It’s hard to forget the first time you rode an ElliptiGO bike. The exhilarating experience of standing tall, engaging your legs and core and the newness of it all. For many of our customers that is where it begins: a new path of endless miles, new goals and new friendships. Our March rider of the month is a great example of embracing first-time experiences. The ElliptiGO community inspired her to leave her home country for the first time ever … and to take her first airplane ride! Come along to the Netherlands to meet Kitty Vernooij.
Now nearly 55 years old, Kitty grew up in Harmelen, a small village in the middle of the Netherlands. She got married at 21 and this year she and her husband will celebrate 34 years together. She worked in a glasshouse (which we Americans call a greenhouse) for nearly 13 years. Today she still lives in Holland and she now works in a hospital five days a week or more.
When she was young, Kitty did judo. She was working her way toward her black belt, but she had to quit due to back issues. She also played soccer. But her biggest passion was running.
For 25 years, Kitty ran. She ran three marathons and she estimates she ran about 70,000 kilometers (more than 43,000 miles) over the years. But the impact of running and her physical work in the glasshouse eventually took their toll. After running a marathon in 2010, she developed significant groin pain. She stopped running altogether for a couple of months, but the pain persisted.
In March of 2011, she sought medical advice. Unfortunately, she got bad news. “The hospital said I could not run anymore, because of hip problems. My world fell apart,” she recalls. “I could not do what I loved anymore.”
And then she remembered the ElliptiGO bike, which she had read about a year earlier in a running magazine. But there was one big problem: ElliptiGO bikes were not sold in the Netherlands at that time. Still, Kitty held onto the hope that ElliptiGO could give her the joy of running, without the pain.
Eventually, she came into contact with Henny van Vliet, our ElliptiGO partner in the Netherlands. He owned an ElliptiGO bike and was willing to let Kitty try it out. “The day of the test ride, the weather was awful,” Kitty shares. Still, she wanted to take an hour-long ride to see how her body felt during and after a significant ride. “After 10 minutes, I knew I wanted to get one,” she says.
Her husband accompanied her to meet Henny. Later that year, she asked him, “What was the most beautiful day from the last couple of years?”
He replied, “When you tried the ElliptiGO bike for the first time. Your smile after five minutes was priceless. That was the most beautiful day in years.”
A month after that test ride, a shipment of ElliptiGO bikes arrived from the US. Kitty became the third person in the Netherlands to own an ElliptiGO bike when she got an ElliptiGO 3C. Although the Netherlands is flat, it’s often windy. Kitty wanted more gears, so eventually she got an 11R. She also started to rack up the mileage and immerse herself in the online ElliptiGO community. And then in 2016, Kitty decided to do something she’d never done before.
Kitty left the Netherlands for the first time in her life to participate in an ElliptiGO event. She traveled to France for the ElliptiGO European Championships—and to meet her ElliptiGO friends, Veronique Cremers and Bruno Pollet, in person.
The following year, Idai Makaya, a former ElliptiGO team member and current enthusiast, invited Kitty to join the ElliptiGO Ultra-Endurance Team and race with himself, Stuart Blofeld, Andrew Nuttel and Tim Woodier. This would require Kitty to travel on an airplane for the first time. Then she would race with four guys she’d never met before. And she’d complete her first-ever 24-hour ride while competing in the 400-kilometer Audax Cycling Challenge.
This was, Kitty says, “an epic challenge.” And she said yes.
On that ride, Kitty set a new women’s 24-hour distance record of 229.9 miles (370 kilometers). And she didn’t stop there. She completed the full 404-kilometer race in 26 hours and 8 minutes.
Today, Kitty continues to log long rides, usually solo, which she admits can be tough. In a 2017 interview, Kitty said, “I focus on my breathing, being aware of the surroundings, and that allows me to carry on. I just ‘take out the trash.’ The ‘trash’ is keeping me from the only thing that matters, which is the moment. When you truly are in the here and now you will be amazed at what you can do—and how well you can do it.”
She’s also convinced many people to buy an ElliptiGO. Kitty shares, “Once a woman said to me: ‘They should let you ride for free because of your ElliptiGO reviews.’ That was such a big compliment!”
If you’re part of the ElliptiGO Strava group, you can often find Kitty on the leaderboard. Her GERC (the Global ElliptiGO Riders Club) achievements include more than 50,000 miles ridden and 26 centuries completed. She now rides an MSUB primarily and saves the 11R for longer rides. Her longest ride on the MSUB was 232 kilometers, which is 141 miles. Her longest ride ever was 600 kilometers (over 372 miles). She completed that ride, self-supported, in 31 hours, in 2019.
Kitty doesn’t ride just to accrue mileage. What she values most are the new friends she’s made over the past dozen years of riding ElliptiGO bikes. While she might try a 500 kilometer with three hours of sleep at the midpoint, the thing she most wants to do is ride with her friends. “I would love to ride with the UK guys again,” says Kitty. “That is my biggest wish.”
“I cannot imagine my life without my ElliptiGO bikes and my ElliptiGO friends,” Kitty says. “I am so grateful for the guys who invented it. You gave my life a second chance, literally.”
Kitty, we are so grateful for you for taking that hour-long ride on Henny’s ElliptiGO and being such an active and caring part of our community! You impress us and inspire us with each of your rides. We hope your wish to ride with your friends again comes true.
You can contact ElliptiGO with nominations to Rider of the Month or share your own story. It may just be the next feature!