By Mike Dano | Mar 18, 2014
High tech bicycle fitting services
Cliff Simms is using cutting-edge 3D motion capture technology--the same kind of technology behind Hollywood blockbusters like "Avatar" and "Iron Man"--to add some science to the slightly ambiguous art of fitting a bicyclist to a bike. And, as Simms explained, the goal isn't to make biking experts obsolete. Instead, it's to improve the relationship between bicyclists and the bike experts who work at bicycle stores.
"What we do can really help save the personal relationship between the [bicycle] store and the people who buy their products," Simms said, explaining that this relationship is being challenged by low-cost, online alternatives. "Our goal is to enhance the art of fitting."
But what exactly is it that Retül sells? Simms, the company's CEO, explained that Retül sells both a motion-capture system to help fit a biker to a bike, and the requisite training to understand and make the most of the system. The company's motion capture system costs around $11,000; its adjustable bike and trainer costs around $7,700; and its training sessions cost around $1,500: The result is a $23,000 or so investment that bike store owners and others can make to significantly improve the fit between a bicyclist and their bike. Simms declined to discuss Retül's financial situation, but said Boulder's Specialized Bicycles purchased Retül in 2012 for an undisclosed price, with the goal of expanding the company's sales. Retül so far has sold 675 systems worldwide.
So why would a retail bike store invest in a Retül system? "As people start to train, they will often run into barriers where they don't feel like they are progressing," Simms said. "Because of the repetitive nature of the cycling, you can cruise towards an injury if you're not careful, as you're spending more time riding. Our services … would be able to help that client."
Retül's motion-capture system tracks a biker's body as they pedal, allowing the system to precisely measure things like how a biker is positioned on the bike's seat, how far their foot must reach for the peal, and a wide range of other metrics. The result is a computerized look at how a bicyclist pedals and how their bike should be adjusted for a perfect fit. "You'll be able to go faster with more comfort," Simms summed.
"That investment can be a powerful factor in keeping cyclists continuing to ride," Simms said, explain that this could help drive increased traffic to bike stores that have the Retül system.
Moreover, the Retül system helps bike store owners match the correct bicycle to the biker who will ride it. With the data generated by the system, "we can go shopping with that," Simms said, explaining that the company has a database of bicycles and their precise measurements, in order to match rider with bike.
"You're using technology to add confidence to the purchasing decision," Simms said, noting that such confidence could help aid the sale of a bike that could cost as much as $8,000. "There's so much better chance that you're going to fit on that bike."
"If you're not comfortable on this bike, it doesn't matter how pretty it is or how aerodynamic it is or how light it is," Simms added.
Perhaps Retül's best sales metric is the success the company has had with professional biking outfits. For example, Tour de France competitors Team Europcar announced in February that it chose Retül as its "official bike fit technology." Team Europcar said it will use Retül’s system to "collect biomechanical data and record bike setup positions."
Challenges: "To continue to advance the technology, which is an expensive proposition, balanced with the desire to offer a USA-made product at an affordable price," Simms said of the company's challenges.
He said Retül's offerings must remain relatively inexpensive so that local bike retailers can afford the system.
Opportunities: Simms said Retül is hoping to improve the relationship between bikers and the stores that sell bikes. "That's a very exciting part of what we're looking at," he said.
Needs: "There's a need to continue to stay relevant, to advance the science of fitting," Simms said, adding: "I need to stay ahead of my competitors."