ElliptiGO SUB Outdoor Elliptical Bike
The outdoor elliptical is a fairly new development. It hasn’t caught on with either the cycling or gym crowd. While the bike’s inventor and patent holder, ElliptiGO, does just fine, its products continue to occupy a niche.
It’s an elliptical you can take outside. It is also a means of transportation, and a challenging project for those of us who like to tinker with and modify gear.
The other niche factor is price. ElliptiGO’s initial product was the Arc, introduced in 2006. The Arc is now in its eighth iteration, the Arc 8. The 8 retails for $1300 USD at the time of this writing. Earlier gens hold their value, even used, and are tricky to find.
For that price, you could procure a rock solid indoor elliptical machine, along with an indestructible hybrid bike with and front or rear suspension.
So we have established that outdoor elliptical bikes aren’t for everyone. Are they for you? If you came to this page, you are at least curious about these bikes. Let’s look at the pros and cons, construction, and safety features so you can decide if you want to go on a purchase adventure or just stick with what you use now.
All models will burn calories faster than a regular bike, because of standing
Pedal action is like a traditional bike
No seat means reduced pain in neck, back, spine, and sitting bones
Lightweight and can be placed in car or on taken on rail systems easily
Fluid handling, quick acceleration, and precise motion feels light and free
Since your head and upper body are higher, you are more visible to motorists
No top tube means less convenient storage, rigidity, shock absorption
SUB features lengthened/roughened BMX pedals, not elliptical pedals
The chain and derailleur assembly give you 8 speeds, with the right gear ratios to get you up and down hills and back onto flat land with no jerking or stalls. Bearings are sealed for protection from dirt and dust and require almost no maintenance over the life of the bike. The 8 speeds also correspond to 8 levels of resistance, as you find on many indoor ellipticals.
The braking system is probably the most important safety feature on any bike, right up there with wearing your helmet and installing headlights or reflectors for after dark riding.
As an aside, you can find ElliptiGO specific accessories like their strap lock from the website. And since most elliptical bike companies use the same frame design, you have cross-compatibility.
Now a word about the brakes. They are operated by finger levers, meaning faster stopping time than if you had to pull a lever. Reviews indicate the brake and gearbox cables are strong and give a consistent response. The simple operation of the brake makes the SUB and other ElliptiGO bikes suitable even for kids, and the SUB frame will accommodate tweens thanks to the adjustable handlebars.
The SUB’s older siblings include the RSUB and the MSUB. They have a larger wheelbase, with curved frames like those on a mountain bike. This means they look more like regular mountain bikes, though they are still missing a top tube. The bigger models also have chain stays and seat stays, which weld together and look like half a coat hanger attached to the back of the frame. The stays add stability and a measure of shock absorption for riding on semi-rough terrain, as well as providing a slightly softer ride. Fair warning--you do not want to take an ElliptiGO mountain biking. We hate to think about what might happen the first time you encounter a root system.
Although the SUB is small and pocketbook-friendly, it still has a lot to offer in terms of cardio and short distance transportation, even on grassy or asphalt trails and tracks. One thing we notice is there is no storage room unless you want to strap a fanny pack or small bag to the handlebars or that super long handlebar stand.
Be careful, though, as said bag could easily interfere with the front spokes and cause a problem.
In a nutshell, we say neither the SUB nor any other ElliptiGO product will work as a daily commuter bike. Even if your job is 5-8 miles away and has a bike path the whole way, you'll face a challenge taking lunch, water bottles, tools, or a tablet/laptop with you. These bikes are fun ways to explore nature and get an effective low impact cardio workout, since you won’t sit and won’t expose your knees to that impact.
It is possible to mount a water bottle bracket or pump holder to the lone bottom bracket as long as the add-ons are held firmly in place. You’d have to stop and stoop down to take a drink, though, instead of just reaching for it like with a seated bike.
The SUB is a one size fits all bike, nice to see on something with such a pared-down frame. Since you don’t have to deal with a seat, the handlebars adjust for anyone from 4’10” to 6’10” tall. We have spent hours fussing with bike seats, trying to get the perfect leg extension without adding extra knee stress, so it is refreshing to have that taken out of the picture. The standing factor is also what makes the ride low impact while still helping you go fast enough, even up hills, to get that all-important heart rate up for calorie and fat burning.
The frame is a sturdy aluminum alloy. It is a lighter weight than regular aluminum, with better corrosion resistance although not the high tensile strength of titanium frame bikes. Any aluminum, too, is going to have less give and reduced durability compared to a steel frame. While steel will bend prior to breaking, aluminum does the opposite.
ElliptiGO’s website says that their hybrids burn 33% more calories than a traditional bicycle. It’s the kind of claim that seems reasonable on the surface but becomes harder to swallow when you break it down a little.
Here’s what we mean.
Calorie burn is not a fixed number. Two women of the same age, with similar body weight and height, who eat a lean version of the American diet and do group cardio together at the same gym, are not going to burn calories at the same rate. Charts and algorithms, like those used by MyFitness Pal or wristwatch style trackers, are loose guidelines and not precise calculations.
Lab studies have shown a huge margin of error again and again. A quick Google search will lead you to PubMed or a consumer summary with quotes from medical professionals.
It is because everyone’s metabolism, genetics, body composition, and even bone density are just plain not the same. Diversity makes humans wonderful, but it also prevents us from being easily lumped together and analyzed the way chemical compounds can be.
Still, Elliptigo both claims and provides evidence that their bikes burn up to 33% more calories than riding a standard bike would. For the evidence, check under our Sources subsection. In the meantime, here’s a summary of what we read.
Researchers at the University of San Diego held a controlled study with six participants, to compare the metabolic efficiency of elliptical bikes, traditional bikes, and outdoor running. Participants all underwent metabolic analysis, wearing a face mask and onboard computer, while successively riding a regular bike, then an ElliptiGO bike, with appropriate rest in between. Finally, the six ran the same course with the sensors still attached.
The conclusion meshes with what ElliptiGO says about itself: riding an elliptical bike under conditions similar to a bike ride or run will burn substantially more calories than either running or cycling will. The key takeaways are that the standing position makes you less aerodynamic and that you can ride the ElliptiGO at a speed of up to twice your run speed with the same perceived level of exertion. This means you are working harder, going faster, and potentially traveling greater distances because you don’t feel like you are running 14 miles an hour (does anyone want to feel that way ever?!).
The Final Word
The frame offers minimal rigidity and reduced shock absorption, with the payoff of a lightweight. The aluminum frame is stable and lightweight and will resist bending or scratching under most conditions. You can climb moderate hills on grass, asphalt, concrete, cinder block, and nature trails as long as they are clear of tree roots and large rocks.
Being able to stand may take some getting used to, but the payoff is less neck, back, and joint pain than you’d find with a sitting bike. Plus, just look at the SUB or any of ElliptiGO’s more expensive bikes--they just look fun. If you don’t need, or already have, a bike for a long daily commute or technical trails, this product is for you.