the reasoning for which we talk about later in this review.
With most modern treadmills we would hope to see a series of quick-select buttons for adjusting the belt speed, reducing the time spent at the console. However, they usually have a maximum speed setting of 12 mph, which is considerably more than the 4 mph available with the TC10.
This is understandable given the nature of the exercise, where each Treadle moves independently of the other while you walk, compared to the stationary gradient of a treadmill deck.
Instead, you have the standard increase and decrease buttons for switching between the 0.5 and 4 mph belt speeds. Because the Hydraulic Cylinders supporting the Treadle motion are adjusted manually, you also don’t have any buttons on the console for changing the incline or range of movement.
Workout programs and user profiles
When we’re looking at a new elliptical, exercise bike, or treadmill, it’s at this stage in the review that we’ll talk about the different types of workout that can be setup via the console.
Unfortunately there is only one such program available with the TreadClimber TC10, which is the 90 minute weekly goal that forms the basis of the G.O. Coach workout mode.
One of the reasons there’s only one workout program is because the incline can only be adjusted manually, meaning the Treadles couldn’t automatically adjust to influence the intensity or keep you within a target heart rate range.
Also, the belts that move around each Treadle have a maximum speed of 4 mph, which is a long way from the 12 mph of most light commercial home treadmills. This would rule out any interval training programs, as you wouldn’t be able to create enough of an intensity shift between each of the ‘ACTIVE’ and ‘RECOVERY’ segments.
If you were to upgrade to the TreadClimber TC20, the G.O. Coach mode would support more fitness goals than just workout duration.
On the TC20 you have something that’s a bit more interesting than simply watching a timer countdown, which is the goal to climb the equivalent vertical height of three landmark structures: a mountain, a tower, and a building.
Each landmark is visible on the console, where you can monitor your progress based on how many segments are illuminated. But this isn’t available unless you choose the TC20, a version of the TreadClimber usually costing around $1000 more than the TC10.
If you want to know how many calories you’re burning during a TreadClimber workout, you can simply look at the console and read the feedback on the screen. But how do you know whether this number is correct?
The truth is that accurately reporting on your body’s energy expenditure is incredibly difficult due to the number of variables involved.
The rate at which someone burns calories can depend on their fitness level, metabolic rate, age, and height, which is why it’s important to find a machine that lets you enter some basic personal information.
The TreadClimber TC10 only has one user profile, which can be used to store your body weight for use in the calorie burning calculation. This helps provide a more accurate reading at the console, but probably shouldn’t be compared between different machines.
For example, if you burn 500 calories on your first TC10 workout, and 700 calories on the second, this can be seen as an improvement. If you were to then use an elliptical that says you burned 700 calories in half the time, you don’t know if this is an improvement, as the calculations used by the internal computer may be different.
If more than one person will be using the TreadClimber and you’re worried about resetting the body weight each time, you might want to take a look at the TC20, which is supplied with 2 user profiles.
Ease of assembly, maintenance, and transport
Before buying any new piece of fitness equipment, it’s important to consider the most suitable setup location, and whether or not you can dedicate this space to your workouts.
Unfortunately the TreadClimber TC10 can’t be folded to preserve space when not in use, and although it has a smaller footprint than most home treadmills at 51″ (L)x 30″ (W), requires more space than an upright bike.
In terms of assembly, the machine itself arrives in two boxes: one to hold the Treadle assembly, and one for all other parts, such as the uprights, foot rail covers, and console.
Unfortunately there’s no quick assembly option available, similar to the SNAP assembly we’ve seen on some of NordicTrack’s top-end ellipticals and treadmills. Based on the steps involved, we would therefore recommend setting aside at least 90 minutes if you want to get everything setup and ready to use.
The assembly instructions in the user manual are easy enough to follow, but some require a small amount of heavy lifting, such as connecting the Treadle assembly to the console uprights. This is why Bowflex actually recommend having someone assist you with the first few steps, at least until the base is setup and levelled.
Each stage is accompanied by a concise written explanation, diagram, and references to the parts you’ll need, but if you don’t have the time to set this up yourself, there is another option.
Professional in-home assembly service
Bowflex are one of only a few fitness equipment companies to offer an in-home assembly service, which is available for each model in their TreadClimber and Max Trainer collections.
This does come at an additional cost, which varies according to the model you’ve chosen. For instance, if you wanted a qualified technician to assemble your new Max Trainer M3, this would currently cost you around $159. Because of the increased number of steps that need to be followed, this would be closer to $249 for the TreadClimber TC10.
The actually assembly of the machine is of course included in the price, but they will also calibrate and test the equipment to make sure you’re getting optimal performance from the Treadle motion and console feedback.
If you have a few hours to spare at the weekend and know someone that can assist you with the steps requiring heavy lifting then this is probably something you can do without. But if you can arrange an appointment quite soon after the TC10 is delivered, and would rather the setup was completed by a professional, then it does give you added peace of mind.
The appointments themselves can be scheduled outside of standard working hours (8am to 10pm Monday to Saturday, 9am to 6pm Sunday), but you’ll only be given a 4 hour time slot based on their availability. On their website they actually say the availability is “subject to change at any time without notice”, so it’s certainly worth having a contingency plan, or calling to confirm prior to placing your order.
How frequently you need to service external and internal parts probably isn’t something you want to think about when buying a new TreadClimber, but a consistent maintenance routine can help extend the lifespan of your new equipment and prevent costs outside of the warranty.
For the TC10 there is a routine that Bowflex recommends, which is similar to what we see with most high-end treadmills. Unfortunately because the belts aren’t wax-impregnated or pre-coated, this does include a certain level of deck lubrication to ensure smooth running of the belts.
What to check and when
- Daily – Check for loose, damaged, or worn parts. Wipe any perspiration from the console and outer covers after each use.
- Weekly – Clean the top of the belt with a damp soapy cloth and wipe down with a dry cloth, checking the motion of the rollers and removing any dirt from around the belt.
- Monthly – Ensure all bolts are tightened. This is obviously something that can be done more frequently if needed.
- Less than 3 hours per week – Every 3 months
- 3 to 5 hours per week – Every 2 months
- 5 or more hours per week – Every month
The TC10 actually includes a starter supply of lubricants, but Bowflex also recommend the Lube-N-Walk® Treadmill Lubrication Kit (available through their website) and 100% pure silicone. You may also need to adjust the walking belt alignment from time to time using bolts at the front of each Treadle.
One of the reasons we include maintenance routines like these in our reviews is because some manufacturers recommend specific cleaning products for their equipment.
For example, Precor have a recommended cleaning solution for their Precision and Energy Series machines, while rowing machines from WaterRower require special tablets for purifying and cleaning the water tanks.
Knowing what’s required ahead of buying the equipment allows you to check availability for these products in your area, and helps ensure you get the best performance and value for money.
At 158 lbs the TreadClimber TC10 isn’t exactly a light machine to be moving around. But because it can’t be folded, you may need to change locations from time to time.
This is why Bowflex have fitted a transport bar to the front, and transport wheels to the back, so that one or more people can lift and roll the machine if required.
- Ability to maintain a basic workout log and set goals via the Coach™ progress tracker
- Quick select controls are conveniently located and help minimize time spent at the console
- 3-in-1 workout machine supports a faster calorie burn rate
- Easy to use
- Hydraulic Cylinders can accommodate users with different fitness levels
- High overall build quality
- Quieter to use than most treadmills due to the lower belt speeds and movement generated by the cylinders
- Smooth Treadle motion reduces the impact on your knee joints and lower back
- Excellent stability created by the low center of gravity and adjustable base levellers
- Shorter warranty coverage than the later TC20 model
- No entertainment features, although this can also be seen as a positive, as it allows you to focus entirely on your workout performance
- No folding option makes it bulkier and heavier to move around if needed
- Limited preset workout program options
- Having only one user profile means the weight setting has to be updated each workout if two people are using the machine
What’s covered by the warranty?
- 2 years full coverage