Oh, summer… My long lost and fickle love. Sometimes I get mad at you for being elusive and such a …
Rolling alongBy Janice Hudson | Nov 2, 2011
Tags: Elliptigo, Halifax
If you catch a glimpse of Luke MacDonald riding in morning traffic, you probably won’t forget it. “I know I’m a little of a Where’s Waldo in the city,” he laughs. “Kids are reporting to their parents about where I am.”
He rides an Elliptigo, an unusual looking lime-green machine that’s a cross between a bike and an elliptical trainer. Made from high-end aluminum alloy, the eight-speed machine drives much like a bike, though the rider stands and gains speed by pumping large elliptical-like pedals. “It looks leisurely but it’s actually a great workout,” MacDonald says, noting that he thinks he’s the only owner of the device in Atlantic Canada.
To other drivers on the road, he’s a bit of a novelty on an otherwise dull drive to work. “Most drivers look and smile, unless I do something stupid,” MacDonald says. “I’m still a vehicle and I try my darnedest to be as good as possible.”
It takes him about 45 minutes to ride 16 kilometres from his home in Cole Harbour to his job on Quinpool Road (he co-owns the athletic shop Aerobics First), burning 900 calories each way.
A life-long competitive runner, MacDonald had given up the sport eight years ago after a bad fall. He had been using a standard elliptical machine to get back in shape but was craving something more exhilarating. “ I lost a bunch of weight [with the elliptical] but I was bored to tears,” he recalls.
He bought the Elliptigo last November for $2,500. A coworker first showed him the device online and then he tried it out at a conference in Austin, Texas. Renowned Canadian runner Mike Dyon of RMP Athletic Locker (Elliptigo’s Canadian distributor) had one there and let MacDonald take it for a spin around Austin Lake. “I felt like I got out of a wheelchair,” MacDonald says. “It was just what I needed.”
He says the device gives him a runner’s high without act-ually running. “This was my ticket back to running,” he says. “I compared myself pre and post Elliptigo and my overall fitness level has increased dramatically—my endurance and my speed—all with no running training.”
Commuting isn’t without complications. Last March, MacDonald hit a large pothole just a few kilometres from his home. Given the girth of the pothole, at least 30 cm (one foot) wide and 23 cm (nine inches) deep, MacDonald doesn’t blame the machine for the accident. “It was a wicked pothole—I would have wiped out on anything,” he says. There was no major damage to the Elliptigo but MacDonald had a concussion, broken ribs and a broken collarbone. “It took me a week in hospital and five weeks’ recovery,” he says.
The accident didn’t shake his resolve to get riding again. “It’s as safe as a bike,” he says. “I couldn’t wait to get back on it. It was a different story for my spouse, my coworkers and my insurance company [laughs].”
Elliptigos are popular in British Columbia and in the southern U.S., especially Texas and California. Elliptigo co-founder Bryan Tate, a former Ironman triathlete, says the machine is gaining popularity, even though it’s only been on the scene since July 2010. “It’s now global,” he says. “The best thing it does is climb hills…it’s been up Mount Washington and Pikes Peak, Colorado—it can climb anything.”
Fans held the first Elliptigo world championships last November in California. MacDonald plans on participating in the future and has already beaten the qualifying time of 100 km in under five hours. (He did it in four hours and 14 minutes.) “You have to have an elevation increase of at least 1,600 feet and I had 2,700,” he notes.
He’s setting his sights on completing a 100-mile ride at the Joseph Howe Century Ride this fall, aiming for a time of 6.5 hours. “I want to know what my times are compared to other 47-year-olds in the world,” he says.
He rides it year-round (as much as conditions permit). “The difficulty is not the ice and snow because you just don’t ride on those days but it’s a matter of riding in daylight hours,” he says. “In general, you need a lot of guts to bike to work. You have to have the wherewithal—you have to plan and know what you’re doing. It’s nerve wracking for my wife [laughs]. But it’s the time of day I can get fit and be healthy.”