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Naples Daily News (Florida)
Combine a stationary indoor elliptical and an outdoor bicycle and you get ElliptiGO, the peculiar-looking contraptions that have a growing and dedicated fan base in Southwest Florida.
Spotting one out on the road can be a little puzzling at first. It's common for curious drivers to stop their cars and snap a few photos, said Mike Ruffolo, a Naples brand ambassador for the company.
"You're basically riding an outdoor elliptical machine," he said, "but you're in nature, and who wants to be in Florida and not be outside?"
Now there are about 65 riders in the area who gather for group rides around Southwest Florida, and Ruffolo says brand loyalty is growing.
Ruffolo found the ElliptiGO by necessity about six years ago. He was a long-distance runner, participating in all the major marathons in New York City, Chicago and Singapore.
"I ended up having meniscus surgery on my right knee and the doctor basically said, 'Find a different sport or you're not going to be able to exercise like you want to when you get older.' "
That's when he read an article about the up-and-coming brand of low-impact bikes, and Ruffolo arranged a test ride with the company.
"I fell in love with the product," he recalled.
The "outdoor elliptical" appeals mostly to runners who are either injured, retired or looking for a way to cross-train. It's also a great option for someone who simply wants to get and stay in shape, Ruffolo said.
"A lot of people who get back into exercise do a lot of things that are jarring on the body, and they end up hurting themselves, so this is a way to get back into fitness without hurting themselves in the long run," he said.
Bonita Springs resident James Fountain said he started walking and running after retirement when he turned 60. And then his feet gave out, he said, so the doctor recommended finding something else.
Now Fountain rides his ElliptiGO three to four times a week for 10 miles.
"On this thing you can go all day long, you never have joint pain, you never have a twinge at all," he said. "It's totally fluid motion with no jarring, and it's standup, so there's a lot of core muscles."
It's a similar story for Larry Rydzewski of Naples. He rides four or five times a week for 25 to 30 miles.
"I used to run marathons, and now I've got a bad back and a bad knee," Rydzewski said. "There's no stretches or strains on any joints."
The ElliptiGO isn't aerodynamic like a traditional bicycle; riders are standing upright, putting less pressure on the back, shoulders and neck. And it's heavy, too, but that's by design, Ruffolo said.
"It's a 25 percent harder workout for the same amount of time that you compare to a bike," he said, "and it's because you're upright and it's a lot heavier product."
And because riders are standing on the machine, Rydzewski says the ElliptiGO is much safer because it provides a better view of passing cars and other surroundings.
The stride length can be adjusted for the individual rider, and the bikes come with either three, eight or 11 speeds.
In Naples, the bikes are available for rent or for purchase from Big Momma's Bicycles at Pine Ridge Road and Seagate Drive, and at CJ & Hung's House of Trikes & Bikes near Immokalee Road and Collier Boulevard.
Email Ruffolo at firstname.lastname@example.org to join the riders of Southwest Florida, or if you'd simply like to take one on a test ride.
"It's a group that's super enthusiastic and trying to get as many people to join us," he said, "so those of us who have multiple bikes invite people who don't have one so they can come."
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