Review: The Professional Ret?l Bike Fitting Concept
- by Rowena Scott
- Published: 31 March 2011
I knew my position wasn’t entirely right before I stepped foot in Dr. Andrew Steel’s Ret?l office at LSD Sports on St Kilda Road, Melbourne. I had transferred my position directly from an old bike to my new Felt AR4 and it just didn’t have that feel of ‘comfort’.
My biggest question coming into the fitting, especially after just buying a new bike, was about the "fitting" that bike shops do. I wondered how often they put people on to incorrectly sized bikes and if I should be on a 52cm frame instead of the 54cm that I was currently riding. Andrew put my mind at rest and confirmed that although it does happen, it is not something that he has seen frequently. It isn’t just your height, the width of your hips or the height of your crotch that is taken into consideration when you receive a bike fit from Ret?l. Andrew wanted to find out, among other things, about my hip movement, ankle flexibility and any old injuries that I had. The level of detail he required surprised me.
Objective, dynamic and accurate data are the foundations of the Ret?l concept; each of us have unique biomechanics, which means we all move in different ways. As such the Ret?l concept has no preconceptions about a rider; it doesn’t assume you have to be able to pedal a certain way or that you must have your elbows bending at a specific angle. Instead, Ret?l looks as you as an individual cyclist with unique needs and their bike fitting concept takes this into consideration.
Let’s take a look at the measuring and fitting process:
We look at hip flexibility and I score well
Checking the shoulder positions, specifically the right one
Ankle flexibility and I score really well on this one too
On the bike
Straightening the cleat position
Realigning the feet position and cleats
LED markers are strategically placed on eight anatomical points of the rider: the wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, heel, and toe.
Connecting the dots – one of the sensors on my arm
As the rider pedals, Ret?l’s sensor bar gathers real-time, three-dimensional data of the rider’s pedal strokes and movements.
What I discovered about my bike set up.
I went into the fit with the aim of finding a position on the bike that was more efficient and more comfortable; in the back of my mind I had the goal of racing. It turns out that my seat was too far back and my right cleat was out of alignment. Andrew moved my seat forward about 2.5 cms, which was significant, and we changed my cleat position so that it was straight. On Andrew’s advice I reduced my stem length from 90mm to 80mm. With the new bike fit, I went out to find out exactly how much Ret?l had improved my position and hopefully my speed. When I got on my bike to ride home, my first thoughts were that I was actually faster and that the bike felt really nice.
Three weeks on?
In the past few weeks I have been riding a lot with regular trips to Mordialloc and Frankston as well as my first criterium race at St Kilda Cycling Club (SKCC). I was really happy with my women’s ‘B’ Grade race at SKCC; we averaged 35.4km over 25.6km. Until I had the bike fit done I wasn’t overly confident about racing. Now that I’m comfortable and I’m training better the confidence has definitely improved.
I’m not the only one surprised with the improvement that the Ret?l fit has given me; a frequent riding partner, who I do most of my rides with, is also impressed with the gains that I’ve made in the past three weeks. We both agree that this wouldn’t have been possible without the Ret?l bike fit. I don’t feel as outstretched on the bike as I was and I feel more in control than I was before. Shortening the stem to 80mm may sound like overkill to some, perhaps I should just become more flexible instead, but I have decided to trust science and go with it.
With the help of Ret?l and Dr Andrew Steel I feel that I have achieved my goals: primarily comfort with an increase in my speed and, as a side effect, I’m more confident when racing.
All of the information concerning your position from the Ret?l fit session is printed out for your records. You can be more confident when buying a new bike in the future. The idea is that when you purchase a new bike, you can take the measurements from your first bike fit and transfer them straight onto the new one. Andrew also keeps a copy of all your data for future reference. This is useful if you get a refit in the future; Andrew can put you back on your bike and look at all the information again to find out what’s changed or what needs to be changed.
Who would the Ret?l bike fit suit?
Everyone. I asked Andrew about his clients, who they are and where they were from. They’re cyclists of all descriptions, from commuters to triathletes, road racers to mountain bikers. In professional cycling, Team RadioShack and Sky Pro Racing are both using the concept. These teams boast some of the biggest names in the business such as Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Bradley Wiggins as well as Robbie McEwen and Michael Rogers; these athletes lend the bike fitting system credibility.
The Cost and Value
The basic package I experienced cost $260.00 and it takes around 90 minutes.
Is the bike fit worth the cost? Yes. Without any doubt I needed someone who was taking a scientific approach to set me up. I didn’t want a shop to tell me that this is the way it should be because that’s the way that it’s always been done. I wanted someone to look at me and say, well, on the basis of this solid scientific foundation, this is how it should be for you, and I felt got exactly that.
Further information about the Ret?l concept can be found at www.retul.com. The Ret?l website also allows you to track down a certified Ret?l fitter in your area. If you are in Melbourne or can travel here with your bike, I can recommend Dr Andrew Steel of Body Care Solutions (www.bodycaresolutions.com.au) who is qualified to fit you on your bike using the Ret?l concept.
Photos ? Stephen Brammer