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Bike Fit

My introduction to the concept of fitting a bike to a rider came via James Flatman.  See Jumping Into the Deep End for details.  What James did on that occasion was a static fit.  So called because all the body measurements are taken while the individual is standing still.  Using a tape measure, a plumb bob and a goniometer.

One year later things had moved on at Alchemy Bicycle Company.  Ryan Cannizzaro, James’ partner in the business at the time, had begun using a dynamic fit methodology.  So called because body measurements are taken while the individual is pedalling a stationary bicycle.  It was a testament to James’ static fit skills that his results of the previous year were identical to the results of the dynamic fit, except for a +5mm change to my saddle height.

The dynamic fit technology that Ryan used was from Retül, a four-year old company based in Boulder, Colorado.  That system uses a series of light-emitting diodes and a motion-capture camera to record measurements in three-dimensional space.  The geek in me was impressed with the technology, and with the range of data it produced.  The system seemed easy enough to use.  I wondered, somewhat abstractly, if the Retül system would catch on.

The topic of bike fitting has come up in conversation since then, but I hadn’t given it much attention.  Not until I got back to Malaysia that is.  Road cycling has become very popular here.  It is not unusual to be in the company of fifty or more cyclists on some of the routes on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.  My experience has been that it is also not unusual to see people that do not look comfortable on their bicycles.  Some people I have ridden with say they get sore backs and knees when they cycle.  Cycling-induced aches and pains are a sure indicator that the cyclist is riding a poorly-fitted bike.

I’ve been looking for things to do to keep me busy in Kuala Lumpur.  Providing Retül bike fits could be an option.  I did a bit of asking around and found that few bike shops in Kuala Lumpur offer a bike fit service.  GH SpeedBikes is a Specialized Concept Store and they offer the BG Fit.  A few others do static fits.  No one in Malaysia offers Retül fits.  The closest certified Retül fitters I can find are in Singapore.

My next step was to do some more research about what I would need to do to become a Retül fitter.  The short answer was to get certified and to buy the equipment.  The equipment isn’t cheap but it isn’t outrageously expensive either.  It made sense to me to do the certification course before deciding whether to invest in the hardware and everything else that comes with setting up a business.

The company has set up the Retül University to provide certification and other bike-fitting related courses in a variety of cities around the world.  The Transition to Dynamic Bike Fit pre-requisite and the Motion Analysis Certification courses were being offered in Brisbane, Australia in February 2013.  Of the cities where Retül offer courses, Brisbane is the closest.  So I signed up for the courses, started doing the pre-work, and booked my flights and accommodation.

Speaking of accommodation I must give airbnb a plug.  My biker chick has used airbnb to find great places to stay in a number of cities around the world. The place she found for me in Brisbane, The Last Resort, was no exception.  The home and the hosts, Paula and Thommo, were excellent.

The courses were conducted by Nick Formosa and Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling.  The class size is limited to five students.  Each of us got lots of personal attention as we worked our way through Fitting Terminology, Mechanics of Motion, and the various parts of the fit process:  the Rider Interview, the Pre-Fit Physical Assessment, the Fit, the Bike Measurement, and Report Generation.

Ryan, Nick and I discussing what the measurements mean.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

By the end of the three-day certification course Nick and Aaron had us doing bike fits for some of their paying customers.  Here Ron and Andrew are fitting eight sticky dots onto Alex Wohler of Team Budget Forklifts.  The light-emitting diodes attach to these dots.  Getting the dots in the correct place on the anatomical points is the most important thing to get right for accurate measurements.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

Alex is wired up and being scanned.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

We must have done well because we all qualified as Retül Certified Fitters.  Nick, me, Andrew, Ryan, Aidan, Ron and Aaron marking the moment.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

Photo courtesy of Aaron Lean at Cadence Performance Cycling

The hardware has been updated since Ryan did my Retül fit in 2011.  The motion-capture equipment is now wireless.  This is the camera.

Retül Vantage

Photo courtesy of Retül

This is the wireless harness and five of the eight light-emitting diodes.

Retül Harness

Photo courtesy of Retül

There is now a wireless tool called the Zin which is used with the motion-capture camera to measure the dimensions of a bike.

Photo courtesy of Retül

Photo courtesy of Retül

The entire base system comes in a carrying case.

Photo courtesy of Retül

Photo courtesy of Retül

A nice-to-have, but definitely an expensive option, is the Müve Dynamic Fit Bike.  This is an easily adjustable fit bike that is used to fit a rider before he or she buys a bike.

Photo courtesy of Retül

Photo courtesy of Retül

I am now a Retül Certified Fitter.  Able to use their system to capture dynamic data, review the results and make adjustments to the bike to help the rider pedal more efficiently, reduce the risk of injury, and increase comfort on the bike.  I now need to decide whether I want to invest the time, effort and money to get into the bike fitting business.

Something to think about on my rides to come.