By Karen Billing
Solana Beach’s ElliptiGO is on a roll.
Created by Bryan Pate and Brent Teal, the ElliptiGO is a hybrid between a bike and elliptical trainer where the rider stands tall and closely mimics the act of running outdoors while eliminating the impact.
From its humble beginnings in a Solana Beach garage, the bikes are now available at over 300 stores across the country and around the world.
Not to mention ElliptiGO’s most famous user, Meb Keflezighi, has become a huge endorsement for the product. Keflezighi used the ElliptiGO in his cross training five days a week for a year leading up to his Boston Marathon victory last month, setting a 31-second personal record. More than 100 professional runners, as well as some of the best collegiate running teams in the country, are now incorporating the ElliptiGO into their training.
“It’s a super exciting time,” Pate said, noting they’ve sold over 10,000 bikes.
Pate is a San Diego native, born and raised in Coronado — his great grandfather actually helped build the Hotel Del. A former Marine, Ironman triathlete, cyclist and marathoner, the active lifestyle has always been very important to him.
“Running was always my go-to exercise,” Pate said. “But the combination of running, the Marine Corps and soccer left me without the ability to run for exercise at the age of 31.”
He started using the elliptical machine at the gym, it worked well but he hated the gym.
“It just hit me, someone’s got to make one of these that you can ride on the street,” Pate said.
He was frustrated to find that no one had made such a machine.
Pate contacted the one guy he was sure could help — Brent Teal, a mechanical engineer as well as an Ironman triathlete and competitive ultramarathoner, who would understand how a device would need to perform to satisfy an athlete.
At a meeting at Java Depot in July 2005, Pate and Teal drew out the concept for ElliptiGo on a newspaper. Teal was sure he could build it; he just couldn’t believe no one had before.
The first model, affectionately known as Alfa which hangs on the Solana Beach office wall, was pieced together using metal tubing, brakes from a bike shop that was going out of business, wooden foot platforms from a sliced-up skateboard deck, and little wheels from rollerblades.
“The first time I got on it I went 20 miles,” Pate said, noting that he caught a lot of attention riding around Coronado, people yelling out of their car windows asking about his ride.
The pair was able to secure a patent from Larry Miller, the inventor of the elliptical trainer to move forward with their invention.
Over time, the ElliptiGO went through several revisions.
All of the models worked well — Pate rode the third iteration in a 50-mile race from Rosarito to Ensenada, finishing in the middle of the pack in three hours and 16 minutes.
“It demonstrated it was viable as a transportation and exercise device,” said Pate. “It felt like I had run a marathon.”
Updated versions made the bike smaller and lower to the ground, switched from steel to aluminum, added a disc-brake system, put a larger wheel up front so it didn’t look so much like a scooter and converted the external track to an internal track.
“Every generation got faster and easier to ride,” Pate said.
Teal rode the ElliptiGO in the 2009 Death Ride, which is one of the hardest bike races in the country at 129 miles long with 15,000 feet of climbing. Teal finished in third and further proved that it was a viable vehicle for fitness and traveling.
“It’s harder than a bike, it’s more categorized for fitness and exercise but we’ve ridden it in the toughest cycling events that are open to the public,” Pate said. “It will do anything.”
In February of 2010 their first product was delivered to their first customer in San Diego. They now sell three models: a three-speed, eight-speed and an 11-speed. One size fits all and the three and eight speed come in four colors while the 11 speed is offered in matte black.
ElliptiGO and Keflezighi’s paths crossed at the 2012 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. Keflezighi was coming off an injury and he had evolved his thinking on cross training. They let Keflezighi take a test ride and after about a 12-mile ride, Pate said he came back shocked at how much more like running it was than riding a bike.
“He got an ElliptiGo midway through 2012 and we’ve been supporting him ever since,” Pate said
The ElliptiGO has allowed Keflezighi to cut down on mileage, using the ElliptiGO to substitute for non-critical workouts. Instead of a six-mile afternoon shake-out run after a morning 20-miler, Keflezighi can hop on the ElliptiGO and have a less impactful workout that sets him up better for his next running workout.
The less wear and tear the better for the 39-year-old runner.
“It’s hard to prove the ElliptiGO made him faster but it can’t be said it made him slower,” Pate said. “It fits in well with the philosophy of running smart and training to win.”
While Keflezighi’s story is inspiring, conquering Boston doesn’t have to be the goal when riding the ElliptiGO. Pate rides his ElliptiGO about five days a week for 45-minute stretches, is able to enjoy the outdoors while putting less stress on his knees and hips, and relishing the moments when he can pedal his way past cyclists on hills.
“It’s been quite the ride,” Pate said.
Check out ElliptiGO online at elliptigo.com.