The Perfect Fit
Why buy a bike from a physical shop when many can be had at a discount online? Part of the answer is simple: Shops have experts who can provide help. “Fitting is one of those services that allows [bike shops] to differentiate themselves from the mass merchant, from the Internet,” says Specialized Bicycle Component University’s Global Manager, Scott Holz. “It’s good for the industry.” Cannondale also believes in the value of bike fit and the service that physical shops can provide. To help support their vision for the cycling industry, both bike giants bought fit businesses that they are now harnessing to push professional bike fit further than ever before.
With the exception of Holz’s SBCU program, most bike fit techniques and tools have come from individuals or niche companies with limited resources. Without the collective force of a large, coordinated effort, the art and science of bike fit has progressed sporadically—but Cannondale and Specialized are making sure that comes to an end.
Specialized acquired a big fraction of Retül, a high-tech fitting tool startup in its fifth year. “Before, we had to pay for things as we could afford them,” says Retül co-founder Franko Vatterott. That meant leashing their CEO and “engineering Jedi” Cliff Simms until the business could sell enough systems and services to pay for the resources needed to develop new technologies. The result: Bike shops and riders had to wait months or even years longer than required by the R&D process before they could use Retül’s innovative new fitting technologies. Now they’ll be able to crank out new tools as quickly as Simms can dream them up.
Cannondale threw its weight into the world of fit by buying Guru Cycles’ fit business. Cannondale (technically, the company that owns the company that owns Cannondale) purchased the fit component of Guru Cycles, and built an entire fit system around its motorized fit bike. They worked to complement it with the full bevy of tools needed to find an ideal position and transfer it to a real, rideable bike. Specialized has been intertwined with fit for years, but this is Cannondale’s first step in, and they enter with largely the same objectives. They want to empower bike shops and fit studios to help riders enjoy cycling.
These decisions to buy into bike fitting signal a major shift in the way riders will be paired with their bikes for years to come. And the best thing about this change is that neither Cannondale nor Specialized is using its newfound influence to block competing dealers from using these preeminent fitting tools. Instead, they’re arming the entire industry with better resources. Any shop or fit studio can buy either system, whether they sell Cannondale or Specialized or neither.
It seems very charitable of Specialized and Cannondale to create next-level fitting technology then sell them to, for example, a Trek dealer, but both companies are in fact doing it for business reasons. “Having Retül thrive and prosper and be a super-solid fitting system is good for the industry,” says Holz. “We hope [Retül] prospers in our dealerships as well as everybody else’s.” The value of bike fit is brand-agnostic, and with these two leaders pushing their weight behind rider comfort, the art and science of bike fit is sure to continue to progress and reach even more riders.