ElliptiGO founders bring low-impact workouts to the outdoors.
By Jahla Seppanen
Bryan Pate got the idea for the outdoor elliptical, dubbed the ElliptiGO, in a windowless office gym surrounded by federal marshals at his first post-law-school job.
Pate told us he spent much of his life training and competing in triathlons, until running became a pain, physically. Taking his workouts to indoors then became a pain mentally.
In the stuffy gym, trying to push so hard as to break the elliptical, he asked himself, “is this the rest of my life? Stuck in this little room, watching Fox news during my workouts?”
In the pursuit of translating the elliptical to the outdoors, Pate assumed it was already a thing. “I googled it and actually got frustrated when it didn’t exist,” he told SGB.
Pate took the idea to a former co-worker at Palomar Technologies, Brent Teal, who holds a mechanical engineering degree and is also an avid runner and triathlete (the two used to train together during their days at Palomar). “From our shared love of training, we wanted to create something that wasn’t just a novelty. Where you could do a 5- or 6-hour intense ride and not have the adverse physical effects as you would on a long run.”
Seeing an ElliptiGO jet across your peripherals may at first appear as a funny fitness gizmo, but the machine has become a high-intensity training modality for top athletes and former athletic diehards.
A large percentage of 2016 Olympic Marathon Trial contenders integrated ElliptoGO training in their prep. The biggest being Meb Keflezighi, who became the oldest man to win the Olympic Trial when he was 36, and will now be the oldest athlete from the United States to go for the Olympic marathon win at the ripe age of 40. Skechers, a footwear sponsor of Keflezighi, recently re-sighed the athlete in a contract that extends another 8 years, so there’s no doubt the aging runner is still a cheetah on the turf.
“Meb was pretty close to retiring after the 2012 Olympics,” said Pate, whose knowledge of everything run/bike is extensive. “That’s when he starting using our product, and he credits it with helping extend his running career.”
“I always say age is just a number, but I do have to modify my training now and that’s where ElliptiGO has been a great asset to me,” Keflezighi agreed. “If you can stay consistent and healthy, you will perform. Since there’s no impact on the ElliptiGO, I use it for extra mileage and integrate it into my training. I don’t wait until I get injured to get on it.”
Other 2016 Olympic Trial contenders who used ElliptiGO training were Craig Leon, Matt Llano, Tim Ritchie, Clara Santucci, Renee Metivier Baillie, Brianne Nelson, Adriana Nelson and Kristen Zaitz.
But before the fame and glory, ElliptoGO Founders Pate and Teal had to break the machine into a somewhat traditional market, where bikers and runners are quick to take a side when it comes to preferred training equipment.
Success boiled down to finding the right selling model, correcting misconceptions and knowing how to make a low impact activity highly intense.
How did you determine the right selling model?
Teal: We looked where the industry was headed, and decided on a hybrid approach. Giant, Pinarello, Trek, all go direct-to-consumer. This will be the model for the bike industry in the future, so we drew from that, knowing our product is a sibling of the bicycle. But at the same time, there’s a real place for specialty retail in our industry.
Pate: Plus, specialty retail is the most efficient way to get someone to try our product. Since our vehicle is so different, we need people to get on one. At the same time, many people are located in remote areas away from our 250 dealers. They are used to buying things online, untested, based off reviews.
You talk about getting someone on an ElliptiGO to understand the product. What are the most common misconceptions of the vehicle?
Pate: One, that it can’t climb hills. So wrong. Pikes Peak Bike Race had an elliptical rider who was a Cat 5 cyclist and he finished third out of 100-ish Cat 5 racers. The machine has also been used at the Death Ride in the Sierras, which is 1,500-plus feet of climbing.
Teal: The thing climbs.
Pate: Second misconception is that it’s hard to ride and balance. Also wrong. It’s stable because of its long wheel base, and it’s more comfortable to be standing up than in the saddle of a bike … which is an absolute pain after 30-plus miles. People go in with a lot of trepidation, but they get elated to see they can ride with ease. The other biggest misconception is cost. You can buy cheap bikes from Walmart if you don’t want an expensive one, but the market for elliptical bikes has less variety. People are unwilling to spend a lot for the models we have and get disappointed that the machine is so expensive.
Teal: People have no idea how much a quality bike costs and they see it as extortion. When we were making prototypes, my old landlord said, “no one will spend $2,000 on a bike.” Then his son showed up on a Litespeed that costs around four grand.
Pate: But we’re adapting. With our newest launch (The Arc) where was so much white space in the industry where we could have taken the next model. We decided to bring it to a place where you can get a very good workout in a much less expensive package.
Teal: This also makes it easier bringing people in who aren’t used to vehicle pricing. This could be a runner who has wear and tear on their body and needs to lower impact training option with the same exertive spend. They’re used to paying for a pair of shoes versus a machine.
You found the sweet spot between hard training that doesn’t destroy the body. How?
Pate: We walk the line between cycling and running. The cardio output is much higher than a bike, but impact is almost nonexistent compared to running. High impact is almost always the cause of injury and early retirement in runners.
Teal: In the beginning, my side was to designing proof of concept and designs on a shoe-strings budget. Living in a house by the beach, making welding fixtures out of plywood, riding rickety mechanical test drives around the neighborhood, I found that the key to mimicking the sensation of running was in stride length and return kick. You need a long enough stride length and a steep recovery slope, much like Octane’s Zero Runner, which they’ve had a lot of success with. With indoor ellipticals, the stride length was short and return kick wasn’t steep enough, which is great for watching TV but falls short if you want to feel like you’re running.
Is there any fear that ElliptiGO would become a shot-lived fad?
Pate: Galen Rupp (No. 1 finisher for the Men’s 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials) trains on a custom low-impact underwater running immolation trainer, and other top Olympians have for some time used low-impact machines from HydroWorx. Replicating the experience of running without the impact has very much become a part of the elite runner strategy. Plus, millions of people have to quit running every year because of impact, and the alternative is either cycling, which is ergonomically uncomfortable and not that efficient from a time standpoint, or going indoors. We deliver a solution and want to see people training hard and doing it long past their 20’s.
Photo (top) Byran Pate (left) and Brent Teal (right), Founders, ElliptiGO. Photo courtesy ElliptiGO