Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday madness

I took apart our old treadmill and installed a new one. It just reminded me of how the consumer society is affecting all of us and making our lives less enjoyable. It is something we never hear about. The real cost of cheap items. It is a cost we all pay, each and every day.

The old treadmill, a HealthRider R65 had a sturdy frame, a solid platform but a weak motor, plus some useless "features" to attract buyers. A lot of parts were made of plastic and many broke or chipped over time so fixing it was no longer an attractive option. It was not just a matter of price, although the price to fix it would probably buy a new one. It would have also required replacing many items that were intrinsically OK.

Unfortunately, the HealthRider was a compromise made for a cheap sticker price that resulted in an underpowered, overgadgeted machine.

The T12.80. Lots of plastic.

The new treadmill is a Reebok T12.80. Despite the name, it is in essence a new version of the same machine made by the same people. All these are Icon Fitness treadmills. Healthrider, Reebok, Nordic Track, etc. are just labels. They identify feature sets that attract different market segments. Unfortunately none of these segments is quality oriented. They are feature-oriented instead.

The new machine has even more silly features that I will never use. It has a beefier motor but to compromise the frame is no longer a solid piece of metal. Instead it consists of pieces that are mostly molded plastic. Already some parts are showing signs of wear and the thing is less than a month old.

Because treadmills are sold to consumers who will rarely use them, and almost never after the novelty wears off, they are loaded with useless junk that attracts eyeballs, but breaks easily and may -in some cases condemn the machine. Instead of spending money on sturdy construction, treadmill builders cut corners where it matters most and spend money on eye candy that adds little or no value.

You could argue I should have bought a real treadmill, but these items are so expensive it is no longer worth the cost. I would need to install special circuits and make other modifications to the site. It is too much trouble, especially in a warm climate like California where you can run outside on most days. But even when you go upscale, you cannot free yourself from the market research results, and you still need to pay hundreds of dollars for features that are without any value.

The treadmill market, like so many markets has essentially split down the middle. And the middle, that sweet spot of value for money has all but disappeared. So now we have low end junk and high end super-premium equipment that is only worth it if one spends one's life there.

Treadmills are not the only products subject to these forces. The very same thing is happening to all appliances and electronics. But it did not stop there, cars have become overweight, overstuffed mobile living rooms, that are no longer fun to drive. Then again, where can one drive? Driving has been replaced by commuting, that smog spewing, rage provoking shuffle that is played out on freeways every day.

Wednesday, a 20 mile mountain ride with Alistair on single track in Joaquin Miller park. A bit too technical for me.
Thursday, a 38 mile ride to the golf course in Castro Valley.
Friday, a 20 mi solo mountain bike ride on fire-roads in Redwood. That is more my style.
Saturday, a 1:12 hr/8.9 mi run on the new treadmill. Ran the first hour at 8.1.
Sunday, a 33 mile ride to San Pablo and back over Wildcat, El Toyonal and Lomas Cantadas, with Alistair.

1 comment:

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