The Elliptical Cycling World Championships & Rally Weekend takes place each year, with rides of various distances, as well as the flagship race: a competitive timed ride up Palomar Mountain that climbs 4,209 feet in just 11.69 miles. The average grade is almost 7%. Click here to see a route and elevation map of the course. And yes, you do it on an elliptical bike.
The event was first offered in 2010 and each year, the depth of talent has increased and new records for ascent have been set. In the Elliptical Cycling World Championships, female and male victors each claim the ElliptiGO Founders’ Cup.
SDM caught up with ElliptiGO’s CEO and co-founder, Bryan Pate, to discuss the event and its growth.
Sports Destination Management: Obviously, the ElliptiGO event is tied to the opening of the business. How many bikes have you sold?
Bryan Pate: Just north of 35,000.
SDM: Is this the only event that is put on for elliptical cyclists?
Pate: No, there are several elliptical cycling-specific events across the country and around the world. Most are put on by the Global ElliptiGO Riders Club, which is an organization our customers founded in 2015. Their events in particular are very popular.
SDM: Does your event move around?
Pate: We have always been at Palomar Mountain. We chose that because we wanted to find a very challenging climb that was also convenient to our headquarters. Palomar Mountain is the toughest climb in San Diego County and rated in the top-20 toughest climbs in the country. It’s about an hour from our offices so the logistics are fairly doable.
SDM: How many people attend?
Pate: We limit it to 50. There is a combination of people who qualify based on their times in other events, people we invite and people who are chosen through a lottery system.
SDM: Is it just people from the general area who come to compete?
Pate: Not at all – we get racers from a lot of different states, as well as from Canada, Australia, England, France, Switzerland – it has been fairly well received internationally.
SDM: Do you have a rolling start, a mass start – how does it work?
Pate: We start in waves based on finish times. There are start times that run every 15 minutes, with the fastest riders going last. The fastest riders are often the first finishers, even though they start up to an hour behind other competitors. When they pass you on the course, it really gives you a true appreciation of just how fast they’re going. It’s awe-inspiring.
SDM: What is the racing demographic like?
Pate: We have more men than women, and most people are older, between 45 and 75. The world championships, though, is where we see younger competitors; they’re usually in their mid to late twenties. The female winner in 2020 was Molly Seidel, who won the bronze medal in the marathon in Tokyo last summer.
SDM: Molly Seidel trains on an elliptical bike?
Pate: It’s part of her training. She had qualified for Tokyo in January, and then came and won our world championships and then went to Tokyo the following summer where she won the Olympic Bronze.
SDM: You have some elite talent! Do most competitors come from a running background or a cycling background?
Pate: Most come from a running background. We do have cyclists who come out and compete but the most common background for these athletes is running.
SDM: We saw a lot of growth in both running and cycling because a lot of health clubs were closed during the pandemic. How did that affect your business?
Pate: A lot of people decided to purchase. I think the pandemic showed us the importance of physical fitness and people started looking for something that was time-efficient but really appealing. The word “fun” is the number-one term our customers use to describe the experience of being out on one of these.
SDM: What would you say is the biggest challenge right now to growth? Is it supply chain issues?
Pate: Getting bikes produced and delivered is challenging but I would say the biggest barrier to growth is the cost of these bikes. They run between $1,500 to $4,000 and that’s a hard sell for some people right now. There’s also the need to raise awareness, and to have people believe the product does what it says it does.
SDM: Are most bikes sold through bike shops that have specialty equipment?
Pate: We use a lot of different channels, including specialty bike, fitness and running stores but the most popular channel is our website, www.elliptigo.com. Another big driver is our customers who currently have bikes: we have an overwhelmingly supportive base and the people who are out there riding these bikes are giving test rides to people they meet and telling them where they can purchase them.
SDM: Does social media play a role?
Pate: Our customers actually organized their own Facebook group several years ago and it has grown to more than 5,000 members today. Then you have a lot of regional groups that have their own social media pages they use to set up local rides and activities. We also have a community on Strava.
SDM: What is the best thing about these bikes?
Pate: I think it’s the ability to deliver what people want. Runners who can’t run anymore can still experience the joy of running, and runners are still running can increase their training load while decreasing the amount of pounding on their bodies. We are convinced elliptical cycling delivers the best outdoor low-impact cardio workout you can get, and that’s a pretty special thing.