Thursday, November 23, 2017

Retul Bike Fit

Having purchased my Canondale Slice earlier this year with little more than a 'by eye' bike fit, I decided recently that it was time to get a little more scientific about things and get a proper professional bike fit. Having undertaken some extensive research, I read a lot of good things about the Retul system (www.retul.com). To be fair, I heard a couple of negative things as well, but comparatively few.

Perhaps betraying my 'techno-geek' tendencies a little, I liked the idea of the motion capture system and the ability to quickly compare and contrast different riding positions etc. The fact that many of the professional cycling teams use this system also seemed a good sign.

I looked at the UK centres offering the Retul fit and settled on Bike Science in Bristol (www.bike-science.com); arranging a fitting session for earlier this week.

Upon arriving, my bike was set up on a plynth on a turbo trainer (left in its current configuration) and Andy, proprietor of Bike Science and a former Planet X bike fitter, told me to jump on and just pedal in my normal position. Andy then walked around, taking a good look at different elements of my position.

After five minutes or so, he told me to jump off and then we did some strength and flexibility tests, to check for tightness, imbalances etc. Unsurprisingly, my hamstrings were very tight (they always are) but interestingly we also found that my interior rotation wasn't as great as perhaps it should be. We also found a leg length imbalance, but nothing Andy thought requires any cleat shims or anything like that. Ankle flexibility and hip flexibility were both good.

Having confirmed there were no major biomechanical issues to worry about, it was back onto the bike - this time to check the cleat positions (which in my case seemed fine). I was then fitted with a series of LEDs along my body which were tracked by the Retul camera system. The system monitors more different angles, lengths etc than I can recall. But after the initial run it was obvious that there was plenty of room for improvement in my bike position.

Firstly, my saddle was totally wrong. Too high, too far back and too much 'nose down' stance. That was the first thing to be addressed. In its previous position, I was over-extending my left leg. With the saddle pushed back, I wasn't in the best position to take advantage of the TT-geometry.

The new position of the saddle looks extreme but does indeed feel much more comfortable, and I feel more stable on the bike.

Having lowered the saddle by a good 10-15mm, we were then able to address the cockpit. Obviously, the lower saddle also meant that I could afford to come down at the front, to achieve a more aero position. Bringing the saddle forward also aided this.

In the end we opted for both a shorter and 'flatter' replacement stem, which significantly flattened out my back without adding any tension. We also played quite a lot with the placement of the aero arm rests, trying to find a position that allowed me to fully relax onto the bars, but also giving me sufficient near clearance when climbing out of the saddle.

Finally we looked at the aero extensions themselves. I've blogged before about how I sometimes get left shoulder pain when down on the aero bars, which I put down to the flat nature of the bars (Profile Design T2+). Andy recommended trying a different aero bar set-up to alleviate this pain and again let me relax my upper body. He suggested the carbon 'Wrist Relief' (no smutty jokes please!) bars designed by John Cobb. The difference, having fitted just one bar, was both immediate and significant. As such, it was a no brainer to move from the straight bars to these.

All in all, the bike fitting took just under three hours - and I was both surprised and pleased at how willing Andy was to try multiple different configurations in order to get things 'just right'. At £175 (plus the new stem and bars...) it's certainly a lot more expensive than many fittings, but something I'd now highly recommend (unless you're competing against me, in which case forget you read this!).

Tomorrow is the London Triathlon, which will be the first real test of the new set up. I should have ideally given myself a bit more time to get used to the new position, but it's only a 20km ride so I reckoned it was worth the risk. We'll see how things go!

And before I go; a final note of thanks (again) to the boys at The Big Adventure Store (www.thebigadventurestore.com) in Swindon - who have once again saved the day after a small snafu with the new gear cables meant that my front mech changed gear each time I turned a tight corner! I won't say any more than 'all sorted now'. :-)