Friday, January 14, 2011

Elliptical bikes: Hey, at least the bike seat is cheap

Anybody who read my blog during RAGBRAI knows that strange sites were a regular occurrence.

Contrast in bike styles was no exception. I saw people traveling across Iowa in everything from a unicycle to rollerblades to banana bikes. One participant even managed to bike across the state with no legs, pedaling a recumbent bike with his feet (blog entry about it here).

Lost in the fray of cycling ecstasy was a RAGBRAI participant pedaling an elliptical-style bicycle across the state. I recall seeing the elliptical bike early on in the week and read about it later in the Des Moines Register.

I was going to blog about it at the time, but there was just too much to write about and I simply forgot about it. Thankfully, the elliptical bike concept was discussed around the newsroom the other night to help refresh my memory.

Essentially, it takes all the finer points of an elliptical running machine and converts it into a bicycle. So instead of being cooped up in a gym, you can hit the bike trail and enjoy the outdoors on an elliptical. And, as my coworker pointed out, you won't to sit on an uncomfortable bike seat for the duration of the ride. Sounds pretty cool, right?

Well, there's drawbacks to consider. For one thing, you won't find a cheap elliptical bike in a shop anywhere (they generally cost around $2,000-3,000, including the ones on the ElliptiGO manufacturing website). Considering the complexities of an elliptical machine compared to a bicycle, I would also venture a guess that the increased number of parts would make it a heavier object to propel.

There's also sheer aerodynamics to consider. By it's very nature, you're standing straight up while using an elliptical machine, whereas most road bike users are hunched over their bike's frame during a ride. There's probably a lot more wind resistance to account for.

Still, at the very least it's an intriguing exercise alternative to normal running or biking. It will be interesting to see how the elliptical bike does in the health and fitness market.

My guess: Lower the price, then people will buy it.

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