Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Retul Bike Fit

As I mentioned in yesterday's training recap, I recently took my bike in for a cleaning and tune up at my LBS, Athlete's Lounge. Having been on the trainer since last September, my assumption is that I would need a ton of stuff done - including new tires. To my surprise good ol' Ben was is great shape! Way go Ben!

Also scheduled myself for a 2 hour bike fit. I had a decent fit when I initially bought Ben two years ago and again last year when I moved to clip-less pedals and shoes. In doing so my LBS checked foot angles and such to ensure the shoes were a proper fit. That was about it though - nothing too exciting and nothing that would be a game changer to my speed/endurance etc. Going clip-less alone was going to make the most improvement.

Knowing that I was not in the market for a new TT bike (Time Trial or Triathlon) this year, I wanted to make the most of what I had in hopes that I could make some additional improvements to my ride. Regardless of your ability, having a professional bike fit is essential to maximizing your comfort (I mean who the heck wants to be in pain for 3+ hours), efficiency and in helping to prevent injuries. And I'm not talking about the kind of injuries one would sustain during a crash - but more along the lines of knee pain that can materialize after too many miles on a bike with poor seat position.

A proper fit can also improve performance with it's effect on aerodynamics and speed. A poor fit severely decreases performance by limiting your lung capacity or exceeding your range of hamstring and hip flexibility.


"Great! So I need bike fitting - what next?", you ask.

Enter "Retul"

A bike fitting using Retul technology is just that - a fitting that not only uses the expertice and experience of your LBS professional but also adds in some pretty impressive technology that uses the most accurate and comprehensive bit fit data to help make better fit decisions. It uses a cycling-specific 3D motion capture system that reads a rider's movements while she is pedaling on the bike and records all three planes of movement (3D). Reflecting how the rider actually rides.This allows the bike fitter to make easy adjustments to a rider's position using objective and accurate fit data to guide the changes.

Here is a break down of what usually happens during A Retul fitting and my own experiences with Tom at Athlete's Lounge last weekend:

  • The fitter conducts an initial physical assessment of the rider and at this point can address the rider's concerns about performance, pain, or any other issues the rider hoped to alleviate during the bike fit.
Through the physical assessment Tom measured my flexibility, core stability and even leg lengths (I possibly have a shorter right leg - what?). We also discussed my desire to get in a more effective aero position as well as look at new saddles. The Queen does ok until the 40 mile mark...then she gets pretty pissed.
  • LED markers are then strategically placed on eight anatomical points of the rider: the wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, heel and toe.
Reminder NOT to put lotion on your legs before this kind of a fitting, makes for slippery conditions - we had a heck of a time getting those markers to stay on my legs/ankles.
  • As the rider pedals, Retul sensor bar gathers real-time, three-dimensional data of the rider's pedal strokes. 
We did three 20 second sessions per side at a normal resistance, in both the road bike and aero position. 
  • Retul's rotating platform allows the fitter to collect data for both side of the rider without the rider leaving the bike.

 Pretty snazzy set up!

  • The rider's data is compiled into a reader-friendly report for analysis by the fitter. The fitter can then assess the rider's position and make necessary adjustments.
Tom used a large flat screen to bring up all the specifics so we could view and discuss together. He did a great job of explaining the preferred numbers vs. what mine were. Found out that although it is usually not the best to be in aero on a road bike (a road bike's frame is not made to ride aero and can therefor put you in a position that cuts off mobility and lung capacity), my flexibility +  Jons' fitting magic skills made for a decent aero position that wouldn't hinder my ride. Hooray!

Me and Ben - what a great couple. ;)
  • The ZIN, Retul's handheld digitalizer, allows the fitter to digitally measure the rider's bike at 13-15 points, providing a complete digital map of the bike.
  • The fit information is saved and stored on the fitter's computer.
This will be saved at the shop for later use and comparison when I come back in after about 10 rides to discuss what is working and what may still need adjusting.
  • The data includes the rider's personal profile, measurements from the fit, bike measurements and the rider's final position.
No second guessing it's all there!
  • The fitter will be able to access and print these records for comparison and tracking of historical fit data for the client.
Tom emailed a copy to me yesterday so that I can use it for future needs if I visit another shop or when I'm ready to buy a new bike later on. Otherwise we will use this info to check in throughout the year to make sure that my comfort level is still good.

So, 2 hours later here is what we found and the changes that were made:
  1. New saddle & adjustments to height and angle - testing out the Fizik Vesta
  2. New shoter stem - to decrease my current reach. I had been having some numbness in my hands during long rides. WOW! this made the biggest difference - so much better handling in both the road and aero position.
  3. Possibly have a shorter R leg? - right toe drops on the pedal during my down stroke which is a indication that this leg is having to do more work that the left. Adjusted my saddle height and shoe/cleat position. We also tried adding a lift to my shoe but that made things worse. Could be a results of my hip (liospoas issue) tightness as well - said I should speak to the PT during my next appt. 
  4. Arm pad reach on my aero bars were a little too far - widened the distance between the bars (I'm one broad gal) as well as shortening the reach. My hands now grasp at the very top of the bars (just a tad over) so we'll see if this works or if they'll need to come back out just a smidge.
  5. Rotated my drop bars down and each lever by a few degrees.
  6. Alignment was actually pretty good - not much hip movement in both the road and aero position and even my knees stay in a consistent path during the pedal.

Whew! Lots to take in, isn't it? Sorry if I have overwhelmed anyone but there is a lot that goes into one of these fittings and for the price you pay, figured it would be best to give you the whole picture. Overall I couldn't be more pleased about choosing to have this fit done. I took Ben out for a 45 minute spin last night and what a difference! My handling feels much tighter and my overall comfort level has increased significantly. Excited to see how he does in Saturday's race - though it's only a short 12 miles of sprint, I am hoping to have gained some efficiency that will reflect during the run.

If you take anything away from this post today, please let it be my suggestion to get a bike fitting. Retul aside, getting in to have a professional make the necessary adjustments to your ride will have huge rewards in not only your overall health but enjoyment of time spent in the saddle as well. Your bike is only as good as your fit.

**For more details on the Retul bike fit and to find a shop that offers this fit near you, you can visit their site at https://www.retul.com/.

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