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I'm shocked at the results of the test ride post.(43 posts)

I'm shocked at the results of the test ride post.Len J
Aug 13, 2003 3:51 AM
If the results of that post are representative,

very few people on this board ever test ride their high end bike before they buy it. WTF?

Maybe I'm cheap, but how can you spend that kind of money without having some idea of how the bike rides? I just bought a custom bike, and while I didn't ride the specific bike designed for me, I did ride 2 others of the same model to get an idea of how they rode.

So, I guess there are only a few explanations for the poll results of so few riders doing test rides:

1.) The people responding have ridden so many bikes that they are comfortable that a particular geometry with a particular material will ride a certain way. or,

2.) The people responding have money to burn. Ride it, if I don't like it I'll get something else, or,

3.) Test rides really don't matter because, either all bikes ride the same, all bikes of a similar material ride the same, differences in tires & wheels make more difference in bike feel than geometry or material, or no test ride you could do from a shop is informative, or

4.) For the average RBR poster, bike differences don't matter, or at least, differences within the same material don't matter, or,

5.) A high percentage of riders bought custom & trust the builder implicitly, or,

6.) Some other reason I can't fanthom.

Maybe I'm too anal retentive or too cheap, but I can't imagine spending this kind of money on total faith.

What's up with that?

1 and 2 comments...Spunout
Aug 13, 2003 3:56 AM
1. Back in my junior days, we bought SL/SLX italian bikes, lugged. You only paid for more chrome or Colnago crimped tubes. Everything was essentially a level field. If it was different than what you were used to, two rides later you forgot differences.

2. Yes, see any "I have $6000 to spend on my first bike" post on this board.
re: I'm shocked at the results of the test ride post.Leroy
Aug 13, 2003 4:06 AM
I bought a cruiser over the internet, but that almost doesn't count. I have 2 steel bikes [excel sports] and an aluminum [gvh], none custom. All internet. There's not a part on any of them that I got at a store. Bought the frames on their specs, and by researching here, and built them up. I just knew what I wanted and trusted the vendor. They are all three great bikes. The one I'm riding at the time is my favorite. I do not think I'd buy any other way unless it involved going to the rocky mts. or Italy. Just my 2 cents. :-)
here's another thought....Nigeyy
Aug 13, 2003 4:07 AM
I've got to agree -I've never bought a bike (however cheap it is) without a test ride first. But that isn't necessarily a hugely important thing to do IMO. Unless a bike is clearly the wrong size, exactly what good is a test ride really?

Can you really tell if a bike that has slightly different geometry will be the bike for you 1000 miles down the road after riding it for at most an hour? Or that "absorbent" feeling doesn't become "noodly" after 2000 miles? Or firm and positive doesn't become too rigid? Maybe I'm wrong but you might have to take a bit of a leap of faith even after a test ride that the bike will be a good fit and feel for you. I just don't think there's much of a better substitution than putting the miles on -and then of course by then it's too late!

My best example of this is when I bought a recumbent; I'd never been on one before, and these things ride so differently from a traditional bike -the recumbents that are easier to ride initially and feel more comfortable aren't usually the best ones to have if you put miles on. I depended on advice I was given and though the recumbent I bought wasn't the most natural feeling or comfortable on the test ride (especially compared to others), I honestly believe it turned out it was a great bike for me.

Having said all this, like I said, I definitely test ride -I think it gives me opportunity to detect something that might be really off for me, and of course can give me some idea of what the bike feel is like -though I try to take that with a pinch of salt.
Same manufacturer, same geometryDave Hickey
Aug 13, 2003 4:32 AM
Since I ride LOOK's, It's not a big problem to get a newer model since the geometry is the same. Combine that with the much cheaper prices in Europe, I haven't been disappointed yet...
never test ride...C-40
Aug 13, 2003 4:33 AM
I've owned nothing but bikes that I built-up myself since 1995. Of the six frames that I've bought, only the Litespeed Ultimate turned out to be a loser - it handled great but was just too stiff for a 135lb rider. I tolerated it for 4000 miles and sold it at the end of the season. I learned to avoid large bladed downtubes. If a frame has one, I won't consider it.

I've found that test rides are just too short to tell much about the way a bike rides and handles, unless it's a real dog for some reason. I'm not sure that a test ride would have kept me from buying the Ulitmate.
same here.....Rusty Coggs
Aug 13, 2003 4:46 AM
My Cdale frame is the dog of the bunch,but it did not cost much either.
Aug 13, 2003 4:35 AM
Another considerationGreg B
Aug 13, 2003 4:41 AM
I recently bought a brand new standard sized Guru 6/4 seemless titanium with full dura ace for approximately 40 cents on the dollar from a shop about 1500 miles away. I new the size was correct and through comparative analysis (to other bikes I had ridden) I thought I knew how the frame would ride. The price was so good through this "internet" deal, I couldn't pass it up. Luckily, I have not been disappointed.

I think that long distant sales are now common place-thanks to the internet. Research and comparative analysis through forums like this make people comfortable enough to make that leap of faith. But most of all the competative global market created by the internet is impossible to ignore (unfortunate for our LBS's). More and more purchases sight-unseen are inevitable.
Wouldn't have done it with my first bike, but...Ray Sachs
Aug 13, 2003 4:50 AM
...I've ridden enough to have a PRETTY good idea how a bike with a given geometry will ride and I have a PRETTY good idea what I like and what I don't. I've been surprised once or twice, but generally I've come out about like I thought. Beyond that, I don't think a test ride will tell you that much anyway. Even when I own a bike, it takes a couple of months of riding, getting over the "new bike smell", getting the position dialed, etc., before I really know how much I like it and what type of riding its best for. The first bike I bought without a test ride, unseen, implicitly trusted the designer to fit me properly (semi-custom), is still my favorite bike by FAR. Sometimes, you just have to get lucky.

Consider thisfiltersweep
Aug 13, 2003 4:50 AM
This sentiment was echoed throughout the thread you referenced, and it rings true for most higher end bikes- it simply is a reality that is difficult to avoid.

I purchased a Look that started as a frameset hanging from the ceiling at the LBS. It wasn't even built yet. How could I test ride it? They called in a Look sales rep who dropped off his own personal bike in a different size and they let me ride that bike just to experience the feel, but it also did not fit me well at all. I had to have faith and wait until it was built. It wasn't purchased on-line, and I trusted the shop would take care of any problems (of which there were none and I completely love this bike). The shop owner himself took care of the entire process. I doubt I would have purchased an "unfamiliar" bike in this manner on-line- but now that I know the size I need, I would consider it.

Consider also that a true custom frame is exactly that- custom. It doesn't even exist when you enter the shop. Test rides are great for off-the-shelf bikes.
re: I'm shocked at the results of the test ride post.tarwheel
Aug 13, 2003 4:57 AM
I've bought my last three bikes/frames through mailorder/phone/internet. Here are my reasons:
1. Lack of selection locally. My local bike shops only carry the usual big brands (Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, etc.) with geometries that are not ideal for me. Other available brands are too expensive for my budget (Litespeed, Merlin, etc.) Most of the models in my price range are aluminum, which I've found from experience doesn't suit me.
2. I've paid for a couple bike fittings, and I've been riding awhile, so I know about what size and geometry are best for me.
3. To buy a frame that fits locally, I would need to order a custom at a premium price. Why not just order a frame myself and save a bunch of cash? If I order a custom frame through a LBS and it doesn't fit, I'll still have to pay for it.
4. Limited cycling budget. I was able to buy my last complete bike from Excelsports with a Campy Chorus group and good wheels for about the same amount of money as a frame would have cost locally. No sales tax either, which more than makes up for the shipping costs.
5. The last time I considered buying a bike from a local shop, I wanted to take the bike on a 20 mile or so test ride, since I had never ridden an aluminum frame and was unsure if I would like it. The shop, which I had patronized for years, was unwilling to let me test it more than just riding around the parking lot and local neighborhood. So, I bought a comparable used bike over the internet for $500 less.
6. My last big purchase was a frame last winter. I was looking for a nice steel frame and the local shops carry few quality steel frames anymore unless you order custom. The only steel frames that were available locally were brands with geometries that don't fit me well. So, I ordered over the phone from a bike shop in Philly and had it built locally.

The bike shops in my area seem to cater to two clienteles: the low budget customers who just want an inexpensive bike, and the high-budget customers who buy Litespeeds, Colnagos, Serottas, etc. and don't seem to care about costs. I've got a limited cycling budget but I ride a lot, so I want the best I can get for my money. Buying locally isn't very cost effective for me, as much as I would like to support the local shops. They just don't cater to customers like me.
Chances are you can't test ride what you want anywaypitt83
Aug 13, 2003 5:00 AM
Let's face it: Most shops don't have every frame built up and ready to ride, especially in every size. You're not going to get a representative ride for what bike you end up testing anyway. On whole bikes of larger volume, sure. But, if you're not buying one of the big 3 domestic (US) brands (Specialized, Trek, C-dale), you'll likely not have the chance to. I wouldn't expect my shop to order a Coppi, LOOK, Nag or other esoteric, high end frame, build it to my specs, have me test ride it and say, "Thanks, but I don't like it".

With a good understanding of fit, some good advice re: materials, knowing what you want the bike to do, patience to get the build you want and some luck, chances are you'll end up with a great ride. Oh, that and unlimited funds makes it easy.
Aug 13, 2003 8:47 AM
maybe the rest of you live in road biking meccas where every shop has a wall of exotic road bikes built up. Local shops around here are not likley to have but a few road bikes built up, all big 3 brands and in size 56. If you want something outside of trek/dale/specilaized then you have to order it and take your chances
I'm not.gregario
Aug 13, 2003 5:11 AM
Especially for my situation. I'm 6'2" with long femurs. Hell, most manufacturers don't even make a frame big enough for me in the first place, 62cm and greater. (That's a whole other topic I could rant about...) Not only are 62cm frames only made by a few builders, that size is not on the "bell curve" of the most common sizes. Shops just don't stock it because demand is low. So I have to either order my 62cm Colnago or buy a custom frame.
Have you ever thought that the bike just doesn't matter all that much?MB1
Aug 13, 2003 5:13 AM
If the darn thing fits you reasonably well you will get used to it (and more so if you spent a whole bunch on it) you begin to believe that it is the best ride you have ever had. Till the next one comes along anyway.

It might be better to focus on the motor instead.
well said, mb1 [nm]Leroy
Aug 13, 2003 6:04 AM
It's not about the bike: The Sequelcory
Aug 13, 2003 7:52 AM
I'm with MB1. The worst bike I ever rode was still fun.
Also, most people on this board have at least some experience and knowledge--we all know 105 components will work fine, we all know more or less the difference between a 74 degree head angle and a 72. In my case, I bought an Atlantis sight unseen, but with confidence, after some smaller purchases from Rivendell. I trusted the company and understood enough about bikes to be pretty sure it was what I wanted. When the kids drop out of college to become massage therapists, I'll buy a Rivendell the same way.
All Great responses, but.................Len J
Aug 13, 2003 5:24 AM
Then what is the right advice for a newbie?

In my mind it sounds like:

1.) Find a great LBS & Get a good fitting and,

2.) Buy something cheap, ride the hell out of it & learn what feels good to you and,

3.) Then spend the real money based on your own experience.

The alternative is to piss away money learning I guess (not that any of us have ever done that.).

Sure changes the standard response to newbies, doesn't it.

I'd only change #2dzrider
Aug 13, 2003 5:32 AM
Buy something used rather than cheap and add "learn to maintain it".
That is about right. Except don't buy anything really cheap.MB1
Aug 13, 2003 5:33 AM
Used is good too.
Yeah, but the definition of 'really cheap' on this boardOldEdScott
Aug 13, 2003 6:47 AM
is otherwordly. I bet a poll would show 'we' consider anything under $1000 to be hopelessly cheap.

My recent advice to a brother-in-law who wanted to test the waters: Forget 'comfort' bikes, forget mountain bikes, buy the cheapest Sora-equipped drop-bar bike you can find (probably around $500) and ride it till you (a) Discover you don't like cycling all that much, or (b) Have a better idea of the kind of bike you REALLY want.

MB1 is right: The bike isn't really all that important in the overall scheme, and if you really want to ride you can get used to anything that's even remotely in the ballpark.
I figure a $650 new road bike has everything I need.MB1
Aug 13, 2003 9:17 AM
I would probably wear the thing out quicker than the $2k+ bikes I own but it would work just fine.
I dunnoMel Erickson
Aug 13, 2003 5:43 AM
"Find a great LBS & Get a good fitting" sounds like alot of advice to newbies that I've seen on this site. The other two responses you list have been seen quite a bit, too. Advice varies because circumstances vary. The new rider might be on a very tight budget. They might not have access to good shops. They might have quite a bit of bike knowledge but in another area (MTB). They might have alot of money and just want wall art. Variations are endless and so is the advice. There is no silver newbie bullet.
Sounds goodgeeker
Aug 13, 2003 6:41 AM
As a newbie, I did #s 2 and 3. Bought a used bike from a LBS. They did a "trainer fit" on the bike, but not a full anatomic fit. After a stem swap, turned out fine. As a complete newbie (longtime runner), I'm not even sure a full fit session would have done much at the time: I was extremely inflexible and had no clue about riding position.

Two years down the road, I just put down a deposit on a mail-order (non custom) frame I've been fantasizing about for a while. Reasons: a) I'd never find a 61cm (especially one with a head tube extension) in a shop, and probably couldn't find a steel frame bigger than 58; b) I fully researched the fit and geometry with reference to the current ride; c) I agree with your point (in original post) about saddle/tires being more important than material wrt "feel".
another reason?DougSloan
Aug 13, 2003 5:24 AM
Another reason -- they have sought advice from trusted sources and make decisions largely on that. It could be a friend, shop owner, people here, etc.

Bottom line, though, is that it really may not matter that much. There is so much adjustment available on a bike, that it is fairly easy to tailor it to you, if it is fairly close to begin with.

Also, if you've ever ridden a bike before, you can use that as a reference point as to what may be good for you. If I have had 5 Bianchi's and I've been happy with them, the 6th one of a similar build will likely be ok, too.

I look for used bikes with parts I want.dzrider
Aug 13, 2003 5:29 AM
Bikes that are 55 to 57 center to center with a top tube around 56 will fit me with a little fiddling around with the bars, stem, seat and post. A long wheel base, low bottom bracket, and a few complaints that the frame isn't stiff enough almost guarantee satisfaction.

The reason I test ride is to figure out general things like the fact that I prefer steel forks and slightly heavier bikes. Nobody is going to let me test ride for long enough to tell how a bike feels at the end of a brevet which is my major concern. For the 1st few minutes I can tell a difference. For the next few hours, it's just riding. After 3 hours or so I want my Lyon. I didn't test ride it either.
True. A Sachs couldn't be test ridden... nmSpunout
Aug 13, 2003 5:37 AM
For me, 1,2,3,5 and 6terry b
Aug 13, 2003 5:33 AM
coupled with the fact that while I live in a medium sized city (ABQ,) I would pretty much be relegated to riding a Trek-Litespeed-Lemond-Cannondale-Specialized if I was stuck on having a test ride before purchasing.

But I really do believe that #s 1 and 3 say it all - I understand my geometry needs explicitly and I don't believe for a minute that the typical test ride you get tells you anything of substance. Certainly nothing about the nuances of a material that (I think) can only be drawn out after 100s of miles over greatly varying terrain.

Call me shallow, but at this point in my riding life (#2 money to burn) I'm mainly looking for a great paint job wrapped around a comfortable fit.
re: For me, 1,2,3,5 and 6loki_1
Aug 13, 2003 6:57 AM
I've spent so much time over the past few months trying to test ride, find the perfect geometry, etc that i was joking with a friend (who said, "you still didnt buy a bike?") that i would probably end up just basing the decision on the paint job.
get fit out of the way and paint is all that's left 8-) (nm)terry b
Aug 13, 2003 8:27 AM
Consider another concept...MXL02
Aug 13, 2003 5:51 AM
That most high end bikes are going to perform pretty well-if they didn't we'd be hearing about it on this board...most experienced cyclists know the idiosyncracies of their fit and what they want in a ride to be able to do order something without riding it, knowing it will ride fairly well once they get it. Your points to newbies are correct, but I don't think that many people on this board have recommended that a newbie buy a high end bike or any other bike without going thru their LBS.

Personally, I was fortunate enough to have a brother who raced in the SoCal scene to help me as a relative newbie get a nice bike...but even with his help, I ordered the wrong size and had to switch out the frames. Now, after building several other bikes and learning all the aspects of fit and geometry particular to me, I wouldn't hesitate to buy a high end bike on line.
I'm catagory "1".KG 361
Aug 13, 2003 6:36 AM
I pretty much knew how it would ride. I think I"M the cheap one. Why should I pay almost $2k from the LBS when I got it for $500 on-line?
To me, it's like going to a restaurant...NatC
Aug 13, 2003 6:55 AM
and seeing an item on the menu that I've never tried before but sounds delicious. I don't need to sample it first; I just order up. I've been happy enough with most of the bikes I've purchased to ride it at least one year before selling it. I don't want the same ride from each new bike I purchase. I want a different experience each time.
not all that surprisingColnagoFE
Aug 13, 2003 7:33 AM
most of us here are higher end customers...not the usual generic bike shoppers. even big shops who cater to the high end of the market will only have limited sizes in stock and are not too willing to build up a bunch of $3000+ bikes just for people to test ride. using a serotta fit bike you can nail the size in most cases.
re: I'm shocked at the results of the test ride post.gtx
Aug 13, 2003 7:43 AM
Let's say you have narrowed your selection down to 3 high end frames. What are the chances that you're going to be able to test ride all three in the correct size built up the same way AND dialed in for YOU (which often takes weeks or even months of fiddling for even the most experienced rider).

Test rides are good for newbies who are comparing bikes less than $1000--not only are they comparing fit, the are comparing different equipment.

When I worked in shops and sent people out on test rides, usually the first comment when someone came back was "I liked the shifting on this one" or "it made a weird ticking noise." Trying to get newbies to think about fit/geometry was like trying to introduce some foreign esoteric concept.

Personally, the few bikes I've owned that I didn't end up liking I actually convinced myself to buy after test rides. These were bikes I could get at a discount, which I wouldn't have considered on paper, or if the price hadn't been very appealing (pro deals usually under wholesale). But after a few laps around the parking lot or maybe a short ride I'd say, well, it's not that bad. After all, it fits, and it's still a bike...

But basically, give me a solid, well built steel frame and fork with a 73 STA, 56 to 57 effective tt, bb drop of 7.5 or so, c-stay of 41 - 41.5, and nothing too weird in terms of HTA and fork rake, chances are I'm gonna like it just fine.
It ain't rocket scienceDropped
Aug 13, 2003 8:40 AM
Where talking bicycles here, not rocket science. When you are buying from a reputable maker its kind of hard to buy a bike that totally sucks. As long as you know the geometry that you need, and do some simple research about the frame's characteristics, there shouldn't be any surprises.

Plus, it really is going to be months down the road after you dial in the fit before you can judge whether the bike is perfect for you.

Unless you have absolutely no clue what you are looking for -- and there is nothing at all wrong with that -- I don't see much benefit from a 10 minute test ride.
Although somewhat surprised, the results make me comfortable...BrianNYC
Aug 13, 2003 10:11 AM
The surprise was that the overwhelming majority of bikes are bought without a test ride; i expected a majority, but not as big as what was posted.

It makes me comfortable though b/c I doubt I will have a chance to test ride my next bike, which will now most likely be carbon like my Look 361, but will be compact/sloping geometry, and, although I have put a lot of miles on the Look (which I did not test ride either, but which which fits me great and was the right first road bike but is now too flexy), I don't have a lot of other personal experience to refer to like most of the posters.
too much hullaballoo about fitJS Haiku Shop
Aug 13, 2003 10:39 AM
i'm with Do(u)g in a (much earlier) prior post: there is far too much ado about fit. within a general range of geometry and sizing, ability to choose a frame suitable to your needs or objective for that build is easily accomplished without "face time".

i'm with MB1 on his reply, and to embellish: IMHO there are subtle differences between the "feel" and "responsiveness" of frames. much of the ride is affected rather by components and accessories, and a large part by perception. again, IMHO.

no regrets on the purchases i've made online. the only ones that are no longer in the shop are those sold to upgrade to a "better" bike, also purchased online.

the price differences between online and LBS are staggering. also, in my area, availability is severely limited. unless i'm willing to test ride a giant, specialized, trek, or raleigh in what is typically a size or two smaller than i prefer, i'm forced to drive >200 miles to the next set of wholly inadequate brick & mortar shops. IMHO IMHO IMHO.
Can't tell jack on a short test rideLC
Aug 13, 2003 11:44 AM
I would need at least a couple hours on the bike to really know anything and very few shops will let you have it for a couple hours. The saddle, pedals, and handlebar width is so important to the way the bike feels and you never see the exact saddle that you want at the shop. Guess if you were smart you would at least bring in your own saddle and pedals.

The only thing a test ride can tell you is basic fit so there is a benifit if you have no experience to draw on. By the time you have gone thru a couple of bikes you know what fits and then your ready for a high end bike. Just about any high end bike that fits is going to ride well.
# 6GeoCyclist
Aug 13, 2003 3:52 PM
Some of us don't have access to a wide variety of bikes to test ride. I live in Japan and have the only De Rosa that the LBS owners have ever seen. Sometimes you just can't find the bike you want to test ride!!!
Could have NOT known enoughLone Gunman
Aug 13, 2003 5:18 PM
When I bought my last new bike, '99, all I knew is that the bike had the component pack and wheelset I wanted plus it was new age steel(853). I took the tt measurements of my last 2 bikes, got as close as possible on that length on the new bike and bought it without ever throwing a leg over it. Granted I obsessed for possibly a year over frame material which was more important to me than geometry. I guess I look at it like golf clubs, you get used to the set you bought if they are not custom, you adjust to the bike in the same way, muscle memory, at least I did. Are you still pissing around with that fixie idea?
Regional issue: East Coast shops suck, but I'd buy LBS out West!BergMann
Aug 13, 2003 9:57 PM
I went out today with the intention of spending upwards of 3 grand on a new bike, and found myself basically _begging_ LBSs in the Philadelphia area to let me test ride carbon bikes spec'd with Dura-Ace/Record.

End result: 0 test rides, and plenty of attitude. I got treated like a leper for even suggesting that I would want to test ride a $4000 bike rather than just handing over my cash and praying for the best.

I'm going to relish spending my money on line!!! I have yet to be in a shop from NYC to Philly that can offer even 1/10th of the selection, knowledge, friendliness, & competitive pricing of a shop like Supergo.

Next time the Mid-Atlantic bike retail establishment will see my face is when I come in to check out something I'm considering buying _on line_.