Retül rolls out new Premium Fit high-end bike fit service

More personalized matching, fancy new digitized body tracking, and more accurate back flexibility measurements.

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Retül debuted its original digital video motion capture fit system back in 2007, using a rider-worn LED harness and then-revolutionary standalone sensor array that captured the rider’s 3-D position information in real time, and with millimeter accuracy. The company never set out to replace experienced fitters with a computer, though. Instead, the goal was to augment the fitter’s experience with a more accurate means of capturing body movement and bike measurements. 

Given the company’s success since then, the concept apparently had some merit. 

Now, Retül has debuted its latest round of hardware and software development to further that idea, which is bundled into a new high-end fitting service called Premium Fit. And interestingly enough, much of it involves an Apple iPad.

Enhanced digital video capture

Integrated into Apple’s latest iPad Pro is a LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor that adds depth perception to the usual visual cameras. Combined with some fancy software, Premium Fit now automatically measures digitally the sort of rider flexibility and range of motion parameters that were previously measured manually (and more subjectively). On the hardware side, there’s also a new Sacral Angle Sensor for more accurate lower back angle readings.

Much of the secret sauce of Retül’s new Premium Fit package lies within the newfound capabilities of Apple’s iPad Pro tablet.

Both of those Premium-level features are used during the initial Rider Assessment portion of the fit, on top of all of the previous Retül measurements like foot angulation, neck flexibility, and so on.

That information is then combined with answers from the rider questionnaire (What kind of rider are you? What are your goals? What kind of bike are you riding?) to generate an individualized range of maximum and minimum values for things like hip angle, knee angle, knee-over-pedal setback, and so on. As was already the case with Retül, rider position information is captured dynamically in real time while riding your own bike on a stationary trainer by using the company’s latest wireless LED marker harness, while various hard points on the bike are measured statically with the company’s Zin tool (basically a LED emitter on a stick).

A Premium Fit-certified fitter — a separate tier from the usual Retül fitter — then makes adjustments to bring those values within the prescribed recommendations as they see fit, and the end result is recorded in the Retül data cloud. 

“Premium Fit brings a lot of things a fitter was doing manually, and collects it into the software to provide more accurate data results,” explained Retül marketing lead Lauren Brada. “The goal was to have fitters spend less time worrying about remembering or writing down what they see, and more time focusing on the rider and their needs for the fit.”

As with any bike fit, the key to a good result is communication between the fitter and rider.

Once the fitter and rider settle on a good position, the Retül system can then use that information to suggest a specific size on a new bike if so desired. This can be done digitally, but only on Specialized bikes (the company purchased Retül in 2012). Alternatively, the position of various bikes of interest can also be replicated on a Retül Müve fit bike.

Further out on the horizon, in just a few months time, is a way to objectively and precisely determine a rider’s center of mass. According to Retül, this information can then be used to “calculate the most balanced position for highest performance.”

Intriguing.

Does it work?

I went through Retül’s new Premium Fit process a few weeks ago, using my personal Allied Alfa Allroad. Having gone through the standard Retül process before, the premium version’s new Rider Assessment portion was certainly interesting, and the nerd in me appreciated the more objective means of collecting and recording that data. As promised, the system identified the key points on my body and bike in short order, and it took no time at all to go through the battery of tests.

The Retül Zin wand is basically a LED emitter on a stick. It’s used to trace various surfaces on your bike, and the position is digitally captured by the Retül sensor array to accurately digitize key aspects of your bike.

As for the fit process itself, I unfortunately don’t have too much to report, although that’s not really a commentary on the Retül system. More often than not, riders seek out a professional fit because they’re having a problem. In other words, they’re not comfortable on their bike, and are looking for some relief.

My fit on that Allied was already pretty well sorted, though. It’s a bike I’ve ridden for several seasons with few position tweaks over the years, and even the shoes I brought were several years old with cleats whose position I had perfected long ago. As such, the only changes we made included a slight lowering of my saddle and a hair more downward saddle tilt. That said, they may have been small changes, but they successfully replicated my previous position without a bunch of guesswork.

And now the fun begins…

We didn’t make any big adjustments, but it’s worth noting how the system also had no problem quickly identifying a few known quirks, either. 

For example, as I’ve always suspected (and been told on occasion before), my left leg is, indeed, just a hair longer than my right. My left leg is happier with one additional varus wedge under my cleat. My relatively short legs would probably be slightly better off on 167.5 mm-long crankarms, but 170 mm ones still work fine. Despite my truly laughable lack of core strength, my unusually good lower back and hip flexibility still afford me plenty of leeway should I decide to go lower up front. 

Basically, the system confirmed what my body already knew: that my current position worked well for me as is. And as the saying goes, there’s no sense in fixing what isn’t broken.

“I do think you are the exception here given your knowledge of and history of bike fit,” said Retül co-founder and Specialized head of human performance Todd Carver. “The normal rider coming in goes through bigger changes, usually on the order of centimeters or inches. Your data is in range. The other thing is you are having no problems so there is not much logic to make big changes.”

Thankfully, I wasn’t told that my personal road bike just didn’t fit me at all.

Riders that aren’t quite so fortunate might be wondering about long-term follow-up, since the body typically requires a bit of time to adapt, and something that might seem comfortable today might not later on. Thankfully, Retül seems to have that covered.

“Follow-ups are free of charge at the center for a calendar year on the same bike,” Carver explained. “But if you are asking about the scenario where a rider increases their flexibility and wants a tweak, yes, that is free-of-charge as well for a calendar year. The next full fit comes when the rider gets a new bike or goes outside the calendar year.”

That’s a good thing considering that none of this is cheap (although you could certainly make the argument that a quality fit — from any fitter or system — offers more performance bang for the buck than any hardware upgrade). Retül fitters set their own prices, but standard fits typical run somewhere around US$300, and the new Premium Fit process is about US$100 on top of that.

Is it worth it? Clearly, I’m not the best example here, but as always, YMMV.

More information can be found at www.retul.com.

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