ElliptiGO seatless bike launched

'Jogging bike' finds surprise interest from cyclists

The ElliptiGO, a seatless bike that emulates running, will be launched early in 2010 after several years in development.

Instead of pedals, the ElliptiGO has two platforms on which you stand and press to provide the drive to the crank.

Its originator, Bryan Pate, came up with the idea after losing the ability to run for fitness through hip and knee injuries. He wanted to carry on exercising but found the riding position on a conventional bike uncomfortable and didn’t want to be restricted to gym-style, stationary elliptical trainers.

Specification includes Shimano Alfine 8-speed gearing, aluminium frame and carbon fibre cranks. Claimed weight is 37 pounds (just under 17kg), and it will retail at US$1,999.

It's not just aimed at runners seeking a 'low-impact' alternative though - Pate told BikeRadar that the reaction from cyclists was far more enthusiastic than expected: "We are positioning the ElliptiGO to appeal to general fitness enthusiasts and specifically current or former runners. Our initial conclusions were that hardcore cyclists wouldn't be interested." 

"My co-founder (Brent Teal) and I are both former Ironman triathletes, so we've spent thousands of miles in the saddle on both road and tri bikes as well as done quite a bit of mountain biking. We thought that cyclists would treat an ElliptiGO rider like they do a recumbent-rider - either ignore him or make a snide comment. To our surprise, the majority of cyclists have been really receptive to the idea. We've found that the more difficult the ride/event we are on, the more supportive cyclists are. In terms of our customers, so far about half describe themselves as 'general fitness enthusiasts', about a quarter describe themselves as runners and the other quarter as cyclists."

The ElliptiGO has completed several endurance cycling events, including the 'Death Ride', a 120 mile ride that includes more than 15,000 feet of climbing through the Californian Sierras.

Pate stressed what he felt were the benefits of the ElliptiGO after completing the event: "Other cyclists see the size of the bike and the fact that there is no seat and they conclude that it must be much more difficult to climb on than their 16-pound Roubaix or Madone. The truth is, the ElliptiGO is heavy, but it climbs really well and the lack of a seat means that 6 or 7 hours into the ride our bodies are still really comfortable and pain free. At the end of the ride we were much less 'beat up' than a conventional cyclist is and way better off than someone who went running for long enough to get the same exercise benefits."

He also sees widespread commuter / urban appeal for the seatless machine, once they can reduce the retail price, stressing three major advantages over conventional bikes:

  1. The rider is better able to observe his surroundings because his line of sight is almost never blocked by cars or other objects.  As a result, he is more likely to see a potential hazard earlier and therefore have more time to avoid it. This provides such a better feeling of security on urban roads because the rider feels more in control of his surroundings and more empowered. Plus, there are few better feelings than looking down on the driver of a Hummer when pulling up to a stoplight.
  2. The upright riding position also makes the rider significantly more visible to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, making it less likely that they will hit him.  
  3. Because of the configuration of the pedaling system and lack of a seat, the ElliptiGO is much better for people wearing non-cycling attire. The lack of a seat means that there is no wet seat to sit on and it means that women can wear skirts or dresses without having them get all bunched up or exposing themselves to the world. We didn't realise that was a problem, but we've had dozens of women mention it. Also, because the chain is out of the way and there is no structural member above the plane of the pedaling motion, there is nothing there to soil suits or jeans. 

The concept of a 'jogging bike', however, isn't new. The Streetstepper comes from Austria and uses a different technology to transmit the running action to the wheels and was launched back in 2006.

What's your opinion? Are seatless bikes a useful development or a cycling dead end?    

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