New Elliptical Bike Brand’s Success Hinges on Specialty Retail Channel

05.01.11

SOLANA BEACH, CA—Bryce Whiting has been on a whirlwind tour since last summer visiting specialty shops in key U.S. regions to turn them onto a new elliptical bicycle. He’s the first to admit it hasn’t been an easy sell, but key dealers have signed on, had early sales success, and turned other retailers onto the startup brand.

Launched by two former Ironman competitors and runners, the Elliptigo 8S combines the motion of an indoor elliptical trainer and a bicycle. It’s not the first product of its kind to hit the market, and at $2,499 it’s certainly not the cheapest. Similar products that combine running, stepper or elliptical trainer motion with a bike include the Randy Ross Stepper and Street Strider, among others. But none have been able to gain significant traction at specialty bike shops.

“We hope to have a much higher level of success,” said Whiting, who heads sales and distribution for Elliptigo, adding that it has no plans to sell in mass market or sporting goods stores. Other than bike shops, Whiting said the company, headquartered in San Diego, California, is selling Elliptigo at specialty fitness stores. “Given the quality of the bike and performance aspect, we think we’ll get better attention from IBDs.”

The target market isn’t cyclists, but rather injured runners, triathletes, and fitness and gym enthusiasts. But even though the product promises to bring a new customer into IBDs, as well as the ability for them to sell accessories like helmets and tire pumps, it’s been a challenging proposition. “We got the response we expected, ‘What the heck is that thing?’ and ‘No I’m not going to get on it,’” said Whiting.

“We definitely fell into that category,” admitted Jason Richardson, purchasing director for Erik’s Bike Shop, which began carrying the Elliptigo at six of its 17 stores in April. “The key part was when he brought the unit out for us to try. We rode it around extensively and that’s what changed our mind,” he said.

“We’ve seen products like this before. You don’t want to get caught up in every new fad that comes along. We had skepticism going in, but it was a very high quality and compelling experience,” he added. Elliptigo signed up its first bike shop last August and several have followed suit. Richardson Bike Mart and Bicycle Sport Shop in Texas, Zane’s Cycles in Connecticut, and Revolution Cycles in D.C. and Virginia, to name a few. Most recently Elliptigo signed up Performance as part of a 10-store pilot program, Whiting said. Jim Hoyt, owner of Richardson Bike Mart, said about a third of his Elliptigo sales so far have been to triathletes. “We’ve probably since Thanksgiving sold 30 of them. For a $2,500 item, that’s pretty neat,” said Hoyt. “We’ve turned a few other dealer friends onto it. It’s got a place and it’s not instead-of product. We’ve seen it hit all the different avenues. But time will tell on longevity.”

Revolution Cycles has carried the Elliptigo for about a month at all five of its stores. It also rents two units at its Crystal City location. “We did our due diligence before we brought in eight to 10 of these,” said Stacey Moses, buyer for all of Revolution Cycles’ locations. “It’s lighter and well-built. It may look cumbersome, but it’s easy to pick up and you can feel right away that it works different muscle groups than a bike. We don’t think it will be a replacement for someone buying a bike, but a different alternative for people who have bikes or can’t go running anymore because of their knees or joints.”

Whiting said by June he expects Elliptigo to be in more than 200 specialty bike and fitness stores. The company’s goal, he said, is not to be in every bike shop but to have enough concentration to be able to provide consumers a testing experience.

Elliptigo has set aggressive growth plans for 2011. Whiting said the company expects to sell 7,000 units and generate over $10 million in revenue this year. Last year, when product officially launched, it sold 1,300 units over 10 months, generating more than $2 million in revenue, he said. Plans are underway to expand beyond the single 8-speed model currently available to include three-speed and 11-speed models at different price points.