How CAD Helped Give ElliptiGO Wheels
While most people are aware of the benefits of regular exercise, it’s not always easy for those with leg, foot, back or hip problems to lace up their running shoes or get on the bicycle saddle. Even those who have spent the majority of their lives exercising daily may still find themselves unable to move like they used to. Among others who have found it difficult to maintain physical activity as they’ve gotten older is former Ironman triathlete, Bryan Pate.
Pate, who had a particular fondness for indoor elliptical trainers due to their ability to emulate a running motion without high-impact foot strikes, was frustrated that the workout machines were stationary and thus restricted to indoor gyms. After contacting fellow Ironman athlete and mechanical engineer Brent Teal for a coffee in July 2005, the two hatched out what would soon become the ElliptiGO, which they called the world’s first elliptical bicycle.
The ElliptiGO has become a useful exercise device for cross trainers and ecovering injured athletes. (Photo: ElliptiGO)
Of course, designing an entirely new vehicle concept from scratch is no easy task—especially when it needs to be both fun and safe while also remaining cost-effective to manufacture. While Teal had previous experience using both Pro/ENGINEER and SOLIDWORKS during his career as a mechanical engineer, he turned to SOLIDWORKS Premium to build out the ElliptiGO.
Teal decided that using the fully integrated software package would shorten the ElliptiGO’s time-to-market and improve product performance and quality over time while simultaneously reducing manufacturing costs. Features such as integrated design simulation and visualization capabilities would come in handy, as would the ability to support manufacturing requirements further down the line.
While the ability to iterate and test engineering concepts through trial and error directly within the software proved to be invaluable for their time and resources, Teal also made extensive use of the software’s integrated dynamic motion and finite element analysis (FEA) tools.
Using the tools, Teal was able to run linear static stress and fatigue studies to identify stress concentrations, which helped them shave weight and material off of their parts while simultaneously reducing manufacturing and testing costs.
The resulting final mechanical designs would ultimately provide the basis for expanding the duo’s simple idea that hatched over coffee into a revolutionary product line with four models that have since sold over 16,000 units and counting.
“SOLIDWORKS has played a significant role in helping us build out the product offering of the company,” said Teal. “I’ve used SOLIDWORKS design and simulation tools for more than 10 years because the software enabled us to introduce a revolutionary, first-of-its-kind product, and then refine the concept to offer additional models while simultaneously keeping costs down.”
Starting at $1,299, the company’s ElliptiGo Arc model is both the newest and one of the best examples of how Teal was able to refine the original concept using SOLIDWORKS to create the lightest and most affordable model in the company’s lineup.
Alternatively, the more expensive $3,499 ElliptiGO 11R model is a much more robust model made with carbon-fiber arms for discerning riders looking for a light and sturdy elliptical bike for the most demanding riding conditions.
Like the rest of the ElliptiGO product line, both models combine the running-like movement used on an elliptical trainer with the functionality of a bicycle. The result is a design that enables a low-impact exercise workout similar to those found on indoor exercise machines with the added benefit of being able to exercise outdoors on existing jogging and bike paths. For days where the weather might not be ideal for exercising, ElliptiGO models except for the ARC trainer are also compatible with indoor stationary trainers.
Adjustable for riders from 4 ft 10 in to 6 ft 10 in tall, the elliptical bikes also feature adjustable stride lengths, which can vary from the shorter 16” length to a longer 25-ft setting that makes the stand up riding experience feel more like running.
The ElliptiGO combines elements of running, cycling and the elliptical trainer into an outdoor exercise vehicle (video: ElliptiGO)
With a recent scientific study proving that low-impact elliptical training can provide the same fitness benefits as running with similar levels of enjoyment, it would seem that Pate and Teal have a winner—and with the aid of SOLIDWORKS, they’ve been able to pass the finish line and keep running.
“As we continue to push elliptical bike development, we need to explore the use of advanced materials and manufacturing processes,” said Teal. “With SOLIDWORKS Premium, we have the tool we need not only to create new designs but also to analyze performance and manufacturability.”
The full line of ElliptiGO bikes is distributed through specialty running, cycling and fitness retailers nationwide, on Amazon.com and through the ElliptiGO website.
About the Author
Simon Martin is a writer and industrial designer in New York City.