Due to some recent difficulties with my bicycle, I have spent more time than usual at the local bike shop. While waiting for some fine-tunes and small fixes, I noticed a ridiculous-looking contraption outside the shop: the Elliptigo.
Essentially, it is a bike, but instead of a seat and traditional pedals, there is an elliptical track. It is basically an elliptical bike. You run like an elliptical, stand the whole time, but steer and brake like a standard bicycle. At a glance, I couldn't tell if it would be extremely difficult to balance, an excessively-difficult workout or a practical alternative to traditional cycling.
I know, for one, that biking long distances leaves me with a sore butt, a stiff lower back and over-worked quads, and little else. It is a good form of exercise, but I would much rather be more upright-and-active during my exercise. I have always found the elliptical motion to be smooth and comfortable, yet still physically taxing enough to be considered legitimate exercise. How would the moving elliptical (in bike form) be different?
On a random Sunday, I decided I had to try the contraption. For a mere $20 from Revolution Cycles in Arlington, VA, I was granted access to the equipment for four hours of use. Knowing that there was no conceivable way I could exercise for four hours - not to mention the sweltering DC heat that weekend - I assumed that I would take the bike for a short spin and return it in an hour or two at most. I brought my own helmet, signed the waivers, and was given a brief introduction by the shop employee, who assured me that this was a fun and, well, different form of exercise. I was warned that learning the steering and becoming acclimated to the machine could take a few minutes, but overall, it would be a positive experience.
Though it did not take more than a few pumps to find my balance, the rest of the assessment was entirely accurate. The Elliptigo was an absolute blast.
I found myself engaged in a roughly two-and-a-half hour ride (can we call it a ride?) through Washington, DC, getting strange looks and stares throughout my adventure. But no matter, I was having a great time and did not find myself to be as physically exhausted in a single muscle group the way I do when riding a bicycle. Like a bike, there are gears (my version had six gears) and hand brakes. The wheels were smaller than those of a bike - probably only about 12 inches in diameter - and the elliptical track is a bit oblong when looking at it. However, once you get moving, the stride is very comfortable, and I actually found the higher gears to be easier for steering. I compared it to pedaling standing up on a bike - there is some sway back and forth, but nothing unmanageable.
You can reach a decent seed, similar to that of a regular bike, roughly around 15 miles per hour. It was easy to toggle between hard pedaling for bursts and coasting or establishing a consistent pace. Hopping on and off the bike when stopped was easy enough. Getting started included a skate-board style push off the ground with one leg and a single pump on the Elliptigo with the other, then you're off to the races.
My only complaints were that you couldn't take it off-road (the ride was far too rough when I tried to take it on a trail) and that setting up the bike on its kickstand was no easy task. Overall, though, the complaints are very minor for the satisfying workout on the Elliptigo.
There was versatility, easy steering, and a comfortable ride. I was certainly tired (and soaked in sweat) at the conclusion of the ride, but didn't have the joint or muscle pain that you may experience after a traditional workout. I was incredibly impressed, and would recommend this to anyone. I would not be surprised if this equipment was entirely mainstream within just a few years - it was that enjoyable.