Fit Bikes: Shimano and Retul

The Retul Muve is a bike that, in its native config, measures x and y to the head tube top, that is to say, it outputs stack and reach. In order for a bike like this to work, you mount the desired front end on the bike. Let’s take me as an example. Were I getting fit for a road race bike I, at 6’2”, would probably want a stem in the 120mm range, if not 130mm. Do I prefer a –17° stem? -6°? Do I want 15mm of headset top cap + spacers? 20mm? Whatever it is I want, I put that on the fit bike, get positioned, and read the stack and reach off that bike, compare it to the stack and reach of all the bikes made, and find those in the general area.

The Muve doesn’t have the metrics printed on the bike. But a ruler (pictured) you hold up to the bike makes stack and reach easy to read from the bike. You can also reconfigure the Muve so that it reads x and y to the handlebar clamp, but I don’t recommend that, because then you have no metrics available in any mechanical or analog way. If you set it up to read x and y to the handlebar clamp (like Guru, Purely Custom and Shimano) the only way you can read the output is to “Zin” the bike, which refers to a way that, using Retul’s motion capture system, you capture and digitize points in space.

In my opinion your fit bike must be fully function by itself, standalone. If you choose to add to the bike extra functionality that the Retul motion capture system adds, fine, but, using this logic, Retul’s motion capture system adds the same functionality to the Purely Custom fit bike we saw yesterday. That established, just use the bike in its native config: reading stack and reach. That's the way this bike wants to be used.

The Retul uses a Saris Powerbeam or a Tacx Bushido as its resistance unit. Not better or worse than a Computrainer, just different. I’ve got a Powerbeam on one of my fit bikes, works fine. And, you can have your Retul Muve outfitted with a Computrainer resistance unit if you wish. The Muve uses Purely Custom’s adjustable crank, that is to say, that bike we saw yesterday made by Purely Custom, a lot of fit bike makers that build competing fit bikes still buy that crank from Purely Custom for their own fit bikes.

The only thing the Retul Muve lacks is an incliner. I can only assume that one is coming, but, as of yet nothing on that. Me, I would just build an incline table, like Purely Custom did.

MSRP on this bike is $7700. Discounts are available to dealers who sell Felt, Specialized or Trek.

The Muve might have been, 3 years ago, as fancy as fit bikes come. That was before the new Guru and the new Shimano. And before Purely Custom’s incline table. Now the Muve is not the sexy bike it was once compared to those in its competitive set. But it is a really great bargain value. It’s a very well made, very aggressively priced, fit bike. Any first rate fitter will not fail to deliver a high quality fit if he uses this bike.

This one’s interesting. It’s new. It’s got 4 handwheels, 2 for the front x and y axis, 2 for the rear. In that sense it’s very much like the Retul Muve. Just look at the pic below and the one above. Can you see how much alike all these fit bikes really are?

You don’t read the x and y metrics off the bike itself, rather the x and y positions are digitized and you read them off an LCD display. Neat. That feature won’t won’t change the quality of the fit, or the process, really won’t change the speed of the fit, but, still neat. The nice thing about digitizing the metrics is that you can then port them into a program or calculator instead of typing them in. further – and while the Shimano system does not do this – what you could do is automatically calculate where a rider is during the process.

For example, imagine that at any point you want a real time calculation of what bike or bikes a set of fit coordinates are. Technically, the digitizing of the x and y coordinates during the fit session allows you to do this. It’s just a case of Shimano stepping on the gas and getting this done. But, of course, first Shimano would have to know that it wants to do this. And now, after reading this article, it will. This is always the thing with Shimano: it’s got the best engineers in the cycling industry, but they won’t know what to engineer until somebody tells them to engineer it. That’s why its Shimano American facility in Irvine is so important to this $2.5 billion Japanese company: it’s to Shimano what Skunkworks is to Lockheed.

What’s my point? That this bike is a work in progress, but the platform for the bike has a utility that, while not yet exploited, holds promise for future development.

The real sizzle, however, is not anything I’ve written about yet. It’s the crank. And why would it not be? This crank, with its pressure and power sensors, purports to analyze and output your power around the circle, and also across the pedal platform, medial to lateral. This is the sort of data that could be used to tell a fitter how to mount the cleat to the shoe. Let’s see, what products does Shimano make again?

The Shimano toolkit includes the motion capture system from the vendor that supplied Retul previously. But this overview is just about fit bikes, which are the most important of all fit-specific tools. How important is this new bike from Shimano? It’s only the second bike, after Guru, that can give you, real time, during the fit, a digitized output of fit coordinates and handlebar x and y. This will be important, as stated above. And it also has that fancy crank, which will be important. What it does not have is the ability to incline, which is important. But I’m wagering Shimano fixes that quite quickly.

Finally, the Shimano bike has a quick-change saddle fixing system. This is big. A shop’s fit bike ought to do more than simply act as a fit tool. It ought to be a point-of-sale display unit, and the ability to change saddles in a hurry gives the bike that functionality.

The Shimano fit bike sells for a very reasonable $9000, plus a $525 annual license fee.