We've had our Elliptigo for about two months, and the Gulfstream recumbent tandem for almost a month, but we still have surprisingly little experience with either one. This is due to a combination of travel schedules, weather, assorted family issues, and, you know, just life in general playing hob with our leisure plans.
I have been able to take the Elliptigo out for a couple of extended rides, one for 10 miles and another for 12, plus a handful of shorter cruises around the neighborhood, and I can share a few observations for anyone who is contemplating an investment in this peculiar form of transportative exercism.
- The Elliptigo has the aerodynamic precision of a dumpster (I almost compared it to the south end of a north-bound dump truck, but I guess there could be wind-cheating dump trucks somewhere in the world). The tiny wheels and inherent pedaling motion guarantee a workout in any conditions, but add a little headwind and you'll empathize with the Tour de France cyclists laboring up Alpe d'Huez.
- The bike is not well-suited for rough pavement, or unpaved trails. The aforementioned small wheels, high-pressure tires (100 psi), and stiff frame transmit every bump and hole to the rider. The bike feels solid for the most part, but it's not something you'd want to jump curbs with.
- I'd pay to see a circus act featuring someone skilled enough to ride an Elliptigo hands-free, because I don't think it can be done. The handling is plenty stable if you have a good grip on the bars, but "squirrelly" is an understated adjective for riding with one hand. The rake (or trail? I always get 'em confused) of the front fork combined with the exaggerated "pedaling" motion is such that you need to concentrate on what you're doing. Now, I'm sure this will be less of an issue with practice, but it's never going to disappear.
Not me. And not Midland.
- One important implication of the preceding observation is that a hydration pack is almost essential for rides long enough (or in hot enough weather) to require water. This assumes that you won't pull over for a drink...I've never seen anyone serious about exercising who's willing to do that. The act of extracting a water bottle from a cage with one hand, taking a drink, and returning it to the cage requires skill and balance that's beyond me, and I think I'm fairly competent in both areas. Plus, there's really no good place to mount a water bottle cage other than on the handlebar.
- I'm not sure whether I've dialed in the proper riding position; the user guide is so intent on warning you about all the ways you can die on the bike that it neglects to talk much about ergonomics. Although, really, there are only a couple of adjustments you can make: the position of the handlebars and their height. The latter is the more important of the two. I think the first time I went for a long ride, the handlebar height was too low and I experienced some back pain as a result. I raised the bars for the second ride and that helped.
- Did I mention that riding the Elliptigo provides a good workout? As in death-march-brutal-slog-cry-all-the-way-home good? Sure, you can coast (which turns out to be surprisingly uncomfortable until you find the sweet spot of body position relative to foot placement), but if you have only 30 minutes for a workout and you don't want to suffer through a boring indoor routine, this device will git 'er done. It stresses body parts that don't get much attention during regular cycling or running workouts, not to mention providing a powerful aerobic routine. [Disclosure: I've never been an aficionado of stationary elliptical trainers, so I didn't come to the Elliptigo with a relevant base of fitness. In other words, I have no muscle memory to help me; your mileage and/or pain threshold may vary.]
It does give one a deeper appreciation of what this guy is accomplishing:
- For what it's worth, I averaged about 13 mph for the two longer rides. Both were on fairly windy days, which is par for the course in our neck of the desert. I haven't mounted a computer on the bike, but the MapMyRide iPhone app does a great job of keeping track of the important stats.
I realize this seems to be a lengthy laundry list of Things I Don't Like About the Elliptigo, but in reality, I think it's both a lot of fun, and an efficient way to get some exercise at your own pace. I like not having to wear special shoes or workout-specific clothing. But it's an expensive machine, so it's important to understand as many pros and cons before making the investment.
By the way, if you decide to buy one, please treat it as a regular bicycle when it comes to the rules of the road. Ride with traffic, not against it, and wear a helmet (which I do faithfully, despite what you saw in the video). And be prepared to return many smiles of passing motorists...even if you can't take your hand off the bars to return their waves.
And speaking of bicycles, I'll have a similar report on the Gulfstream soon. We've had some interesting challenges with it.