I am narrowing down my search for a bike. I have "sat" on several models in the stores and took one (the Townie) for a short up and down the sidewalk ride (it was raining and I had my toddler with me in a stroller). I need to get to some shops this weekend and test ride some, but I want some ideas on what to look for. I know how to test a car, but not a bike.
One of my issues is that several of the bike shops are in crowded strip malls, so there isn't a good place to test ride without a lot of cars. And of course all the riding is flat surface. The other issue is that I don't feel all that confident on a bike at the moment. So how can I get a sense of how the bike will feel when I am actually riding it in my neighborhood after a few weeks' practice? What are some of the things I should look for?
There is one bike shop that has a new building behind it with a fairly empty parking lot and even a hill to try, but they only carry Raleigh and Jamis. They can special order a Giant Suede for me (one of my strongest contenders right now) but don't want to do it on my "whim" if I am not going to buy it. I like the way that one "feels" best just sitting on it, but have no idea about the actual rides of any of these yet. Another store has the Giant DX (21 speed instead of the 7 I am looking at) but it is located at a crowded mall.
My short list is:
Giant Suede X womens frame
Electra Townie 7D or 21D
Raleigh Venture (although I may rule that one out or in this afternoon when I go look at it. They didn't have my size last week)
Raleigh Circa (if they have one to try, since I like the pedal forward idea)