For the past few years I have been hearing about how great Naples, Florida is for ElliptiGO riders. Candidly, I hadn’t really paid much attention to those comments because a lot of people tell me that their city is “the number one bike city in America” or “the absolute perfect place for ElliptiGOs.” I think it’s great that people are enthusiastic about where they live (I’ll give another shout out here to Michigan and Michiganders), but I have to take these statements with a grain of salt because they are so frequent. I’ve always known that there are lots of great places around the country for ElliptiGO riding and I’ve enjoyed visiting some of them this year. I’ve also known that there are some places with great ElliptiGO riding groups. However, until last week, I hadn’t been to a place where ElliptiGO has really taken hold in a meaningful way.
Last week is when I got to Naples.
When I arrived, I didn’t see anything that suggested I was in ElliptiGO Country. The main thoroughfare in this area is Route 41, a six-lane freeway-like surface street with a speed limit of 55 mph in some places and Florida drivers everywhere. It’s not quite a drag strip, but it definitely isn’t bike friendly. Our Airbnb’s neighborhood was fine for riding, but I wouldn’t even call it above average compared to other places we have stayed. Let’s just say I when I got to Naples, I had no idea it would be the subject of my next blog post.
Mike Ruffolo is our Mobile Representative here and he let me know on Sunday that he had filled my Monday afternoon with a visit to a customer’s house to see about a noisy load wheel. I enjoy that sort of stuff, so I didn’t think anything of it. When I got to the house, I noticed this was the customer’s second ElliptiGO. That’s always fun to see, but not particularly noteworthy. While I was checking out the bike, he and Mike were chatting. That’s when I overheard the customer telling stories about six or seven of his friends in that neighborhood that also ride ElliptiGOs. My ears perked up at this, because his neighborhood didn’t seem very big, but I didn’t think too much about it. I was busy wearing my field tech hat.
Mike had arranged for me to join their weekly group ride the next morning. Usually they hold it on the weekend, but they moved it to accommodate me. The fact that it is a weekly group ride gave me another indication that something beyond the norm was afoot in Naples. There are only a handful of places in the country with a weekly ElliptiGO group ride. In fact, San Diego’s is monthly.
I figured one or two folks might show up, so I was surprised to see six other riders together at the start. What was even more surprising was that they had made custom ElliptiGO riding shirts. Now I’m no fan of neon yellow or orange, but the fact that they had created their own riding shirts took the group up a notch in my book. Then we started talking and they were apologizing about all of the people who couldn’t make it. A few people were sidelined with injuries, some were traveling and others had conflicts. Then we headed out.
As you’ve probably gathered (especially if you’ve seen my Strava stats), I haven’t been very diligent in my riding on this trip. I wasn’t worried about that because I figured this would be a really slow ride. I was mistaken. We started off doing 16 mph into a headwind and pretty much kept that pace all the way down to the pier about 10 miles away. I wasn’t ready for that and fortunately, we took it a little easier on the way back.
I got to chat with the riders and all of them kept telling me about other friends they have who own ElliptiGOs. I don’t think any of them are on Strava, but they do a lot of riding. When I got back from my ride, Caroline told me she saw a guy setting up ElliptiGOs right on the street when she went out for coffee. She thought it was me and Mike, but it was a staff member of Big Momma’s Bike Shop, which happened to be next door to the coffee place.
That Tuesday experience was great, but what really cemented it for me was dinner on Wednesday. It was Mike, me and two other ElliptiGO owners who weren’t able to make the ride, plus our spouses. One of the owners has 6 ElliptiGOs and the other was a new customer. He declared it was the most amazing piece of equipment he had ever seen, which I very much appreciated. We had an hour-long pre-dinner conversation that reinforced my growing belief that there is something special going on in Naples. But it took meeting one more owner for me to realize I had landed in ElliptiGO Country.
The restaurant we were going to was about a half mile away from where we had met for cocktails. It was best accessed by seven-person shuttles that support the restaurant. We decided to put the women in one shuttle and the men in the other (probably because the women were already sick of hearing about ElliptiGO, and that’s all the men wanted to talk about). The first shuttle pulled up and the women got in and headed out. When the next shuttle pulled in, Mike casually stated to the driver, “Joe, this is the CEO of ElliptiGO.” Joe looked at me and said “No way! I love your bikes. I’ve got an 11R.” And that’s what did it. Just ask Joe – if you are looking for ElliptiGO Country, you’ll find it in Naples, Florida.