Retul Six Years In - What Have I Learned - #1

I was recently reviewing my files and making a rough count of the number of fits I’ve performed since I started using Retul.  This was a couple of months ago, and, at the time, I had a running total of over 1200 individual fits, and this doesn’t include a big chunk of basic level fits which don’t include motion capture.  I was surprised how many I’ve done.  That’s a lot of probing for joint lines and lateral epicondyles.  That’s a whole of lot of palpating for greater trochanters - 2400 if you think about it. That’s a lot of lot of trying to get velcro to stick to sweaty and oily skin (hint:  if the alcohol swabs don’t work, chain degreaser often does the job).  I’m pretty good at it.  By no means do I have all the answers to every fit conundrum that involves simply an adjustment here and a tweak there, and that is one of the frustrations of do and one of the important realizations I’ve made - that “solving” a fit is often multivariate, multifactorial... and sometimes elusive.  I’m still learning.  I have to.  No body of knowledge should remain static. If that were the case, we’d still be using stone tools. In this six year process, however, I’ve made some observations, fine tuned my approach and developed my own way best matching rider to bicycle.

#1 - Your Client is the Best Tool

Retul is a fantastic tool.  It allows a much more comprehensive look at the rider as he or she is riding under different loads and records more data points.  Knowledge is power, and more information is good, and taking a more granular view of the rider and the position gives me more insight than traditional tools like plumb bobs and static goniometer measurements.   But as cool a tool as it is, by far, the single best tool at my disposal is a simple, well formulated and specific question. The rider, and what he or she is feeling often is the final driver of the final outcome.  Every individual, to varying degrees, have a well developed proprioceptive sense.  You may not realize it, but you are constantly monitoring your body as it relates to the environment by way of touch and equilibrium.


My job as a fitter to is to make the rider aware of this prioproceptive sense.  I do this by asking very specific questions.   “Does that feel better?”  is just not enough.  What I’ll often do is something like this:


“Ok, now take a mental snapshot of how this position feels and in a moment I’ll make a change.”


“Ok, do you notice that anything changed?”  


“I think so.  What did you do?  Did you raise the saddle?”


“I’m not telling.  Now, tell me.  Does that pedal stroke feel smoother, more natural?  Do you feel as if you may be reaching a little at the bottom of the pedal stroke?  Do you feel any restriction in the hips when you come up over the top of the pedal stroke, especially down in the drops?  ….Yes?...No?  ...or is it hard to say?”


Some people are pretty dull when it comes to feeling and gauging what is going on with their body on the bike, and I get a few “uh...I dunno. Maybe”  However, the vast majority of clients are very good at this, and really enjoy being involved in the process.  It really is a type of mindfulness, where the things that you otherwise don’t notice are now part of your conscious self.  It’s a skill that every rider can take with them out on the road:  to be aware of what is going on with his or her body while on the bike - to self-monitor.  And yes, I have to be aware of inherent bias and erroneous feedback - that hypersensitive subject who is convinced he or she is feeling something when in actuality nothing happened.  I had one client who, after three hours of painstaking adjustments and double digit Retul scans and and near endless feedback and microadjustments , finally settled on exactly a 1.5mm saddle adjustment. That’s 1.5mm.  And the next day he had the service guy lower it exactly a half a millimeter.  He was maybe a bit neurotic, but he is also a hyperintelligent audio engineer, and paying hyper attention to such nuances is what he does or a living….and he’s been riding bikes for a long time and knows what works for him.


So yes, pressure mapping is really cool and can give great feedback, but simply asking your client, “Do you feel more or less saddle nose pressure?” is often more instructive...and doesn’t cost $10,000