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  1. #1
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    How to get the most from a test ride

    Hello I am an individual who is just returning to cycling after a 28+ year hiatus. This summer I decided to start riding again. Im 48 years old, 510, 185 lbs and have had two vertebral disk fusions and a history of minor lower back issues. The Peugeot I own was not as comfortable as I once remembered her to be. With this in mind I thought I would not do well on drops so I opted for a hybrid to bring me back into the fold. I am looking to ride for fitness and to enjoy the overall experience. Wow things have changed in the past 30 years, I was so confused as to what to purchase. I settled on a Cannondale Adventure 600. For me this was not a bad choice, it made my transition back into the saddle less painful and thus allowed me to enjoy my time on the bike and to log some miles. As I improved I soon found the need to ditch the stock 38 tires and go to Conti Grand Prix 4 Season 28s. I also found that when my time in the saddle climbed to and past an hour per ride the stock seat, as soft and well made as it is, was becoming uncomfortable. After reading others views on saddles here and elsewhere I ordered a few to test and settled on a Koobi, PRS Enduro. Between the tires, the addition of bar ends and the new seat I am hooked. I started riding in Mid July and the heat was terrible, our hottest summer on record great - but I tried to stick with it. I work early hours so I am able to get out and hit the road by 4:00 PM about 3x a week M-F and most Saturdays and Sundays. Ive gone from 6 miles a day to 15 miles a day during the week and 20-30 miles a day on the weekend. My average pace has gone from short rides at 12 mph with plenty of panting to my current rides at an average15+ mph, and still panting - so I have made some progress.

    I would like to add a lighter and more road bike like bike to my stable. I am COMPLETELY overwhelmed by the choices. Although I have access to 5 LBS, hands- on options are very limited. Im looking at relaxed geometry like Specialized Roubaix and Sequoias, Lemond Big Sky, Cannondale Sport Road, Trek Pilot and 2100C et.al. My problem is I have not found a single one of these to test ride and those bikes I have test ridden all feel OK for the 10 minutes Im on them but from the little experience I have I know that I can not tell if a bike is going to be a good fit unless I can shake it out for an hour or so on varying terrain and pavement. BTW, as nice as the people are in our lbs the fit process goes like this - check stand over, adjust seat height and go for a spin around the parking lot or block. I am willing to spend up to $2000 for a bike but I want to know that it will be comfortable.

    I would greatly appreciate any tips/advice on how to get the most out of a limited test ride.

  2. #2
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    Is there a bicycle club in your burg? If so, contact them & show up at some of their rides. Look at what others are riding - talk to them & ask their opinions. Some of them will always be looking to upgrade and eager to sell their existing bikes. Ask them for an extended test ride. Even riders who aren't looking to sell are often willing to "swap bikes" with you for up to an hour or so on the club ride so you can see what their wheels are like.

    Other options to try out bikes on longer rides are "Critical Mass" get togethers (investigate their politics before you participate lest you find yourself in the middle of something you don't agree with). Most of the participants are college kids, but they're always friendly & cheerful about swapping rides for a test run.

    Finally, if you're stuck with the LBS test rides, ask them if they sponsor any of the local bike club's events. If so, inquire as to whether an "extended test ride" might be possible at these events.

    As to what to look for, good construction, good parts, solid feel, and adequate warranty are all virtues. Notice that I didn't mention anything about comfort or fit! The bike will never be "fitted" to you on a test ride, and thus, you won't know, ultimately, how comfortable or not the bike will be in the long run. I've had bikes that seemed like they should be ideal for me turn out never to be "right." I've also had bikes that I never expected to be comfortable to surprise me mightily.

    Since I'm a hands-on "try it" sort, I tend to buy my bikes (for the most part) used. That way, if they don't work out, I can resell them without significant (or any) financial loss. The two exceptions to that are the two bikes that I bought early this year - an Electra Townie and a Kona Dew. I resold the Electra on e-Bay for about a $50 loss. The Dew I'm still riding, although modified significantly.

    Depending on your budget, and your preferences, you can't go wrong with the Specialized Roubaix or any of the other choices you listed. Once you get your choices narrowed down to one or two, post on the "road" forum and ask for feedback from owners of each.

    Good luck & happy shopping!

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the feedback. Your idea about riding with a club makes a lot of sense but at this stage I am more than a little intimidated about riding with the local club. As I mentioned, on my best days Im only averaging +/-15 mph on my rides rolling hills with 1 mile grades. I am more than sure that I would not be able to keep up with the group. If they had a newbie night that might work. I'll have to look into this a bit more.

    I was hoping that being the 50+ section of this forum that there would be quite a number of people who have gone through a number of bikes in their day and that they might share some insight as to what good test ride indicators of either good or poor fit might be.

    One of the things that confuse me is that most manufacturers make frames in 1 to 2 cm intervals, to me that is a small jump from frame to frame when you consider the range of adjustment you can get out of a seat post and the plethora of stem sizes and angles available. It would seem to be a lot easier / cost efficient for them to make fewer frames and just get the fit right by varying the crank length, seat post, stem etc.. At what point is a frame not the right frame for a rider i.e. how do you know on a test ride that swapping a component or two will or will not get you to that sweet spot we all crave?

  4. #4
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spintogrin
    Thanks for the feedback. Your idea about riding with a club makes a lot of sense but at this stage I am more than a little intimidated about riding with the local club. As I mentioned, on my best days Im only averaging +/-15 mph on my rides rolling hills with 1 mile grades. I am more than sure that I would not be able to keep up with the group. If they had a newbie night that might work. I'll have to look into this a bit more.

    I was hoping that being the 50+ section of this forum that there would be quite a number of people who have gone through a number of bikes in their day and that they might share some insight as to what good test ride indicators of either good or poor fit might be.

    One of the things that confuse me is that most manufacturers make frames in 1 to 2 cm intervals, to me that is a small jump from frame to frame when you consider the range of adjustment you can get out of a seat post and the plethora of stem sizes and angles available. It would seem to be a lot easier / cost efficient for them to make fewer frames and just get the fit right by varying the crank length, seat post, stem etc.. At what point is a frame not the right frame for a rider i.e. how do you know on a test ride that swapping a component or two will or will not get you to that sweet spot we all crave?
    Do not be intimidated by clubs. Most have enough foresight to realise that all of us have to start somewhere, and they may invite you to ride with a slow group of 50 year olds, on a gentle Sunday ride. The fast 50 year olds will be in the racing section or off doing a time trial. Point is, you will find someone to ride with.

    I do not ride a hybrid, but I recently did a ride with some quite fit riders, a 60 miler across our rolling hills, plus the one big one that you have to be fit to attempt. There were 5 specialised sequoias on the ride, and one other that was a more expensive version of this. None of the riders was a youngster, and all were highly delighted with their bikes. 3 were newcomers to cycling within the past 2 years and the other 2 and the one on the more expensive version were ex-roadies that wanted a bit more comfort in their dotage. All of them stated that the bike was ideal, fitting was perfect, and all were in stock form except for saddles. 6 different saddles were used, but that is normal. They did offer to swop bikes at one point, but My Pilot on the Tandem tried one and said it was comfortable, had perfect road gearing,and flew along the road, so "Why can't I build a tandem to the same standard".

    If you want a recommendation from hearsay- 6 riders (7 if you count my pilot) said it was the best bike for the purpose they had ridden, quality was high and the price was very sensible. On the sizing side of things- Fit is critical. If the shop you buy from has any savvie, they will set any bike up to you, and it will fit perfectly, but the size of the frame has a lot to do with this. My local LBS set my Bianchi up for me when I bought it, and I tried a 14.5", 15.5" 16" and a 17" They put me on the 15.5" and then swopped parts to get me comfortable. The 16 was just a shade too big so that is where the 2 cm difference does come in. I have never had a more comfortable bike, but the saddle got changed fairly quickly.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Terex's Avatar
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    Also look at a fit calculator like http://www.competitivecyclist.com/za...LCULATOR_INTRO

    The biggest problem is usually associated with non-standard torso-to-inseam length. I have a relatively short inseam as compared to the length of my torso. Some people have a really long inseam relative to their torso. If you are near standard dimensions, fitting won't be a problem. Once you get the correct size (which really can be eye-balled my most competant bike retailers), minor adjustments, such as saddle height, etc., can be made. If you are non-standard in relative proportions, you will benefit by selecting a bike that best accomodates your proportions. I was extrememly lucky when I bought my Trek 2300 last year. It has a longish top tube, which fits my torso (reach). After getting in about 600 mi, the only discomfort I had was in my knees, which was eliminated by raising the saddle a bit.

    The models you've identified should work well. With your pre-existing back issues, you probably want to be sitting a little more upright than racer-boy position, and those models are designed to do just that.

    Traditional frames (level top tube), do have a lot of sizes. Compact geometry frames (sloping top tubes) have fewer sizes(usually S, M, L), and rely on adjustments of stem, seat height, etc. Just remember that compact frames may not have room for two water bottles and a pump.

    Other posters have provided great info re clubs, their experience, etc. Try to buy from a shop close to home, unless you are totally comfortable with repairs. Include in your budget clothing (winter & summer), and good shoes and pedals. The best investment I've made in my bike is a pair of $250 Shimano carbon soled shoes.

    Oh, and all you need to do to get "relaxed geometry" on a traditional frame is to get a shorter, higher rise stem, and move the seat up a little closer. Good Luck!

  6. #6
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    I don't know whether we were lucky or just took advantage of our local LBS. We spent several Saturday afternoons taking bicycles out for extended rides that included a short steep hills, a long hill, several good long grades (and the consequent down-hills!), and a good "balls-out" level run. The shop gave us free rein; except for the 'easy rejects', our rides lasted 45 minutes to an hour. Admittedly, they were able to do this because they are in a small town; all of this could be accomplished without heading out into the open countryside.

    My wife had been intrigued by the idea of a "comfort" bike; one good steep uphill ended that; it proved to be an "easy reject". The testing was doubly good in that my wife realized she liked a more aggresssive seating posture and she preferred road bike gearing. All good news; because when she is happy on her bike I am happy on mine. The testing moved us hundreds of dollars up-market ; but, we bought what we bought because they were right for our style of riding.

  7. #7
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Some bike shops have a group ride leaving from the shop every week. Some are recreational. You might be able to do a longer test ride if a bike shop employee is on the ride with you. My LBS allows test rides on the Wednesday night ride of about 15 to 20 miles. The owner always goes on the ride anyway.

  8. #8
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    Thanks everyone for your responses. I am looking into club rides and will be using the competitive cyclist fit calculator.

    I only hope I do not have to wait until spring to be able to try any of these bikes. Winter is long and hard up here and most bike shops have let their inventory drop to very low levels. One shop I went to today had put away all their bike supplies and restocked with skies and snow boards another closes its doors in a few weeks for the winter. They have all said that they will not bring in any new stock until spring.

  9. #9
    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    Don't forget:

    1. you might be able to rent a bike you want to test,

    2. don't neglect road bikes. The top position on road bars is idential to hybrid. Just make sure you get the extra brake levers. Road bikes give you 3 body positions, and hybrid only give 1 or 2. Sometimes when the body is getting sore, it really helps to change position without stopping.

    3. keep the bike weight under 25 lbs, 20 would be ideal. Try not to get alum frame so ride is easier on body.

    4. seriously look at recumbents and see if they would work for you. Short Wheel Base, high rider, like a biachi.

    It is winter, but that also means you can find great bargains. Inner bike starts wed in Nev and many dealers will get hyped by that event and find out how out of style their inventory is.
    Don't accept bargain for a bike that is not right for you. First right bike and then best buy.
    Take your time, research and ask. Look at roadbikereview.com and don't sweat about how long it takes to get up to speed on current availabilities.
    Hi 'o Silver away

  10. #10
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    Top tube length is critical for some of us folks with weird bodies.

    I am 6 feet and my clothing inseam is 29".

    This translated to a Lemond Burnos Aires with a longer top tube, and even with that, very little standover height (which is the least important measurement in bicycle fit).

    As far as materials and ride quality, there are extended debates on the "tekkie" bicycle forums about this issue, with most concluding that geometry, design and tires are much more significant as to ride quality over materials of construction.

    Please see SHeldon Brown's "myths" section on frame materials. While specifically about touring, the principles would apply in all other situations as well.

    A good LBS fitter should be able to help you with measurements to best insure a fit even before trying out a bike. In my situation, being a total neophyte, I left the entire thing up to a well-respected LBS, who did a perfect job in selecting a bike for my needs, the proper sizes, and adjusting it to my bod. To be honest, I didn't even go for a test ride, and everything was perfection and still is, althoug 5 years later I made some adjustments for my changing body.
    Last edited by DnvrFox; 09-27-05 at 11:33 AM.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by DnvrFox
    ...very little standover height (which is the least important measurement in bicycle fit)...
    Everybody says this - even Sheldon Brown, but I defy anyone to ride a bike that is too tall and say that standover height is the "least important measurement!" Especially after the first emergency dismount or two!

    I'm an iconoclast on this matter, but I still say that standover height (although only one of several factors in fit) is STILL, and ALWAYS the MOST important factor! Everything else is secondary if the bike's just too tall!

  12. #12
    Email for new group DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FarHorizon
    Everybody says this - even Sheldon Brown, but I defy anyone to ride a bike that is too tall and say that standover height is the "least important measurement!" Especially after the first emergency dismount or two!

    I'm an iconoclast on this matter, but I still say that standover height (although only one of several factors in fit) is STILL, and ALWAYS the MOST important factor! Everything else is secondary if the bike's just too tall!
    Beg to differ, especially on a roadie. A road bike simply does not have this need as a mtn bike does. After 15,000+ miles on roadies I have never been faced with this issue, and the way I dismount and handle the bike would fully negate the need for excessive stand over height. For someone with a 29" inseam and a 6' body, choices get very slim, indeed! Either crunch my upper body or have less SO height.

    Somehow I don't follow your logic about a bike that it "too tall" having a lack of standover height, especially when I was discussing myself with a 29" pants inseam. Think about your statement just a bit more. My bike is only 56cm - definitely not "too tall" for a 6 footer.

    But, this will turn into a "he said" - "she said" discussion, and I will bow out. However, you are welcome to argue with Sheldon. He frequents the bike mechanic section quite regularly. I guess, given the choice, I would go with Sheldon's opinion.
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  13. #13
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    As long as there some amount of clearance between the top tube and your body, the focus should be on the top tube length. One inch of clearance is generally recommended (to hard bone), but less than that is okay with many people. For people with short legs proportional to their body height, compact frames with sloping top tubes are a good thing to consider. Bicycle fitting for recreational riders is an overblown subject. Any decent bike store should be able to put you on a frame that fits comfortably with minor adjustments. Just make sure they know whether you want to race or to be comfortable on long rides. Also, let them know how flexible you are and if you have weak back muscles, etc. The Trek Pilot and Giant OCR CF bikes are excellent choices for riders seeking good road bikes that ride comfortably. The latter is very lighweight too.

  14. #14
    Email for new group DnvrFox's Avatar
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    For people with short legs proportional to their body height, compact frames with sloping top tubes are a good thing to consider
    Yes. I don't think they were too readily available or popular when I bought my Lemond in 1998. At least I was not aware of that option. I would certainly consider it today, though.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacco
    As long as there some amount of clearance between the top tube and your body, the focus should be on the top tube length.
    I agree wholeheartedly, Bacco. The first phrase of your sentence, though, is what Denver, Sheldon, and so many others here on bikeforums tend to ignore or denigrate. That "some amount of clearance" is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL! Without it, a bike ride is just an injury waiting to happen. To paraphrase a current Chrysler commercial: "If the top tube is too high, then you must not buy!"

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