Retul's Muve Fit Bike
article & images by Nick Salazar
Mar 28, 2012
So, admittedly, I've run quite a few articles recently that are either about Retul or events occurring at Retul's studio in Boulder. But that's simply where a lot of very interesting stuff has been going on. It's still early season right now, and there's a lot less going on in the gear world than, say, at Interbike time, or during Ironman Hawaii. So, at the risk of saturating you with Retul stuff, I'm plowing ahead with what I consider to be a pretty cool bit of tech.
Retul is really a very interesting company, and one I admire greatly. The began by introducing a concept that no one had ever seen before, their unique motion capture system. That system alone revolutionized the world of bike fitting, providing a level of depth and accuracy that fitters can use to fine-tune both riders and their bikes.
When they first launched, their tool was one cog in an overall fit experience that required inputs from other sources. That is, if you wanted to use a Retul to do your fits, you still had to learn fit protocol from some other source, buy a fit bike from some other source, and then work out on your own what frames your athlete would fit on.
But in recent years, Retul has slowly and steadily begun to encroach on those other areas previously monopolized by just a couple players. Their Retul University classes now include a fit protocol, their Frame Finder software now allows fitters to easily show clients what bikes will fit them, and now they've completed the circle by introducing the Muve.
You may be wondering why I want to cover this thing in any depth, since the only customers for the Muve will be shops, and not riders. The reason is simply that it is an important piece of gear in the tri world, and I applaud Retul for going this route. And the more consumers are educated about the options of fit-related gear, the more likely they are to make smart decisions.
The Muve is a fit bike that aims to combine the strengths of existing fit bikes, while eliminating their weaknesses. Its main competitors fall into two camps: those that are entirely mechanical, and those that are motor-driven and computer-controlled. In the mechanical-only category are bikes like the old Serrota Size Cycle and the EXiT Fit Bike. Bikes like these are simple, straightforward to use, and less expensive (around $5,000 each). But they have some very real limitations. Chiefly, they require the rider to stop pedaling and get off the bike in order to make any adjustments.
Newer computer-controlled units like the Guru DFU and the Serrota SiCi are much fancier, and allow the bike to adjust with the rider on board, and even while pedaling. They show, with great precision, the stack and reach of the bike at all times. However, these models come at a much greater cost (about $10,000 each), and their fancier features come at the cost of greater complexity. They require mains power to operate, and you have to learn their proprietary software in order to use them. Motor-driven adjustments mean that there are more parts that could potentially break or require maintenance.
The Muve enters the market right in between these two categories, and I love what it does. Retul obviously has a TON of experience fitting riders, and using all of the aforementioned fit bikes. They saw limitations in existing offerings, and had an idea to improve upon them. Kindof the same philosophy that drove me to make my Omega brake. So what is it? For starters, it's entirely mechanical - there's no motor to break, no software to learn, and no power cable to plug in. And as a big bonus, it can be serviced entirely by a regular bike shop mechanic. No expensive bits to send in for repair. Yet, like the expensive computer-controlled units, it is continuously adjustable with the rider on-board and pedaling. Simple hand knobs allow the fitter to dial the contact points, one millimeter at a time, independently for saddle stack, saddle reach, bar stack, and bar reach. It's effective and brilliantly simple.
The optional cranks are Purely Custom adjustable cranks that go from 155mm to 185mm, allowing the rider to test out any length they desire. The only metric on the bike that isn't adjustable is the Q-factor, or crank stance width. But currently no fit bike on the market has adjustment in this dimension. And while it's essentially all mechanical as stated, ther is one optional piece of battery-operated equipment on the Muve: the CycleOps Powerbeam Pro on the rear wheel, which will let you know what happens to power output as the fit changes, or to lock the rider into a specific power output and see where it feels easiest to achieve.
That's really the long and the short of this very smart bike. It slots in right between the price points of its competition with a starting price just under $7,500 (that's without the CycleOps or the adjustable crank). If I were a fitter, I'd take a long hard look at this machine before investing in its competitors - particularly the more expensive units. And if I were going in for a bike fit, I'd want to know that my fitter had done that kind of thinking. It's a sweet piece of kit, and has likely got the computer-controlled folk worried jut a bit.