We sit down with our three Retul-certified bicycle fitters and talk about the value of having your bike set up like a finely tailored suit (without all the stuffiness).
A Chat With Our Bicycle Fit Specialists
One of the few bright spots of the global pandemic has been a dramatic increase in cycling. Bikes of all types have been in high demand. And the number of people getting old bikes out of the garage and up and running has been as high, if not higher, than the number of individuals shopping for new bikes.
Getting a new bike, or an older bike mechanically sorted after sitting for some time, is just the first step. The next step, and perhaps the most important, is getting that bike ready for you, the rider, to ride.
That’s where bicycle fitting comes in. Most bicycles—mountain, road, gravel, cyclocross, hybrid—come in sizes. Think of it like the size of a suit. And fitting a bicycle is like taking it to the tailor to get it just right.
Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop offers extensive fitting services thanks to our Retul-trained and certified bicycle fitting technicians, master tailors to help make your bike yours. Each of our trained staff, Brant Speed, who manages the MJ’s Speed Shop and is a cycling coach, David Garcia, our sales manager and avid MTB rider, and TC Porterfield, who works sales, commutes by bike, and races on the road, are each experts in the field. We sat down to talk about bicycle fitting and the value of making sure your bike is tailored to you.
Brant Speed is a elite amateur road racer and heads up the MJ's Speed Shop Training Center. He's been doing bicycle fitting for over 15 years.
MJ’s: So how long have each of you been cycling and what do you like to ride?
Brant: I ran cross country and track for the University of Tampa and found that cycling was a great way to add some cross training in the off season. That cross training morphed into a part-time job at a local bike shop and I started entering local triathlons and duathlons. From there I raced time trials and then went on to road racing.
David: I've been riding for as long as I can remember. My first bike was my older cousin’s and it was too big for me to ride. I had to wait a couple months before I could fit on it. I spend most of the time on my mountain bike but I really enjoy any bike that can take me off road.
TC: I've been riding for 10 years now and really focused early on on road racing. I still spend most of my time on my road bike, though in the last couple years I've really come to enjoy my commuter bike.
MJ’s: Many folks who perform bike fits learned the skill while working at a bike shop, although some folks start with a focus on fitting and find their way to a shop. What is your background in bicycle fitting and how long have you been doing Retul fits specifically?
Brant: I have been fitting bikes for folks since 2004. When I moved to Austin I took up the Serotta Brand Champion position at Bicycle Sport Shop, where I had the opportunity to learn at Serotta under Pariac McGlynn. From there I moved to MJ’s and the Pedal Hard Training studio. That was when I learned the Retul System, back in 2009, and I developed more in-depth fit techniques under Kevin Livingston’s guidance. In 2018, I returned to MJ's and helped open the Mellow Johnny's Speed Shop.
TC: Like Brant, I was at Bicycle Sport Shop and had the opportunity to go to Morgan Hill, California, and attend Retul Fit School at their headquarters to get my certification. I've been fitting for 2 years now and have always been interested in bike fitting just from working at a bike shop and my own racing.
David: Like you, TC, I’ve been doing bicycle fits for about two years now and was certified through Retul’s program at their headquarters as well.
David Garcia is our sales manager, and avid MTB rider, and Retul Certified.
MJ’s: So what can a rider expect from a Retul fit? It seems the perception is that fits are for road racers or triathletes. What about other cyclists, like MTB or gravel riders?
TC: One of the things I hear the most is "Oh, I don't race. I don't need a Retul fit." And that's just wrong and something we're trying to change. Being one with your bike matters no matter who you are or how you ride. When you feel good on your bike you'll enjoy riding more and that's the goal. We wanna take away all the negative variables that could keep you from having a great ride. Retul is a great tool because the system pulls data from thousands of fits from every type of rider whether male or female, young or old, racer or weekend warrior.
David: For sure. As a mountain bike rider, this is really important, a proper fit. Position on the bike, weight distribution, and balance are all key when on the trial. With mountain biking the terrain changes between trail, cross country and enduro are so different. A proper fit allows you to feel the most confident whether on a weekend rip on your favorite trail or between the tape at a race.
Brant: I think the biggest value is again that the rider can see what changes are being made and that they are lining up in an ideal position. In addition to that, I would say that we really work on proper technique and mechanics, which is something that isn't always taught out there. As riders we sometimes just assume that we need to move something on our bike when in fact sometimes we need to become more self aware of our bodies and work at using the right technique.
For gravel riders, that’s very similar to road. Some of these events are 40, 60, or 100 miles. And with much of that on gravel your time in the saddle is going to be so much longer than even a typical road event. The likelihood of your cadence being lower, more tension on the legs, saddle position becomes very important. Factor in loose gravel and the bike can move a bit more underneath you, you are going to want to make sure that you are balanced to ensure proper handling, like David mentioned with mountain biking.
TC's own racing and riding led him to become interested in learning about fits and helping others get the most from their bike.
MJ’s: It makes sense that a rider with a new bike should get a fit. But what about the cyclist that has been riding happily for some time on a bike that they have had for a while. When does the need for a bicycle fit arise?
David: If you never had one it’s the fastest way to improve your riding. We can "tune" your bike position to work with you so you get the most out of it. Of course, if someone is feeling discomfort when riding that's another reason to come on in. Riding should be fun, not painful! But even if you've been riding happily getting a Retul fit is a great idea. Finding your ideal position on your favorite bike gives you a starting point for other bikes.
TC: Absolutely. If you're feeling any kind of discomfort or pain that's not related to pushing the pace, you know, “good” pain, then it’s time for a fit. But even if you’ve been riding for years without discomfort, you still might not be in as efficient a position as you could be and someone could always benefit by knowing.
Brant: Yup. If you have never been fit, you should consider getting a fit. Of course, if you’re looking for a new bike for sure look to get a fit first. It really helps empower the rider to find the right bike for them and so that the bike rides the way and has the manners the manufacturer intended. And the coach in me tells everyone that if you are looking to start increasing your mileage by starting a new fitness program or training program I would strongly consider a fit to help prevent overuse injuries. Basically, everyone needs to make sure their bicycle is properly fit to have the most efficient, most comfortable, and best riding bike they can!
MJ’s: Thanks guys. Sounds like I need to get a fit scheduled!
If it’s been some time or you haven’t ever had a fit on your bike--old or new--give the shop a call at 512-473-0222 and talk with the guys about scheduling a Retul fit today.