Guru - Nothing like it

There is nothing like this bike. It's way out there in front of the pack. It's got it all (well, it's got it most). The new Guru fit unit is a slimmer, lighter bike that takes up a smaller fit studio footprint and works on the following premise: as a typical handlebar x grows, its y needs to grow at a scalable rate. Points on a Cartesian graph that describe this scale – handlebar clamp heights that rise at a given level per distance they extend in front of the bottom bracket – are joined by a line that exists on a slope. The tubes on the new Guru fit bike are canted on that slope.

This doesn't mean that the bike does not move up and down vertically and horizontally. It means when you increase the bike in the y axis a pair of motors move: one to raise the handlebar clamp, another to bring the clamp back to the same x point. Why was the bike made this way? To save weight and space. I wish I would have thought of this. I didn't. They did.

There are 4 motors that actuate movement in the same way 4 handwheels do this on other fit bikes. The only other bike to use motors to actuate movement is the Purely Custom, though the motor is not on the bike, rather in your hand, in the form of a cordless drill (there is a new Exit Cycling bike that works this same way, more on that in that fit bike's review).

The Guru's motors are driven by inputs you make on a Samsung Galaxy tablet, and the software allows you a lot of freedom in how you want to execute changes. With one stroke you can change any fit parameter in any direction. You can automatically move a rider forward “around the face of a clock” with, again, one keystroke, and when you do that the saddle moves forward a quarter of a degree of seat angle, half-degree, full degree (whatever you want) and the saddle height automatically normalizes for the forward move, the cockpit distance is preserved.

When you find a position you think you like, you can save it, and the fit bike remembers it, that is, the Guru “remembers” all the fit coordinates of a particular position. If you subsequently find another position that may be preferable, you can toggle, with one finger strike on the tablet, back and forth between the old and new position while the rider is aboard and pedaling. You can program in the rider's existing position, and toggle back and forth between a new position the fitter derives versus the position the rider came in with. The bike not only inclines, but declines, so, really, the bike doesn't have 4 motors, it has 6 if you count these motors as well.

This bike also costs. It's about $18,000 and it's $500 a month for upkeep on the bike, software upgrades – of which there promises to be a lot – tech and marketing support. It isn't a lease; you own the bike. But you lose the link to home office (an actual link – this bike talks to home office via an internet link) if you fail to keep up your monthly payments.

You get more than just the fit bike for your $18,000. You get a Kinect-based motion capture system, a computer inside of which the software sits, the tablet, and even the platform and pedestal into which everything sits. And all the saddles and handlebars from program partners Fizik and Zipp. If you don't feel like whipping out your American Express for an $18,000 charge, there is financing available.

The Guru bike is not just a special tool right now, but it's got the capacity to be a lot more. For example, imagine a bike that inclines and declines based on a computer's input. Realizing that a Computrainer powers the resistance on the Guru bike, that gives a fitter a lot of options, most notably the possibility of programming in automatic resistance changes that attend an incline.

Is this bike worth it? Let me tell you what this bike has that's special, and what it has that isn't special. First, this bike is lightning fast in the time it takes to execute a fit. One of the keys to a great fit tool is the ability to shrink the time between positional changes. This fast response time between two sets of fit coordinates is key, and the better the fitter, the more he finds this functionality critical.

What is not special is the complete bike solution output, in other words, the ability to say, “Based on the fit coordinates established during the fit session, you'll fit perfectly on a [fill in the blank].” Don't misunderstand. This is impressive. But it's not special. This is now the state of the art, but everybody – Retul, Shimano, Trek, F.I.S.T. – we all offer something pretty much like that. The Devil is in the details. What I'm going to do one of these days is a “road test” of these systems, and that road test is: Here's handlebar x and y, what are the bikes the system recommends? Let's see how closely each of these fit systems nails it. But I digress...

I'm going to write more about the Guru system – the complete system – within the week. Just like I wrote about the Shimano system and the Trek system. Today, I'm just writing about the fit bike. Remember, it's important to separate tools from systems or protocols. The F.I.S.T. system is what Guru teaches to Guru fit system retailers and fitters. However, you could use a different protocol with this bike, that is, if you really got a great fit education from Shimano, for its fit bike, there is no reason why that education wouldn't serve you very well on the Guru tooling, hardware and software, because the tools all function pretty similarly (just, the Guru does it with a lot more panache). Likewise, if a Guru fit system employee got hired away from a Guru shop by a shop that had a Purely Custom or Shimano fit bike, I know that fitter will be expertly trained by the Guru instructors, and that fitter could slot right in and go to work on a Purely Custom bike tomorrow.

So, the issue here, in this series, is just about the tool. How good is this tool? Is this the best fit bike in the world? Yes. It's that simple. The Guru fit bike is, right now, without peer. The question is just one of economics. It also costs as if it's the world's best fit bike.

There is one proviso to the paragraph above. If you think, as a fitter, that the metrics produced by the Shimano fit bike are critical to overall bike fit, then the Shimano bike is going to be better for you than the Guru. If you think the way power is produced around the pedal circle – if torque at various tangents around the pedal circle – informs where you place the saddle for/aft, and saddle height, and so forth, then the Shimano is a better for bike for you. Also, if the fruit of the fit, for the retailer, is heavily weighted toward products that attach to the rider below the ankle (the fruit of the fit session is the sale of pedals, shoes, wedges, custom footbeds and the like), then the Shimano might be the better bike.

That said, in the real world, I don't think the metrics output by Shimano's crank are going to inform the fit coordinates of a typical rider. Pedal/shoe interface (i.e., cleat mount, stance width), yes. Otherwise, no. Maybe Shimano will show me something I don't know.

Further, I don't know that Computrainer has had its say in this discussion. The owners of Computrainer, and maybe of Saris' Powerbeam, may well say, “Hold on there, we can generate power metrics around the pedal circle that compare very well with those of Shimano.” We haven't see the fightback from the companies making the resistance units that power most of these fit bikes. So, I wouldn't want to say that Shimano's very compelling crank technology is necessarily without peer. What I would say is that Computrainer hasn't specifically worked on software specifically for fitters and fit bikes. But it's got a head start on that software with its SpinScan application.

Therefore, yes, the Guru is the world's most advanced fit bike. But Shimano will, immediately upon its introduction during the middle of 2014, own the sub-specialty of power metrics aboard any fit bike. But Guru and other companies using Computrainer as the fit bike's resistance unit may eventually have an answer for this.