A cool tool: Riding the ElliptiGO

The ElliptiGO is a cross between a conventional bicycle and the elliptical trainer. Photos: LOW BOON TAT/The Star

The ElliptiGO provides runners a new way to cross train without impact on the joints.

Injuries are part of any sport, more so when you’re an avid runner.

Over the years, all that impact associated with running tends to take a toll on the joints, leaving runners vulnerable to osteoarthritis – an irreversible degeneration of the joint’s cartilage.

Well, there’s a new gadget out there, which enables the runner to stay injury-free and boost performance. Combining the elliptical trainer and a conventional bicycle, the ElliptiGO is the latest device being used as an alternative mode of training.

Designed as the ideal cross-training device, the ElliptiGO combines the best of running, cycling and the elliptical trainer to deliver a low-impact, high-performance workout outdoors.

And it has just arrived on our shores. However, you need to be able to ride a conventional bicycle and be of a certain height to ride the ElliptiGO – it’s not for young children.

“It’s ideal for those with long legs as the height of the foot pads can be adjusted for different strides. It’s also good for rehabilitating from injuries because it allows you to slowly work back up to your previous fitness level.

“Starting to ride the ElliptiGO on a fixed stand first at a low-intensity level might help in building cardio-base and leg strength before graduating to riding outdoors. But, it’s not recommended for vertigo sufferers because of the balance involved,” says fitness coach and ElliptiGO consultant Gus Ghani.

The minimum physical requirement for riding an ElliptiGO is that you must be able to ride a conventional bicycle.
The minimum physical requirement for riding an ElliptiGO is that you must be able to ride a conventional bicycle.

The concept for the equipment was devised by Bryan Pate, a former Ironman triathlete who became so plagued with injuries that he could no longer run for fitness, or pleasure.

He found indoor elliptical trainers too confining, so he convinced his friend Brent Teal, a mechanical engineer, to build a prototype for an outdoor version of the gym favourite. After several prototypes, the pair put their machine on the market in 2010 and it’s fast becoming a craze.

Whether you are a new or veteran runner, high performance or elite athlete, the device can provide an interesting way to train. Just google and you’ll find that the ElliptiGO is becoming an essential training tool for short distance runners as well as marathoners.

“While the bicycle uses primarily the leg muscles in a seated pedalling action, the latter works on a running motion which not only works your leg muscles, but gives you a good core workout as you have to engage your core to remain balanced and upright throughout the ride.

“So, in addition to working your leg muscles, your abdominal muscles are forced to work, and without you realising it, the fats are whittled and definition appears,” says Gus.

In his post-race interviews, 2014 Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi admitted that one of the reasons he was able to better his personal best timing to 2:08:37 was because of the ElliptiGO.

He was able to train more, yet stay injury-free.

With his victory, Meb becomes the only marathoner in history to win the Boston Marathon, the New York Marathon, and an Olympic medal.

A metabolic testing study conducted by the Exercise and Physical Activity Resource Center (EPARC) at the University of California, San Diego, US, found that riding an ElliptiGO required, on average, 33% more effort than cycling at the same speed.

During flat riding conditions at speeds above 16kph, the study found “the most significant factor is a rider’s size and the corresponding frontal area that they have to push through the air like a sail. The upright riding position of the ElliptiGO has a much greater frontal area when compared to the more aerodynamic hunched-over position of cycling, thus resulting in a higher effort for the same speed.”

“Initially, I thought it was a fly-by-night gimmick when I first saw it on You Tube. Then I rode it, and within 10 minutes of a fun ride, I was sweating! I think I’m pretty fit but it was hard work! I became a convert,” shares Gus, who is also an avid runner and cyclist.

He eventually bought the ElliptiGO and attracted stares wherever he rode. People would stop and ask him what device it was, drivers would honk while others would dish out their cells and snap a picture of him riding the unique bike.

For starters, Gus recommends using the bike for 20 minutes per session. It can be done daily because there is no impact on the knees. He reckons he is currently the only local personal trainer who uses the ElliptiGO to train his clients.

According to American running coach Greg McMillan, who founded the McMillan Running Company to provide an online resource for distance runners, athletes who keep getting injured at their current mileage level can utilise some useful strategies, such as the run replacement strategy.

For these runners, running one less day on land and substituting an ElliptiGO run for that omitted run allows them to get in the same training volume but significantly reduce the stress on the muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments.

He says in his website, “Another strategy is the chaser strategy; you simply finish your normal run length (let’s say 60 minutes), then jump on the ElliptiGO for some additional ‘running’ (say 30 minutes). This would give 90 total minutes, but 30 minutes are no-impact.

“Athletes, particularly marathoners, find they can use this strategy to quickly ramp up run length as well as boost overall weekly volume.”

The ElliptiGO’s steering column can also be removed, making it easy to load the bike into your car. You could also mount your bike on a trainer if you wanted to focus on doing some speed or interval work indoors to complement your outdoor training programme. The wheels are 20-inches in diameter, which is smaller than a regular bicycle. More effort is required to ride on smaller wheels.

Gus adds, “You can also adjust the intensity of the workout by changing the gears. I have ridden it up to Fraser’s Hill and back. There is never a dull moment.”

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