We opted to get fit from scratch, meaning instead of having Retul adjust us on our existing bike, we hopped on the fit cycle and went from there. What's the difference? Nothing, really, except that the fit went quicker, because adjusting a fit bike is far faster than adjusting a normal one. Retul fitter Mat Steinmetz performed our fit, and he began by placing the velcro dots on those key anatomical markers mentioned earlier.
This is a make-or-break component of the Retul system; if Steinmetz had placed the markers in the wrong spot, or if the markers moved significantly during the fitting process, the fit could be very inaccurate.
Now, there's no worry about Steinmetz in particular; he's personally performed fits for world champions, and he knows his stuff. But how can you be sure other fitters are as well educated? Well, Retul hosts "Retul University" for fitters who use their system, to educate them precisely on this process and others. You can get a hint about what this education entails by taking a look at some of Retul's educational videos on YouTube.
Getting the Numbers
Joe Gambles pedaling at Retul.
Once the dots are all placed, and the harness is velcroed on, the fun begins. All we have to do is pedal naturally, and Retul grabs the numbers right off our moving body. After a fifteen-second capture, Steinmetz shows us what happened. For a triathlon position, Mat focuses on hip angle closed (that is, hip angle at the top of the pedal stroke; hip angle open is also given by the system), back angle, knee angle, and a general sense of how you "fall over the bike" as he says.
The fit went very smoothly. After each capture, our fit numbers appeared on a large flatscreen TV. We were able to see, after every minute adjustment of the bike, what happened with all of those measurements, and provide feedback to the fitter. Compared to a traditional fit, this was a much more fluid process; there wasn't nearly as much "stop-and-go" as there would be taking measurements off of a static rider. Whenever we had questions about a measurement, or a possible adjustment, Mat had a helpful and educated answer. That much is a credit to his qualities as a fitter, but he was always able to reference numbers off the flatscreen for explanation.
Once the fit was complete, Steinmetz scanned the fit bike with the Zin tool, to get a precision picture of our bike's contact points. The fit bike had all of our own contact equipment on it (saddle, pedals, and bars), so the numbers we got will be directly transferrable to our next bike.
Retul delivered reports of both our body position and bike measurements via PDF once the fit was over. At first, these documents can appear a little daunting, and it can take a little time to familiarize yourself with them. Moreover, the measurements could be made a little more useful if they were reported differently. For example, we had wanted to see our total stack from the bottom bracket to the top of our armrest pads. That number is needed to fit the new generation of superbikes coming out, including the Specialized Shiv, Trek Speed Concept, and presumably the Scott Plasma 3. Using our Zin reports, we could get the number, but we had to do a little math to get it. The report gives handlebar drop, pad drop, and handlebar stack. Taking the difference of the first two, and adding that to the third, gives the number we were after. UPDATE: Retul's software now provides pad stack and pad reach directly, without the need for any additional calculation.
To Retul's credit, they say that they are revising their software, and their new version should make it easier to size these new superbikes, without extra math. But again, even with the current reports, we had enough information to size our bike, and replicate our position just fine.