The ElliptiGO, according to one of its developers — 1991 South Eugene High School graduate Brent Teal — is "a whole new category of vehicle."
EUGENE — It's not a scooter. It's not a kickbike. It's not a bicycle. The ElliptiGO, according to one of its developers — 1991 South Eugene High School graduate Brent Teal — is "a whole new category of vehicle."
Think of it, Teal said, as exercising on an elliptical trainer, but in the great outdoors; like running nearly as fast as you can bike but without the impact that eventually does in so many lower backs and knees.
Teal formed ElliptiGO with Bryan Pate, a former work colleague and fellow triathlon competitor, after the two had been out of touch for years.
"Bryan called me up one day and said he had to quit running because of his knees," Teal says. "He said he loved using the elliptical trainer, but he missed running and hated exercising indoors. He asked me if it was possible to combine the elliptical experience with the outdoors."
Teal, who completed a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado in 1996, took up the challenge. He started noodling around on a prototype that took five years to perfect.
Happily, Pate had majored in marketing, "so that was great for starting a business; we really complement each other," Teal said.
About a year into the project, building their first prototypes in the garage, the pair encountered a nearly heart-stopping obstacle when they "found out that another gentleman already had gotten a patent on elliptical propulsion of a vehicle," he said. But they faced the problem head on, contacted the other inventor, "and he licensed it to us," Teal said.
They rolled out the first ElliptiGO models in February, and since then they have sold more than 700, mostly online at elliptigo.com, "but now we've started finding bike shops and fitness stores that want to sell them in the more traditional manner," Teal said.
"We focused first on Los Angeles, New York, Portland and Seattle," Teal said, "but we're looking for more local retailers and would like to find someone in the Eugene area."
In Oregon, Exercise Equipment Northwest — with outlets in Portland, Beaverton, Clackamas and Salem — carries the ElliptiGO.
The vehicle is not cheap. It retails for $2,199. But Teal relishes his description of its capabilities: adjustable to four stride lengths and eight gears; climbs a 20 percent grade with ease in first gear. Attains 25 mph in eighth gear. It has 20-inch wheels and a folding steering column for easy transport in a car. And it offers an indoor training accessory.
Beyond that, it's easy to use. "You're standing straight up, so you're not hunching over or putting pressure on your hands, like a bicycle, so you can see everything around you and cars can see you," he said. "You can wear nice pants or a skirt and normal shoes — there's nothing to get greasy or caught on — so it's great for either cruising along or a tremendous workout."
Besides that, "It's so much fun," he said. "It's a unique experience, especially when you go fast, because it's like running at 20 or 25 miles per hour."
Teal rode an ElliptiGO 200 miles from Seattle to Portland, averaging 15 mph. He took one on another trek, doing 130 miles with 1,500 feet of increased elevation "and then zooming at 42 mph on the descent. "Pretty much, anything you can do on a high performance road bike, you can do on an ElliptiGO," he said.
But it's probably the science aspect of the thing that excites Teal most, from burning 35 percent more calories than bicycling to extending running careers to cross training for other sports.
Eugene physical therapist Kenji Carp, owner of Cooperative Performance and Rehabilitation LLC — and a former college roommate of Teal's at the University of Colorado — has introduced the ElliptiGO both into his practice and his personal life.
"We get runners, marathoners and ultramarathoners in here who are completely broken down, and all they want to know is when they can run again, but they hate working out in a gym," Carp said. "This machine gives them the motion they need to rehabilitate their muscles and get their cardio workout, but they can do it outside, much more like their regular activity."
He doesn't get to use the ElliptiGO as much as he'd like, Carp said.
"I really enjoy it — it's surprisingly intuitive and simple to get used to — but since my wife got on it, it's been much harder for me to have a chance."