Retul Bike Fit: My Experience

Retul Bike Fit

A professional bike fit is one of the best investments you can make to improve your riding. The slightest adjustments help to achieve the most comfortable, efficient and powerful riding position possible.

I’ve been experiencing discomfort when riding, particularly numb hands, neck and forearms. It’s hard to motivate myself to ride when I know that I will be in pain, so I knew something had to change in my bike set up. I treated myself to an early Christmas present and booked in with Bianca at Fit Your Bike. Bianca came highly recommended as qualified physiotherapist with a wealth of knowledge in cycling.

Fit Your Bike use the Retul system, which is one of the most advanced fitting tools in the world. Three-dimensional data is captured and analysed, which helps the bike fitter make adjustments to find your optimum riding position.

Before getting on the bike, the process starts with a consultation about your riding style, volume and goals. I discussed with Bianca my injury history and the areas where I’m experiencing discomfort when cycling.

Next up was a thorough assessment of my body’s flexibility, stability, symmetry and strength. Bianca immediately identified that I have very flat feet, small kneecaps, short thumbs and one leg longer than the other- doesn’t sound like a ideal combination!

She also noted that I am incredibly flexible and was amazed by the range of movement in my joints. In fact I score highly on the Beighton’s test for hypermobility. After reading up on Hypermobility syndrome, I realise I can identify with almost all of the symptoms and it makes sense why my body behaves the way it does. I’m surprised I was not diagnosed sooner.

Retul Bike Fit

Despite my imbalances and instabilities, Bianca noted that I actually have good control when squatting and lunging- my body is obviously compensating well. She suggested some progressions to the exercise programme which my physio gave me, in order to further strengthen these areas.

My bike was mounted onto a turbo trainer on a revolving platform and I was wired up with electrodes on my wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, heel, and toe. I was advised to wear my trisuit for the bike fit, so that my legs and arms are exposed for the placement of the electrodes.

Retul Bike Fit

As I cycled, the Retul’s sensor bar gathered real-time, three-dimensional data of my pedal strokes and movements. Bianca also assessed and videoed my current riding position. The first change was that my saddle needed to be raised considerably. Bianca commented that I was sitting at an angle on the saddle and that my left knee was tracking inwards. My cleat needed to be rotated slightly into a neutral position and a foam wedge inserted in the heel of my shoe.

Saddle discomfort was one of my main issues. I currently use a female-specific saddle, but it’s still not quite the right shape for my anatomy and was causing painful pressure in sensitive areas. Fit Your Bike stock a huge range of saddles, which can be rented for a trial period. Bianca suggested three models which might be suitable for me. I tested them and eventually the Cobb V-Flow felt like the best fit, with it’s narrow nose and cutaway centre. Cobb design their saddles based on the two types of female anatomy- the ‘innie’ and the ‘outie’- this article explains this in further detail.

Retul Bike Fit

Finally to solve the problem of my numb hands and arms, we shortened my stem to 70mm, rotated my handlebars away and moved up the hoods. I was stretching too far to reach the handlebars and placing too much pressure through my hands. It was a fiddly job to adjust the hoods- Campagnolo do not make it easy to get under the rubber.

After some fine-tuning, I pedalled again as the Retul recaptured the data. Comparing my before and after pictures, there is only a slight difference in my position but it’s actually made a big impact.

before

after

When we were satisfied with the final set-up, Bianca used a handheld digitizer to scan my bike and produce a set of measurements creating a digital map of my bike. Any bike I purchase in future can now be set up according to these measurements.

After a month of riding my newly fitted bike, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in comfort, particularly the saddle. It looks a bit odd in neon green, but I’ll be exchanging it for a black version soon! I now find it much easier to clip into my cleats, I’m no longer faffing for half a mile along the road!

It can be hard to part with the cash for a bike fit when you essentially come out of the shop with exactly the same bike as you went in. In my opinion, it was well worth the expense to solve those persistent niggles.

Have you ever had a bike fit?

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14 Comments

  1. January 17, 2017 / 7:13 am

    What a super service! I had such a terrible experience buying a new bike last year – the retailer actually sold me a bike with a factory fault (the crank shaft bearings were broken!) and I cycled on it for 8 weeks before they believed me that something was wrong. I wish we had a retailer like the one you went to – now THAT is good service!

    • January 18, 2017 / 3:54 pm

      I also had a bad experience of purchasing from Cycle Surgery- they sold me a frame which was far too small for me and didn’t make any adjustments. I’m sure there are Retul bike fitters near you, but it helps if the bike isn’t broken in the first place!

  2. January 16, 2017 / 1:28 pm

    I wondered what a Retul bike fitting involved as I have seen it advertised in the posh bike shops on my wanders. I think more people should look into having them seeing some of the uncomfortable looking way in which some people ride in the city. It is amazing how correctly fitting equipment can change things. I hope you enjoy your riding even more now too

    • January 18, 2017 / 3:54 pm

      Thanks, I know I see people riding bikes which are very obviously wrong for them!

  3. January 15, 2017 / 10:05 pm

    Umm… Why did I not know about this ‘Innie or Outie’ sooner?! I have been dealing with discomfort and numbness for AGES! Mainly when on the turbo as there’s nothing else to distract my mind! I’m gonna start looking for a new saddle ASAP!!

    • January 18, 2017 / 3:55 pm

      I guess it’s not something that people talk about. Go and see Bianca if you can, she really knows her stuff.

  4. January 15, 2017 / 12:31 pm

    This never occurred to me before, but it makes perfect sense! A bit like getting your gait analysed when buying running shoes-but more in depth! Hope it helps your cycling 🙂

    • January 18, 2017 / 3:56 pm

      Yes! Very much like having a gait analysis. Not all trainers will suit every runner, same as not all saddles will suit every rider 🙂

  5. January 13, 2017 / 6:16 pm

    Thanks for sharing – as the others have said, it’s really interesting to hear more about such a high tech fitting process.

  6. January 13, 2017 / 8:39 am

    I often hear people say that it’s important to get a road bike fitted properly, but I didn’t really know what process was involved until now. I assumed it was just a few measurements and changing the seat height a bit, but this is very technical! Hope it helps you enjoy your cycling even more 🙂

    • January 14, 2017 / 2:51 pm

      Yeah you can get a basic fit which is just moving the saddle height, but if you are in discomfort or very injury-prone like me then it’s worth getting a Retul fit

  7. January 11, 2017 / 10:19 pm

    I had a bike fit when I first bought my bike, and a bit of a checkup when I swapped to clipless pedals. It wasn’t anywhere near as technical as the Retul one though – no fancy sensors, just someone watching and making adjustments. Definitely seems worth it if you’re riding lots (something that does not currently apply to me)

    Interesting about moving the hoods though – I didn’t realise that was possible! I get ‘shocks’/numb hands after some amount of time (which seems to increase with more regular riding…) so I might bear that in mind in future if I decide it’s enough of a problem to do anything about

    • January 14, 2017 / 2:50 pm

      Yeah it is worth looking into if you increase your riding- numb hands is no fun.

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