I had a Retul bike fit done with Chris Bennet at Studeo DNA in Carlsbad last month, this is Part 1 of a 2 part entry on my experience with Studeo DNA and the Retul System.
I'd like to start off with my thoughts on bike fits, and fitters in general. A good bike fit is can be one of the most elusive parts of a cyclists training and fitness regime. Fitting an athlete and a bicycle is equal parts science, rider feedback, personal experience, black magic and voodoo. I've always been skeptical of expensive bike fits that use lasers, smoke machines, and other fancy equipment. After all, the most important part of a quality bike fit is the fitter himself. You often see shop mechanics doing bicycle fits, but this never made much sense to me. I don't go to TP Automotive for my shoulder pain, so why would I go to a bike mechanic to help me with a bike fit. Even a week at some bike fit school, and a certificate on the wall doesn't necessarily impress me. I'm not saying that all bicycle mechanics are bad bike fitters, I've met many excellent fitters who also know how to turn a wrench. My point is that working in a bike shop does not necessarily qualify someone to do a good bike fit. In my opinion, the most important aspects of a bike fitter are( in no particular order) are:
1) Experience on the bike:
A good bike fitter should have logged literally thousands of hours on the bike. This means that they have several years of experience riding bikes themselves, and simply know what it means to pedal a bike for mile after mile, hour after hour... and how to pedal a bike hard. Their understanding of how a bike and a rider fit together needs to be more than academic, it needs to be experiential.
2) Experience watching others:
Ok, this mostly comes with logging the miles themselves. But spending all those hours riding with others riders allows a good bike fitter to instantly sense when something isn't right, to recognize the "suplesse" of a a bike and a rider working in perfect harmony, and to try and help you replicate that yourself.
3) An understanding of biomechanics and physiology:
A good bike fitter has to have a fundamental understanding of how our muscles and bones work together to put the power to the pedals. This is where some good old fashioned book learning comes in. Fitters can be self taught, take college classes, go to weekend or week long bike fit classes, or combination of these things to learn and understand the biomechanics of pedaling a bike. A good background in biomechaincs allows an experienced fitter understand how parts of the body are related, and adjusting one part effects the rest.
4) Experience doing actual bike fits:
Practice makes perfect. That is not to say that all new bike fitters give poor bike fits, simply that experience counts.
Each of these things is equally important and helps a bike fitter make you more comfortable, faster, and injury free on your bike. What you sometimes find in a bike shop employee is someone who has some background and understanding of biomchanics because they went to a "fit school", yet I assure you that all of these things cannot be learned in a weekend. Many bike shop employees loves bikes, and love to ride them but don't get all that , much saddle time. If a fitter has not had long hours riding the bike and watching others, a good understanding of biomechanics, and actual experience doing bike fits, then approach with caution.*
Studeo DNA in Carlsbad specializes in doing bike fits only. Chris is an experienced masters racer, with many miles on under his belt, and one look at Chris clues you in to the the fact that he is a former bodybuilder. As a bodybuiler and cyclists, Chris has spent years studying and absorbing information about the human body and biomehanics and is as well versed as anyone how all of those muscles, bones, ligaments and joints work together. Chris would be using the Retul Fit System to help examine my current bike fit, and possibly recommend any changes in my bike fit. People usually get a bike fit because they are either new to cycling, have pain or discomfort, or simply want to find a more aerodynamic or improved biomechanical position. I had no particular reason to change or alter my current fit, but I figured I would see what these guys have to offer.
Coming next...the actual fit process:
* I don't want to seem as if I am bashing bike shop employees here, I'm just trying to drive home the point that being a good mechanic and being a good bike fitter are not the same thing! I have also seen non bike shop bike fitters that posses all of the attributes I've mentioned, at yet still give terrible bike fits!