Athlete forms elliptical bike company
CAMERON LEIGH JAMES, Special to the Daily Transcript
Five years ago, Bryan Pate was an injured runner with a problem. He hated exercising in the gym. Some people might think his solution extreme: He contacted his friend and fellow Ironman Brent Teal with the idea of building an elliptical trainer he could ride outdoors.
Teal thought the idea had legs, and less than a year later, they were riding the first prototype. In February they launched the world's first elliptical bike.
"The intent wasn't to build a company," said Pate, whose background is in strategic marketing and management consulting. "I wanted one and was shocked it didn't exist. I figured there were others who would want it, injured runners like myself, or for cross-training."
The ElliptiGO 8S combines aspects of cycling and running with an elliptical trainer. It looks and performs like a bicycle, but has no seat. Instead of pedals, it uses an elliptical propulsion system, and can go anywhere a road bike can.
"It's flat out a lot of fun; it's really comfortable and people are shocked at how well it climbs," said Pate, 37.
The native San Diegan has a bachelor's degree in earth systems from Stanford and a Columbia law degree. In 1997 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Prior to his Persian Gulf deployment, he ran the San Diego marathon, his first. But the impact of years of distance running ruined his knees and hips and by age 32, he could no longer run for fitness.
Teal, 36, holds a bachelor's in mechanical engineering. He competes in ultra marathon trail races.
The two met in 2000 at Palomar Technologies, where Pate was a marketing manager when Teal was recruited as a mechanical engineer. They had both moved on to other companies when they started the ElliptiGO project. Two years ago they left those jobs to focus on it full time.
The race to bring it to market screeched to a halt when they discovered Larry D. Miller, inventor of the first compact elliptical trainer for Precor, held the patent on the basic concept: using elliptical motion to propel a vehicle.
"That was one of the worst days," Teal said. "We really thought we were going back to our day jobs."
Ultimately they approached Miller and acquired the exclusive license to his patent.
Teal and Pate hold the patent on the adjustable drive system, which adjusts to 25 inches, 25 percent longer than an elliptical trainer. Patents are pending for other features such as the folding steering column, modular track system and composite drive arms.
A staff of eight works out of Solana Beach. The firm is manufacturing a limited number of 8S models. It is currently out of stock and taking reservations.
"We have more customers than we have bikes," Pate said. "We have real traction with legitimate professional athletes who are testing it and really like it."
They solved one runner's problem. In the process, they may have given birth to a new industry and a new sport.
James is a Carlsbad-based freelance writer.