A Profitable Alternative to the Bicycle

Watch out, bikers and bladers. The elliptical trainer has zipped out of the gym and onto the streets.
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This story appears in the August 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

As fitness equipment goes, the world's first elliptical bicycle is pretty darned impressive. It's got the sleek curves of a high-end road bike, the clean lines of a Razor scooter, a pair of shiny carbon-fiber elliptical pedals, a smooth hub-and-crank stride mechanism and a steering column that collapses for easy storage. Plus, it's not awkward using it (think Smith machine): Just hop on and start stepping.

"We knew we were onto something when we showed a prototype and people were telling us to make that exact model," says Bryan Pate, one of the ElliptiGo inventors. It was Pate's bad knees that started the whole thing rolling: In 2005, he had to stop running and found that neither elliptical trainers nor cycling were satisfying alternatives. "I wanted something that would emulate the feel of running outdoors without beating up my knees," Pate says. It didn't exist, so he figured he'd have to create it himself.

He called his friend Brent Teal, a fellow Ironman athlete and mechanical engineer, who set up shop in the garage and cobbled together the first prototype out of chromoly steel, modified roller blade wheels, wooden boards and old triathlon bike parts.

Fast-forward to this past January--four prototypes, millions in investor funding later, Pate and Teal opened headquarters in Solana Beach, Calif., and so far have sold 250 bikes at $2,199 each, including two to a Napa Valley-area police department. They've had glowing testimonials from Ultramarathon Man Dean Karnazas (who rode the ElliptiGo from San Francisco to Los Angeles as a warm-up for the L.A. Marathon), Nike Project Oregon runner Adam Goucher and three-time Olympic pentathlete Michael Gostigian.

ElliptiGo's buzz is growing, thanks to regular test ride events and its "Epic Ride" campaign, where Pate and Teal enter the ElliptiGo in challenging biking events such as the California Sierras' 129-mile "Death Ride." This month, it's the 10,000-foot "Cycle to the Sun" climb in Maui.

They're hoping to deliver 2,000 bikes after the summer marketing push, which would make them a small profit by year's end. And in 2011, the goal is to move 11,000 and possibly introduce lower- and higher-end models. But their main objective is to kick off a new industry. "That's our business model," Teal says. "It's not about making a cool bike. It's about introducing a whole new way of getting around and, at the same time, getting a good workout."

He's not exaggerating that last bit: The eight-speed reaches speeds upward of 25 miles per hour. Perfect for when you want to blow past all the gawkers.


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