You can buy nearly anything online these days, but hands-on customer service still can’t be replicated by a website.
Bicycle fitting company Retul and its parent company Specialized think they’ve found a way to give the local bike shop a leg up on internet retailers. They have begun implementing a new technology called Retul Match at Specialized bike shops.
Retul is known for its high-tech fit system that uses motion-capture technology. Match isn’t like that. And, it isn’t for the riders who will spend $350 on a 90-minute fitting session. According to Retul, only seven percent of cyclists get bike fits — Retul or otherwise. So, Match is meant for a large chunk of that 93 percent, with a special emphasis on riders who wouldn’t know the difference between fork rake and stem rise, let alone their saddle height in millimeters. Plus, it’s free, sort of like getting sized up with that classic metal Brannock foot measuring device.
“Where Retul Match really benefits is those riders that have no clue what size bike to get on,” says Scott Stroot, Retul & Body Geometry business and marketing manager. “They want to get in the sport but they don’t know where to start.”
In person, the Match kiosk has a large touchscreen that walks the customer through the process, starting with a few basic questions — What is your gender? What kind of bike do you want? Do you ride with an upright, middle, or low position?
The shop employee then takes a few key measurements using Retul’s Zin Wand, which looks a bit like an old-school cell phone. Data points are taken at the top of the hip, kneecap, and ankle to calculate frame size and saddle height. The Zin Wand transmits data points to the optical reader on the kiosk, creating a basic profile of the rider’s leg dimensions.
You can also get sized for shoes with that Zin Wand and Retul’s Digital Foot Device plate, which measures arch height. Finally, the Digital Sitbone Device can be used to determine the right saddle width. A bike shop employee guides you through the entire process.
Then, the touchscreen recommends a variety of bikes, shoes, and saddles, based on the results of the tests — all Specialized products of course. The process takes about 10-20 minutes.
Retul Match does all of this with algorithms based on reams of statistics the company has banked in its 11 years of doing bike fits. The company hopes to tally 1 million Match sessions by 2020, aiming to have the $4,000 kiosks in 50 percent of Specialized retailers. The kiosks are now in U.S. Specialized shops and are coming soon to international stores.
The results, namely saddle height, vary a bit depending on who is operating the Zin Wand. And they don’t necessarily sync up with your existing saddle height. However, the point is that this system is meant for a customer who doesn’t even know their correct saddle height — or even what size frame to ride.
Of course, many established, successful retailers have been sizing bikes for customers for decades. Retul’s system isn’t meant to replace those experts or their trusty, worn measuring tapes. Instead, it’s an additional tool that can help bike shops offer a better experience.
“I think it’s also a great way for the ice to be broken a little bit, because sometimes when somebody comes in you don’t know exactly where to take the conversation,” says Stroot.
Less-experienced employees or seasonal salespeople could also benefit from the system.
Stroot accepts the fact that many performance-oriented cyclists — the type who are confident and capable of measuring their saddle heights, inseams, and other dimensions — will continue to be wooed by online retailers, such as Canyon. But Retul Match could be an important way for new riders to more easily enter the sport with the right bike.
“To be honest, Canyon needs Retul Match to be successful,” he says. “In my opinion, they’re never going to get downstream without something like Retul Match.”