Monday, March 5, 2012

Getting fit(ted) the Retul way

I've always been interested in proper fitting for a bicycle. There are the more common static methods of fitting, where you use such tools as plumb bob, goniometer, X/Y tool, and various measuring devices. I remember back in the '80s when a friend of mine let me borrow his Fit Kit. It was the latest and greatest method and was really getting a lot of people interested in the art of getting a rider to the best possible position for power and endurance. I think what I found most fascinating about the Fit Kit were the RAD pedals. For the first time, a bike fitter could easily and quickly examine angular cleat alignment and how small adjustments could make big changes in the rider's pedaling form.

After soaking up as much information as I could, I ended up fitting myself the best way I could, using all the info I had gathered, then making the final decision by how things felt as I rode. I think most people, if they ride long enough, can develop a pretty good sense of an efficient and safe position on their own. At least good enough for most of us. When you want to go further or faster though, that's when it's time to get someone who really has a unique passion for the bio mechanics of fast and efficient cycling. There has been a fitting system out for several years now, one that's used by many of today's best professional cyclists, that is the Retul system. In short, it's the most precise method of fitting a cyclist available today. But as with any tool or method, it's only as good as the technician using it.

Last week I had a fitting done by John Huenink, a Retul Certified bike fitter at Wheel and Sprocket bike shop's Brookfield, WI location. John is currently one of only two people in Wisconsin that have passed the Retul certification requirements. John's fitting studio is equipped with a vast selection of handlebars, stems, and saddles, which enable him to make any necessary changes on your bike to get you in the optimal position.

So today was my first road ride since the fitting, moderate intensity with a few short climbs. It went well.  I can honestly report that I feel more stable on the bike than I had before. At the fitting, John made several readjustments, including my shoes' cleat wedges, my orthotics, a stem change, and a saddle adjustment. He also alerted me to a few bio-mechnical issues I had tried to improperly address by making adjustments of my own over the years, adjustments that weren't addressing alignment issues directly. This was the kind of feedback you are only going to receive from someone who has developed a keen awareness of how the human body should perform the way it was designed. That skill comes from nothing but pure experience and the constant refinement of this awareness.

I will be returning to Wheel and Sprocket's fitting studio in about a month or so, where John will re-examine my position and how I've progressed as a result of the initial fitting. After today's ride, I'm encouraged by what positive changes the fitting has brought me so far, and I'm confident that this decision will help me be a more efficient and more powerful cyclist as my training increases towards this summer's goal to break the cross-state record.

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