bike fit

Retul bike fit part 2

The  Retul Fit Part  -2  Part one can be found HERE. When I  arrived at Studeo DNA’s   fit studio in Carlsbad, Chris was just finishing up with another rider, so I got into my cycling kit and had a seat.  The first thing  Chris had me do was walk back  and forth across the room in bare feet while Chris watched to look for signs of excessive eversion/inversion ( toes out or toes in)  as well as excessive pronation or supination ( inward or outward rolling of the heel).   The idea here is that someone will walk with a gait that is natural for them and that this foot position may need to be replicated on the bike.   This is where cleat shims and similar tool are often utilized.  My walking position was generally neutral, so that made this part relatively simple.

The next step was to run me through a few strength and flexibility tests to ascertain how these things may affect my bike fit.     I never thought of myself as particularly flexible,  nor do I have 6 pack abs, but I was rated as “ high” to “medium” on all flexibility metrics and “high” on the core strength test.    Next, Chris verified that my cleats were evenly placed on my shoes, and he put me on  the bike on a trainer that was on a level platform.   While on the bike, Chris checked the cleat placement to ensure that the balls of my feet where at the center of the pedal axles.   Once that was done, he began placing small Velcro dots on anatomical points on my feet, legs, torso, shoulders, arms and hands.   This was done on both the right side, as the motion capture measures both sides of your body.   The proper placement of these dots is important, as all measurements are taken from the points.    Once the dots where properly placed Chris attached the  Retul Motion capture sensors  to the  Velcro dots, and  turned on the motion capture camera.  He then had me pedal at my own preferred cadence at an easy, moderate and “ a little bit hard” effort level using  an electronically controlled trainer  that allowed him to control the watts.  While I  pedaled, the motion capture camera took data samples for 15 seconds at each effort level, and this was repeated for both the left and right sides.    It is important to   take data samples at  these different effort levels, as you may well pedal differently when you are noodling along the coast vs when you are getting on the pedals hard during a race or other hard effort.

When the data capture was done, we looked at many different joint angles,   at different points in space, and how they changed while I pedaled.    The 3 aperture setup of the Retul system allows the the  system to measure your movement in 3 dimensions.  So while the camera is on one side, it measure not only up and down, left and right, but  backwards and forwards as well.    All of these angles are then compared to a set of norms developed by  Retul after measuring many, many riders.   My   angles position, and movements   were all well within the norms given by  Retul,  but we did notice that one my right side that  my knee was moving a  tiny bit more forward of the pedal spindle than what was expected.    In an attempt to remedy this, we moved by saddle up, by just a tiny bit (3.5mm) and forward just a bit (5mm).     Then we went through the motion capture process again, and looked at the data.  There was very little change in my joint angles or the way my knee moved forward of the pedal spindle, but neither Chris nor I found this to be much of a big deal in the first place,  and I had no pain or discomfort, so we decided to leave the bike as it was.      We finished up and I got back into my street clothes while Chris used the Retul system to take measurements on my bike, and prepared a report on my bike and my fit.

Retul isn’t really a “fit system”, I would describe it more accurately as a “dynamic position measuring system.”    The advantage of the Retul system is that it gives completely objective measurements, and catches things that they naked eye may not see.  Once the data are collected, it is up to the  fitter to use  that information to help him determine   your position and what, if anything,  should change.     Relying on an actual person to use all the information possible   is, in my opinion, the best way to go about fitting someone on the bike.   Some “fit systems” attempt to measure all of your segment lengths  and then plug it into an algorithm to tell the fitter where to put your contact points.  But  as I’ve said previously,  the experience  of the fitter,  the personal observations, and quite simply the “gut” of the fitter are just as important as anything else.     So the Retul system  does not fit you too the bike, it  gives the fitter information that can be used  to help fit you and your bike.

There was no “Eureka!” moment for me.  We made very minor changes ( 3.5 mm  is almost as minor as it can get)  that I may or may not keep.   But I  went into Studeo DNA  with no major issues,  and a comfortable bike  position that  works  well for me.    Someone that has    issues with tightness, pain, discomfort, etc,    may make more significant changes to their fit, and could potentially get much more from I bike fit than I did.     My only criticism of the whole process is that it is done one a trainer, and you simply don’t pedal the exact same way on a trainer, as you do outdoors.        Doing bike fits on a trainer is fairly standard these days though, and the stationary trainer offers a level of measurement and observation that would be very difficult to replicate when you are hammering along on your group ride.

After we finished the whole fit, and made the minor changes to my bike, Chris went about what he called “zinning” my bike.   He used the  Retul system to measure  my to precise location of my wheels, saddle, handlebars, my bike geometry and more.    These measurements were all part of the report that he gave  when we were done, and proved to be quite valuable.     A few days after  the   appointment at Studeo DNA,  a custom Kirklee   carbon fiber frame that I had  been waiting for arrived on  my doorstep.   My mechanic was able to use the information, and the precise measurements made by the Retul system to replicate all  of my contact points so that they were exactly the same as on my Time.   Chris later told me that  a some of his customers told him that  bike setup report alone was worth the trip to see him.  Another bonus is that Chris will see you again within two weeks  with no additional charge.  That way you get to try out any changes in the real world, and then come back if they aren't working for you.    A "free" return  visit is an absolutely essential part of a high end bike fit, and I would guard against working any fitter that won't follow up on his work.

If you want to check out  Studeo DNA and the Retul system yourself, Chris told me that they are having an open house this Saturday June 25th.  You can just drop in and check the place out, or you can bring you bike and gear so that they can put you on the trainer and take some measurements.  Getting those measurements will be only $25,  and you can apply that to a full bike fit if you wish.   There is an Evite HERE.  and a Facebook invitation HERE.

Below a some of the documents Studeo DNA provided me after the fit:

My Retul  Bicycle Setup Report

My Retul Bike Fit Report ( left side)

Retul Bike at by Studeo DNA - Part 1

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!