This month’s theme is “You can do hard things!” Doug Leland, our Rider of the Month, is epitomizing that theme by doing something very hard right now: He’s in the process of riding his ElliptiGO more than 3,000 miles over 53 days. Learn more about Doug and the heartfelt purpose behind his incredible ride, below.
Doug was born in Burlington, Vermont. At 18, he was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduating in 1973, he served five years as a Surface Warfare Officer, including more than three years at sea aboard the USS Mississinewa. He later earned an MBA from Northwestern University and worked in the healthcare field for nearly two decades, then an additional 20 years as a Master Certified Executive Coach. Today he lives in Freeport, Maine, with his wife of nearly 50 years, Sally. Their two adult children, a daughter and son, live in Maine as well.
Doug had been a lifelong runner, putting in 45 years pounding the pavement and trails. Then he got a call from ElliptiGO’s Chief Enthusiast and fellow Naval Academy grad, Bryce Whiting, whom he’d met a few years earlier, to test ride a prototype of a new type of bike. He and Sally came to San Diego and were immediately impressed by the concept of elliptical cycling, the budding company of ElliptiGO, and the bike itself. They were so impressed, in fact, that they both ordered bikes — a year before ElliptiGO started production.
Their ElliptiGO bikes arrived in 2010, and Doug hasn’t run since then. He credits his ElliptiGO bike with allowing him to continue a cardio exercise routine without jarring his joints, because ElliptiGO bikes offer the benefits of running without the potential health issues. Doug says, “I do have some arthritis in my lower spine and at times it can lead to back issues. As soon as I feel a twinge, I get on my ElliptiGO and the problem is resolved. I don’t know if it’s the increased blood flow while in an upright posture or something else, but it always works.”
A mere six weeks after receiving his ElliptiGO bike, Doug rode it 1,850 miles, from Canada all the way to Mexico, on what he called the Mounty to Amigo Ride. That ride was a hard thing. Doug recalls, “I hadn’t trained sufficiently. The biggest hill I had for training was a highway overpass, which left me ill prepared for the climbing along the West Coast.
“I was naive,” he admits. “I hadn’t been on a bike in 35 years, and I didn’t appreciate West Coast topography, like Big Sur.” (The cumulative elevation gain riding down the West Coast is equal to that of crossing the country coast-to-coast, but in about half the distance.) After riding from Canada and through Washington, he’d begun to think that perhaps he had bitten off more than he could chew. He shares, “After some soul searching, I decided to at least get to the California border.” Luckily, after riding through Oregon, his legs had gotten into climbing shape and he only had one more state to go!
Doug’s Mounty to Amigo Ride was tough, but it was also spectacular. The route went through Puget Sound, forests of Redwoods and fields of Easter lilies. He rode across the Golden Gate Bridge and traveled past fragrant strawberry fields. He cycled along beach bike paths and breathed in the coastal air. Throughout the ride, Sally supported him. Doug says, “We camped in our teardrop trailer every night and stayed in some wonderfully scenic settings.” They both count that ride as a “Top 10 Lifetime Experience.”
The ride down North America’s coast wasn’t the first hard thing Doug had done. A few years prior, Doug and Sally had been part of a team of 12 people selected to walk across the United States to promote healthy lifestyles and draw attention to the growing problem of childhood diabetes. They loved being outdoors, staying active, seeing new sights and experiencing everything together. Doug and Sally both describe that walk as a Top 10 Lifetime Experience. Doug says that his ride down the western coast recreated that same sense of freedom, closeness and connection to nature they’d experienced on the walk.
Doug has always considered personal health to be very important, and he reports that, at 71, his current health is excellent. He weighs only five pounds more than he did when he graduated from the Naval Academy 50 years ago, and he expects to drop those five pounds, and likely more, during his next epic ride. In addition to the physical benefits, Doug recognizes the mental health benefits of ElliptiGO cycling, likening it to “a form of moving meditation.” He rides his GO four days a week, including a long ride on Sundays, during Maine’s riding season. He supplements the riding with yoga for stretching and flexibility and bands for strength. During the winter months, he rides using the Fluid 365 Stationary Trainer. Doug owns a black 8S and 11R and Sally has a green 8S. Doug’s favorite accessories are the large and small frame bags.
For anyone who is considering an ElliptiGO bike, Doug says, “You’ll get an excellent cardio workout while maintaining proper posture, with no pounding of the joints.” He encourages prospective buyers to consider their goals, and then to review the huge library of ElliptiGO testimonials and stories. “No doubt you will recognize someone who addressed a similar need with benefits that exceeded expectations,” he says.
Doug is providing one of those exceptional, inspirational stories by doing another hard thing. A thing that will likely become another Top 10 Lifetime Experience: The USNA (U.S. Naval Academy) 1973 Ride-2-Remember. He and four other riders, all in their seventies, are riding from Astoria, Oregon, to Annapolis, Maryland, for their 50th class reunion. They’re riding to honor their deceased classmates, symbolically gathering them along their journey, carrying their memories back to Annapolis. Each day of their ride, which began on August 4, 2023, and continues through October 5, 2023, is dedicated to one or more of their fallen classmates. The cyclists wear a lanyard with an anchor and tag that identifies the classmate. At the end of each day, they hold a short ceremony and place the tags on a 20-foot-long chain to show that these classmates remain links in their chain.
Doug came up with the idea for the ride in 2019. Then it took him some time to create the framework for the ride. Last, he had to find out who was interested and able to spend two months riding across the U.S. “To the best of my knowledge, a cross-country ride to a USNA reunion has never been conducted before,” Doug says. The class of 1983 is also holding a reunion at the same time, and riders from that class will connect with the 1973 Ride-2-Remember cyclists in Arlington, Virginia, and ride together to Annapolis. Doug says that the class of 1983 is a great group—he’s ridden with them before. “Their contingent boasts three Vice Admirals,” he notes.
Doug is enthusiastic about the Ride-2-Remember, but he worries about unsafe riding conditions along the route—900 miles are on bike paths, “but that still leaves 2,300 miles of roadway with narrow or non-existent shoulders and drivers ignoring posted speed limits,” he says. And he knows that he’ll be putting in extra effort on the Ride-2-Remember when compared to the other cyclists—after all, ElliptiGO cycling requires 33% more effort, on average, than bicycling at the same speed.
But, Doug says, “The extra effort required was one of the biggest attractions of the ElliptiGO for me. My objective is a strong cardio workout, not getting from point A to point B as quickly and easily as possible.” Still, he notes that the Ride-2-Remember route includes two passes through the Rockies with steady climbs of up to 15 miles and inclines of 16%, and how his bike and body will handle those challenges remains to be seen.
Then he reminds himself of the motto of his Naval Academy class: Non Sibi. It means not for self. “We each have our own personal reasons for participating in this ride,” says Doug, “but first and foremost, it is in memory of our deceased classmates and for their family and friends. Non Sibi. It’s a good reminder for us all.” That motto is inscribed on the cyclists’ riding jerseys.
At the time of writing this article, the Ride-2-Remember has been underway for 25 days. The cyclists have ridden 1,294 miles so far, from Astoria, Oregon, to Douglas, Wyoming. Along the way, they’ve encountered weather ranging from chilly winds and rain to blazing heat, hundreds of runners doing a half-marathon, surprise stairs on their cycling route, creatures of all kinds (elk, sheep, antelope and more), enthusiastic locals and lots of laundry. Sally is providing support for the ride, as well as sharing delightful images and stories of each day’s ride. Doug posts photos and information about the classmates being honored each day. Follow along at the USNA 1973 Ride-2-Remember public Facebook group.
Doug, thank you for sharing your incredible ride with us! We are cheering you and your classmates on. We wish you all a safe journey. We know you are having a Top 10 Lifetime Experience! Thank you for including ElliptiGO on your ride.
You can contact ElliptiGO with nominations to Rider of the Month or share your own story. It may just be the next feature!