Planet X asked if I would like to have a Retul Bike fit done at their bike fitting centre in Sheffield, erm does a bear sh*t in the woods? If its good enough for the Sky team its good enough for me. Yes please! Since starting cycling 2 1/2 years ago I have been slightly obsessed over my position as I have a wonky (technical physio term) right leg and a bad back. Having done years of pilates I am very aware of body position and what my back and leg likes and dislikes. This has made cycling challenging as I have been taken out of my comfort zone and had to adapt, learn and strengthen appropriately.
With my first bike I had a Specialised bike fit which seemed quite comprehensive and a good place for me to start. Tape measures and plumb lines were used and a very knowledgeable man applied it all to me and my bike. I didn't question the fit too much because I didn't know any different. He told me that my body had to adapt a bit to the position and cycling in general and over time initial aches and pains could go away but new ones may develop, I had to pedal some miles to see how my body was going to react and then some adjustments could be made. So basically thats what I have been doing for 2 years now, riding and adjusting, changing saddles, changing pedals etc Its taken me this long to get my head around what the bike position can do for me and what I have to do myself ie stretch and strengthen. I was keen to see what the Retul system had to offer me, so I made the appointment and headed to the Planet X showroom in Rotherham.
Retuls description of their bike fitting system is:-
" Retul is the most advanced bicycle fitting system available today. The system incorporates an amazingly precise three-dimensional motion capture technology, immediate report capability, and millimeter-specific digitizing tool to provide the most accurate dynamic fitting solution in the industry. But it doesn’t tell the fitter what to do. The Retül is just a tool; it stops there. It just captures the data. "
At Planet X, Chris and Craig are the fitters, there was also a Physiotherapist present learning the system. Bre who is a very experienced fitter was also present for the day, sharing her knowledge. It was an informal relaxed atmosphere which I liked. I filled out a questionnaire covering some basics, we had a chat about my wonky leg (anteversion of hip) and then my flexibility was assessed. I was fitted with 7 LEDs on one side of my body, from foot to hand and on the joints in between. My bike was put in a turbo trainer, I rode away at a comfortable pace for a few minutes, when I felt I was settled into my position, the data was captured. The LEDs projected my position and movements to a tripod sensor array. This information was fed to the computer and the Retuls analysis software. It captures many data points which the computer averages. The process was repeated to the other side of the body, clearly allowing differences and imbalances to be shown.
Once the data has been collected thats the Retul systems job done. All the measurements have to then be analysed by the fitter, and any numbers that are out of the fitting systems accepted ranges need to be discussed. This is where the expertise of the fitter is really important, collecting the data is easy, analysing it is the skillful part. If data is shown to be out of the acceptable range for a measurement, eg. knee angle flexion, the fitter has to decide the consequence of that and what to do about it, the system does not tell you what to do. The goal is to find a neutral position that prevents injury, eliminates pain and increases power output. The fitter must understand how one measurement affects another. What they must also understand, is that some bodies won't fit into all the acceptable ranges, for a variety of reasons including injuries, muscle length and postural limitations.
The final step of the process is to input the riders final fit to the bike using the Zin tool and optical scanner, which is basically an LED on a stick that allows the fitter to touch all of the critical points on the bike and log the exact positions of the seat, handlebar and various parts of the frame. There are 13 to 15 points of reference in total. This gives the rider a digital file and printout of their fit, should they need to double check position down the road. So you come away with all the measurements in an email and final riders fit picture for reference which is brilliant.
Out of all the data collected for me there was just one measurement that needed to be discussed and that was knee forward of foot. Because my right femur is rotated inwards there was a difference between right and left of 5mm. Fortunately it appeared that with all the years of experience Chris and Craig had between them, they were able to think this through clearly. If I altered one side it would affect the other, it would be impossible to have both measurements sitting the same because of the way my femur sits. If I had not been a physio, they would have suggested seeing one, to see if I could make any changes in my body. I agreed with that approach and explained that I felt that some things could be changed with strengthening and flexibility but some tightness would have to be managed by massage and stretching.
So after 90 minutes of preparing , collecting and analysing data not one thing was changed on my bike fit. Was I disappointed by this? Well the short answer is no. It means that my own analysis about position was right, it also meant that even if paying a lot of money (its costs £180 for the fit, half price if doing it on a new bike purchased from Planet X) Chris and Craig were happy and confident not to change something for the sake of it and this pleased me. I think that all bike fits have limitations, as all bodies are different, however I think the Retul system is a fantastic place to start from as a beginner or work from as an experienced rider. It is essential that the fitter has knowledge and experience to be able to interpret the data, this is where Chris and Craig came up trumps. Having a trained Physio on site adds to their knowledge and this gave me a lot of confidence for people with musculo-skeletal problems that may want to use the fitting system, so all in all I think Planet X utilise the Retul system well.
More information can be found on the Planet X website here
Now its time to ride...........