By Tara Bannow • The Bulletin

Months after knee surgery following a bike wreck, avid bicyclist Debbie Liddell found herself in a major rut.

With her knee still healing from the injury, she wasn’t able to make a full rotation on her bicycle. Running was out of the question. She swam, but that wasn’t cutting it.

Darkness descended on the Sisters resident, who months earlier had been riding 60 miles per week.

Scanning the Internet, she came across information about the ElliptiGO, a machine designed to provide a low-impact alternative for runners. It looks like a cross between a scooter and an elliptical machine. It was pricey, but she went for it.

“It’s kept my spirits up; I’m out of depression,” said Liddell, who was dressed in her cycling garb last week for a group ElliptiGO ride at Recharge, an athletic recovery business in Bend that rents and sells the machines.

Although two former Ironman triathletes first sold the machine back in 2010, it has only recently broken into the High Desert athletic community, with a handful of stores getting their own fleets to sell and rent, and more and more people taking them to the bike lanes.

Runners praise the ElliptiGO for its ability to take pressure off the joints and feet when they need a breather from the high-impact activity, but also provide an intense cardiovascular workout that involves the same positioning and movements as running.

Renee Metivier Baillie, the co-owner of Recharge and a professional runner since 2005, said she first tried the ElliptiGO in 2011 after having surgery on her Achilles tendon. She found it was a great way to get extra training while injured, but said she still uses it today when she feels tired and needs a break from running that will provide the same benefits.

Unlike bicycling, which tends to put the hips in a shortened range of motion, the ElliptiGO gives athletes the same hip extension they’d get while running, said Baillie, who is also sponsored by ElliptiGO.

“It’s helping train your body,” she said. “Not only are you getting that cross-training benefit from the ElliptiGO, you’re getting biomechanical feedback and specific muscle-building and strengthening and keeping the body in alignment.”

Recharge recently got in a fleet of ElliptiGOs that people can buy, rent any time or take on group rides Baillie hosts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Back In Action, a new and used fitness equipment store, was the first to stock ElliptiGOs in Bend. They sell the machines new for $2,499. In Sunriver, 4 Seasons Recreational Outfitters has three-speed ElliptiGOs that it rents out for $15 an hour or $60 a day.

Brad Haag, a USA Triathlon-certified running coach in Bend, said he first learned about the ElliptiGO a year ago, when only elite triathletes and runners were talking about it, and about six months ago he saw people riding them in Bend. Only within the past year have local stores begun selling and renting them, he said.

Haag said he agrees with Baillie that the ElliptiGO can serve as a nice additional training tool for runners. Although it might look like a bicycle because it has two wheels and a chain, it’s more like a cross between using an elliptical machine and running. Personally, Haag said he doesn’t like the feeling of exercising on an elliptical machine, but said he likes the feel of an ElliptiGO.

“The stride is totally different and just the feeling of being on two wheels and you can move side to side and you’re in total control — it totally changes the dynamic,” he said.

According to the product’s website, it’s actually more of an “elliptical pedal-drive scooter,” but calling it a bicycle is more convenient.

When Haag first tried the machine, he said it was difficult to get used to, but eventually he felt like he had more control than on a bicycle. The striding motion is more difficult than the circular pedaling motion on a bicycle, he said.

“I felt like I had just ran a half-an-hour, but there was no impact so my legs didn’t hurt,” Haag said. “That’s the coolest part of it.”

Bicycling isn’t the best cross-training activity for runners because it puts the body in a much different position: Most of the body is still except for the lower body and the legs are never fully extended, Haag said.

In the future, locals are likely to see more ElliptiGOs in the streets as they gain popularity.

For her part, Liddell doesn’t mind the attention.

“It’s fun because everybody sits and looks at you as you’re going by,” she said. “Like, ‘What is that?’”

— Reporter: 541-383-0304,