Sometimes a person just wants to get a workout in the great outdoors.
Let’s be honest: On a sunny spring day you can feel like a lonely hamster on a wheel when working out indoors. And your customers might feel the same. That’s why outdoor ellipticals have taken off in recent years. Products like the ElliptiGO and StreetStrider offer customers a calorie-torching workout they can enjoy outdoors and an opportunity to get social.
When David Kraus, inventor of the StreetStrider outdoor elliptical, was a research scientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the school built a new gym with 60 new machines — 20 stationary bikes, 20 treadmills and 20 ellipticals.
“You’d see people waiting in line to get on the ellipticals even though there were bikes and treadmills available,” Kraus said. “People really gravitated toward that exercise, and I think it has to do with the fact that you’re using your full body but you don’t realize how much work you’re doing.”
So lucky for those elliptical addicts, there are a few options available. Both the ElliptiGO and the StreetStrider require that users stand. The ElliptiGO, designed by Bryan Pate, was made to emulate running. It’s a two-wheeled product with handlebars like a bicycle.
The StreetStrider has three wheels, two in front and one in back, but the movable handlebars are much like those on an indoor elliptical, which provide an upper-body workout.
Both products work the core, requiring the user to balance, but each has its own vibe, one focusing more on the running feel and another more on the elliptical aspect.
The outdoor exercise experience is incomparable, Pate said. "Studies show people work out longer and more intensely outdoors as compared to indoors."
Your customers no longer have to feel like lonely hamsters if that’s not their thing. Retailers have found outdoor elliptical products give them a chance to engage with a different customer and create a community.
That’s the case with Jim McKee, owner of Better Body Fitness in Spokane, Wash. According to ElliptiGO representatives, McKee was one of the first fitness retailers to bring ElliptiGO into his store. His reps saw it at IHRSA in 2010 while eating lunch.
“They knew that I was a fruit loop with bikes and anything two-wheeled,” he said. The reps snapped a few photos, and within 10 minutes of receiving them, McKee said he was on the phone with Pate putting in an order.
Pate said many of his customers participate in bike races around the country and in ElliptiGO’s World Championship, which will take place in September. Currently, a few of his customers are riding cross-country on their products.
Sales have been strong since McKee brought the ElliptiGO onto his showroom floor and interest remains high, he said. Plus, the store’s 15-mile Wednesday night rides are a hit.
“We do Wednesday night 15-mile rides and come back and drink beer,” he said with a laugh. “We try to mix sin with work.”
While StreetStrider does a majority of its business direct-to-consumer via its website, it too has a social element among its customers.
“A lot of people ride together,” Kraus said. “One person will buy one and their spouse will get one, too. It’s really becoming an interesting social activity.”
Plus, a number of campgrounds and beach resorts rent the product to tourists.
A recent study from the American Council on Exercise found exercisers burned more calories on the StreetStrider versus an indoor elliptical, giving retailers more information to sell the product. Plus, Kraus said, Dr. Neil Wolkedoff of Denver, Colo.’s Rose Center for Sports and Health Science recently wrapped up a study that yielded similar results.
With the plethora of options from both companies, there is something for everyone from specialty fitness to outdoor retailers (and StreetStrider is looking to snag a spot at the upcoming Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show) to specialty bike retailers. Plus, StreetStrider offers a children’s version, the JET (MSRP $499).
Pate said he’s currently in both specialty bike and fitness retailers, and while sales vary from store to store, collectively specialty fitness seems to do a bit better than specialty bike. Both companies reported their year-over-year sales have nearly doubled, but neither disclosed exact figures. Currently ElliptiGO has three new models: Three-Speed (MSRP $1,799); HD Model (MSRP $2,499) and the 11-Speed (MSRP $3,499). StreetStrider has several models including the Summit 8r (MSRP $1,999); the Sprint (MSRP $1,599) and the Eclipse (MSRP $999) is coming soon.
Kraus said he does know one thing: Outdoor ellipticals are here to stay.
“This will not be just a fad,” Kraus said. “This is an instrument for transportation and exercise that will be long lasting.”