Tested: Basic GURU Experience
Prices: 2 levels, determined by retailer (at shop where testing was done, about $150 for Basic GURU Experience; about $300 for Premium GURU Experience)
Source: GURU approved bike shops
Features: Incremental, real-time position adjustments; streaming video to track changes
Dynamic, High-Tech System Fits the Bike to the Rider
The new GURU Experience fit system is fast becoming an industry leader for bike fitting. Dorel Industries acquired GURU in 2012. Following the acquisition, Dorel created the new GURU Sports division to focus on the GURU Experience fit system.
The system combines proprietary bike fitting hardware with revolutionary software to allow any bike buyer to find the perfect riding position for a new bike, or to dial in the fit of their current bike while maximizing power and comfort — whether They’re a racer or recreational rider.
The GURU system uses something called the Fit Institute Slow Twitch (F.I.S.T.) fit protocol, basically the data that underpin the software, which is updated regularly to add to the 1,000 bikes already in the database, in addition to adding functionality to help dial in a personalized fit.
GURU teams with Fizik for saddles and Zipp for handlebars, but cyclists can choose to keep their own equipment. For example, the fit technician can input your saddle brand and model, and the system’s software will make minor adjustments to reflect that in adjusting your fit.
My fitting was done at Bike Religion in Dana Point, California, by GURU fit specialist Giddeon Massie, a 2-time Olympian and 20-time National Track Champion (he knows a little something about riding!).
How it Works, In General
The process goes something like this: A F.I.S.T.-certified technician adjusts the machine for an initial fit, and then varies the saddle and handlebar positions as you ride. Like an optometrist when you’re getting your eyes checked, the technician asks, “Do you like position “A” better, or “B” better? Is “B” better, or “C” better?—
The F.I.S.T. technician monitors the machine’s built-in power meter and assesses your pedaling efficiency and comfort. The tech then makes position changes, asking you which is better, and compares your perceptions with the real-time data being generated. After you have determined which is your most comfortable and efficient fit, the GURU Experience fit system’s computer saves your proprietary data.
Based on your fit data, the system can look up the more than 1,000 bikes in its database to give you a list of options that fit your optimized position. Saddle, handlebarand stem lengths are also recommended. All of this data is stored and can be used again anytime the customer wants to fine-tune adjustments or even set up a new bike.
As with all professional fittings, the fit tech will make sure to clearly understand how much and what type of riding you do — road racing, triathlons, weekend outings, centuries, club rides, etc. The tech will also take several body measurements to be entered into the computer. You, of course, bring along your bike, and wear your typical riding gear (shorts, jersey, socks, shoes) as well as bring a water bottle and towel.
Fine-Tuning the Fit in a Systematic Approach
There are two levels of GURU fittings: basic and premium (click for details on GURU’s site). I did the basic fit experience, but don’t let the name fool you. It is an incredibly thorough, detailed process that aims to truly help you dial in a precise fit. (The premium experience provides more in-depth analysis and customized, TT or triathlon-specific fittings, for example.)
After a set of baseline values were entered (which were a combination of current measurements from my bike, plus metrics data from the GURU Experience fit system), Giddeon then set the machine (saddle and handlebars) to a +1 setting (a little larger) and then a -1 setting (a little smaller).
Throughout the fit process, I was asked “which is better, A or B?— After I would choose one, Giddeon would then fine-tune the settings to +0.5, then -0.5. Then he would ask again, “Which is better, A or B?—
I eventually got to a point where I could not tell the difference anymore (just like at the eye doctor, when they give you the “Are they about the same?— option.) This is where the experience of the fit tech really comes into play, since they are looking at your power output as well as pedaling efficiency for each setting.
The system makes it easy to quickly go back and forth between any settings, allowing the tech to let you retry various position tweaks so you can ultimately decide which setup feels better, and works better, for you.
It’s truly a dynamic system, with minute changes to the various settings able to be made on the fly, while you’re still on the machine and able to remember how the last setting felt (vs. the old-school static systems that typically require you to get off your bike or the fitting machine so the tweaks can be made).
Streaming video also allows you and the tech to see and track position changes; more on that later.
Once we found my most comfortable and efficient settings, they were locked into the computer. From this point, we went through the process a second and then a third time, creating scenario#1, scenario #2, and scenario #3.
Next, we compared each of these scenarios against each other — allowing even finer adjustments to be made.
The Final Step – Adding Resistance
The final step is to repeat the comparison of the scenarios, but this time, with added resistance. This drives up the power you need to turn the pedals, which changes your pedaling action and efficiency. It was surprising to me that, under a “no-load” condition, I found scenario #2 to be the most comfortable, but when I had to up my power output, scenario #3 was actually better for me.
Once all of this is complete, you are given a printout with your specific measurements so your bicycle can be adjusted.
My advice is to put your head down and close your eyes while the fitter changes settings. Concentrate on the “feel” — how each different setting is more comfortable or less comfortable, easier or harder to pedal, less or more efficient than the previous one.
Let the fitter tell you if you are putting out more or less power, and tell you how your pedaling style/efficiency looks. If you stare at the screen, there is a chance you can bias the results. Your job is to concentrate on pedaling and “feeling” which setting is best. The fitter will either agree or disagree, based on the actual data. It is the tech’s job to help you through process and get your absolute maximal fit dialed in.
Giddeon explained to me that Dan Empfield, the creator of F.I.S.T., has determined a maximum and minimum value range for each of the settings in the system. My results indicated that my fitting on the GURU system ended up on the higher end of the range for most settings, while my bike is set up on the lower end — but still within the acceptable range.
Giddeon advised me to implement the changes slowly over time, making small adjustments to my bike to come closer to the GURU-recommended settings.
The underlying principle of the GURU Experience fit system is that it fits a bike to the rider, not the rider to the bike. This system will accommodate a person new to cycling, as well as a seasoned racer.
In other words, both a new rider who has no idea of what size, type, shape of bike, saddle, bars, etc., are most suited to them — as well as someone who has raced the last 20 years and has long-held notions of what equipment works best — will leave the fitting knowing that their position is as efficient and comfortable as they can get.
I fall into that experienced category and have had help on my bike fit and setup over the years from such industry luminaries as Wayne Stetina and Kenny Fuller. The main difference that sets GURU apart from other fit systems and approaches I’ve experienced is that it is an active fit — meaning you are actually riding under a load. Others are more of a static fit, where they measure angles based off data collected over the years.
The ability to make and compare numerous levels of small tweaks over the course of the fit is another true hallmark of GURU. It’s hard to imagine a more systematic, fine-tuning approach.
GURU Sports is still building their dealer network, so you may not have a GURU shop near you (check the dealer locator on GURU’s website). However, the company is adding 50-75 new dealers a year, so if you’re interesting in this new fit system, the wait may not be long.
Coach Rick Schultz is an avid cyclist who trains, races and coaches in Southern California. Rick is an engineer by trade, and in addition to being a coach, he’s a bike fitter and prolific product reviewer. He’s the author of Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist and Bike Fit 101: Your Toolset for a Great Bike Fit in the RBR eBookstore. Check his product reviews website, www.biketestreviews.com, and his coaching site, www.bikefitnesscoaching.com. Click to read Rick’s full bio.