Olympic champion athlete Roger Black is a man who can be expected to know a bit about fitness and has channelled that knowledge into a successful and popular range of home-fitness equipment. Given that he was a runner, we had high hopes for his treadmill range and picked two of the most popular to put them through their paces. Before we get into our reviews proper, we’d like to say upfront that serious runners are probably want to move on to one of our other reviews, if, however, you’re looking for a treadmill for walking, jogging and light and/or occasional running, then please read on.
Roger Black Easy Fold Treadmill
At current time, you can expect to pay about £350 for the Roger Black Easy Fold Treadmill, which puts it in the same sort of price bracket as the Reebok i-Run. One of the big differences between the Roger Black Easy Fold Treadmill and pretty much any and all Reebok treadmills, is that the Roger Black Easy Fold Treadmill comes in at a mere 52kg, so while we’d still prefer delivery, it is a whole lot more feasible to collect this treadmill in an ordinary car (as opposed to a van), albeit still with help from someone else, in our opinion.
The Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill is intended for users of up to 110kg (17st 5lb).
While the name of this treadmill is Easy Fold, they could just as well have called it “Easy Assemble” (admittedly it’s less catchy). It arrives almost fully-assembled so it’s pretty near impossible to go wrong with putting the rest of this treadmill together. The average person should be able to get it done in well under half an hour without any problems. We tested the folding system and concur that it is indeed very easy to use.
Features and operation
We mentioned earlier that this treadmill is substantially lighter than the treadmills in the Reebok range. There is a reason for this, which is that the Reebok treadmills generally come with a 2HP motor with 3HP peak speed, whereas the Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill comes with a 1HP motor with 2HP peak speed. In practical terms, this means it can reach up to 13KPH. As a buyer, therefore, you need to decide which is more important to you. A more powerful motor can increase your options, but that’s only of value if you actually use the additional options, otherwise they’re just extra weight and reduced portability. The Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill is clearly designed for people who’re more into walking, jogging and lighter running and we suspect that its motor will be perfectly sufficient for the needs of this user group. We’d also like to highlight the fact that there is a difference between “lower horsepower” and “poor quality”. The motor in the Easy Fold treadmill is everything we expect from a decent treadmill, namely quiet and reliable, even with weight on it. We’ll acknowledge that, in our opinion, Reebok treadmills are quieter, but we’re still happy enough with the volume on the Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill.
The Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill is clearly designed for people who’re more into walking, jogging and lighter running and we suspect that its motor will be perfectly sufficient for the needs of this user group. We’d also like to highlight the fact that there is a difference between “lower horsepower” and “poor quality”. The motor in the Easy Fold treadmill is everything we expect from a decent treadmill, namely quiet and reliable, even with weight on it. We’ll acknowledge that, in our opinion, Reebok treadmills are quieter, but we’re still happy enough with the volume on the Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill.
The one other point we do feel we need to mention about the motor on the Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill is that the incline is set by manually adjusting the supports at the base of the running deck, rather than via the motor. This is presumably to reduce the load on the motor and reserve the power for where it really matters, namely the running area. Adjusting the incline is quick and simple, although it obviously requires you to step off the running deck. Part of the reason why adjusting the incline is such an easy task is that there are only two levels of it. Again, this brings up the question of your priorities. If using inclines is a major part of your training, then you’ll need to look elsewhere. We suspect, however, that there are quite a large number of people for whom two levels of incline will be perfectly sufficient and for whom manually adjusting the incline will be, at most, a minor inconvenience.
In spite of the light weight, the running deck is pleasingly substantial and well-cushioned. You’ll need to pay a lot more if you want that “running on air” feeling, but the “double floor” surface should be more than sufficient to protect against injuries and make for a comfortable user experience, even when running. At L120cm, W41cm, the running are is more than acceptable for walking and jogging and passable for light and occasional running. It’s also worth noting that in addition to being easy fold, the Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill is also flat fold and hence takes up minimal storage space, in fact, this plus its light weight puts it into the category of treadmills which could feasibly be stored under a bed between uses.
The flat-fold nature of the Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill has an impact on the design of the console, i.e. it makes it impractical to add drinks holders and such like. You could probably get around this by using a strap to attach a holder to one of the handlebars. Somewhat oddly, there is a ledge on the body of the console, which we assume is meant for your music device, since it’s located just above the input jack. This was a nice idea, except for the fact that it’s pretty much impossible to prevent anything other than the tiniest of devices from obscuring the LCD display. We think this is a real shame because music playback on the Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill is actually pretty good. To be fair, we suspect that the majority of people who use this treadmill will only check the readings from time to time and will be OK with just moving their gadget of choice out of the way when they do. Also, the fact that this treadmill is intended for home use means that people probably have plenty of entertainment options available to them. If all else fails, you could just pretend you were going out for a road run and use an MP3 player in an arm holder with headphones. Somewhat ironically, when there’s nothing in the way the LCD display is actually very easy to read. Feedback covers time, speed, distance, calorie and pulse. On the subject of pulse there is also a pulse monitor, but this is
If all else fails, you could just pretend you were going out for a road run and use an MP3 player in an arm holder with headphones. Somewhat ironically, when there’s nothing in the way the LCD display is actually very easy to read. Feedback covers time, speed, distance, calorie and pulse. On the subject of pulse there is also a pulse monitor, but this is on the main body of the Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill as opposed to on the arms as is usually the case. We are guessing that this is because the arms fold down to enable the flat fold we mentioned earlier. Whether or not you get along with this arrangement is a matter of taste, we prefer to have our hands free when running anyway and hence get along better with monitors, which attach to the body, but the feature is there for those who want it.
Overall, we liked the console a lot. It is basically about as straightforward as you can get, so it’s near impossible to go wrong with it. There are “only” 10 pre-set programmes, which is a whole lot less than you’ll find on many other machines but then again, we do find ourselves wondering just how many people actually use anything like the full range of programmes on their treadmills. The ten programmes cover a respectable range of options, all of which are clearly displayed in a line of little graphics just below the LCD screen.
Even though this is a budget-end treadmill, all safety features as in place (otherwise we’d never have reviewed it). In particular, the shut-off key is both accessible and on a lanyard, so it will be pulled out if you fall, thereby stopping the machine.
This treadmill has clearly been designed to suit people who live in small spaces and who want a compact and reasonably-priced treadmill, which will allow them to have a decent workout at home. It fits this purpose superbly.
Roger Black Plus Treadmill
The Roger Black Plus treadmill is somewhat more expensive, coming in at around £650, although at this point it’s sometimes available with deep discounts.. This makes it slightly cheaper than the Reebok Z9. It is also noticeably lighter than the range of treadmills from Reebok, weighing a mere 54kg. In our view, that is still within the limits of what you could expect from an average car (with a couple of people inside it), but we’d still see free (or at least low-cost) delivery as a major plus and if we were going to collect, we’d definitely want somebody with us.
The Roger Black Plus Treadmill is intended for users of up to 110kg (17st 5lb).
Setting up the Roger Black Plus treadmill is somewhat more complex than setting up the Easy Fold treadmill, but that’s like saying that making a sandwich is more complicated than making a piece of toast. Setting up the Easy Fold treadmill was just so easy that anything else was bound to be a bit more of a challenge. Looked at objectively, it’s actually pretty straightforward. Bolt the arms to the base and then attach the console to the arms. Admittedly this all takes somewhat longer to do than it does to write, but it’s still very simple and you should be done in comfortably under an hour. We tested the folding mechanism on the Roger Black Plus treadmill too and are happy that it all works very well.
Features and operation
Like its stablemate, the Roger Black Plus treadmill, has a 1HP motor, with a peak of 2HP and a top speed of 12KPH. Again, this means that serious runners will probably want to look for a machine with a bit more muscle, but we suspect it will be perfectly sufficient for many people and certainly for this treadmill’s target market. As with the Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill, the Roger Black Plus treadmill is quiet in use, again, Reebok treadmills are quieter, but we find the noise level on the Roger Black Plus treadmill to be perfectly acceptable. We can also confirm that the motor seemed perfectly robust and reliable, even with weight on it. We’re quite prepared to believe that it will offer plenty of useful service.
The running area is L122cm, W42cm, making it a smidgeon longer and wider than the Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill. This makes it a bit more suitable for work at higher speeds, where users typically take longer strides. The running deck has what we’d call acceptable stability and cushioning. We did feel a certain degree of feedback with each stride, but it was nothing which made us feel uncomfortable let alone unsafe. In objective terms, we’d have preferred a bit more cushioning, but it’s indisputably more comfortable than running on a road and since we’re guessing that anyone paying £450 for a treadmill is going to buy themselves a decent pair of running shoes to go with it, we suspect it will be more than adequate for its intended purpose. Certainly, we never had any worries about shin splints and such like.
There are more levels of incline than on the Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill, on the Roger Black Plus treadmill you can vary the incline from 0.3% to 6% and again you set it manually via supports on the running deck. The running deck on the Roger Black Plus treadmill does fold, but it is a standard fold rather than a flat fold. What you lose in compactness, you gain with a bit of extra functionality in the console area.
The most obvious difference between the console on the Roger Black Plus treadmill and the console on the Roger Black Easy Fold treadmill is that the former has space for holding trays on each side. They can hold drinks or media gadgets or one of each, which we suspect is the general idea. On the subject of media gadgets, the Roger Black Plus treadmill supports Bluetooth connectivity, but to be honest it left us less than impressed, although to be fair, we think Bluetooth connectivity for media gadgets is rather overrated anyway, particularly in this kind of situation. We appreciate that cable clutter can be a source of real annoyance to some people but we think there’s a difference between having a gadget-filled desk covered with all kinds of wires and just an MP3 player or phone via a standard lead and an audio jack. The cable is out of the way, you can still see the LCD display clearly and all buttons are accessible. Used in this way, playback through the integrated speakers is perfectly respectable and power drain is a whole lot lower.
We only review treadmills we are happy meet all relevant safety standards. The Roger Black Plus treadmill has all expected safety features including a visible and accessible shut-off key on a lanyard to ensure that the machine immediately shuts off if you fall. We think the grip on the running deck is perfectly reasonable and that the cushioning is adequate as long as you’re wearing decent running shoes.
At its full retail price, this treadmill is just too expensive compared to what’s out there in the market right now. The same sort of price can buy you a treadmill from an equally-reputably brand, which has a whole lot more functionality, or you can opt for a high-quality but lightweight and robust treadmill for a whole lot less, like Roger Black’s own Easy Fold treadmill for example. If, however, you can get it closer to the £500 mark, then you have a much more attractive option on your hands. At this point, it is a perfectly feasible contender. Whether or not it is for you basically depends on whether you prefer to spend your money on a treadmill with more power and functionality to it, but more weight to provide that power, or whether you’d prefer a lighter and therefore more portable machine, which would be easier to move according to your needs.
- Good value for money
- Inbuilt MP3 player with Bluetooth connectivity
- Easy setup with simple instructions
- Good number of features for the money
- Buttons are not as visible as other treadmills
- Basic LCD display
- Poor impact cushioning system