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Old 05-05-09, 11:54 AM   #1
musikat
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How to "test ride" when you are WAY out of practice?

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.

Any tips??

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)

Thanks!
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Old 05-05-09, 01:01 PM   #2
HardyWeinberg
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Some bikes will feel right or wrong right off the bat, but if you can ride one for half an hour that would be better yet.
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Old 05-05-09, 01:07 PM   #3
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There is not much science to it. If you stick with the name brands and a good shop, you'll be fine.

I do recommend the test rides though. I think the key is to test ride enough of them that you get an idea of what you like. The idea being that eventually you will figure out what you prefer, even if you can't describe it, you'll have a good sense of it. Try not to get sucked into the hype of a certain bike but try to focus on how it rides, handles and shifts. If you have hills, check out the lowest gear on the bike, do you think you can pedal up your steepest hill and maybe have a lower gear or two left (for when you are tired). Is the biggest gear big enough for how fast you want to go. Is this an internal hub or a cluster type arrangement? Internal hubs are pretty much limited and fixed with what gears they have. Clusters have wider options, can be changed and probably will be changed over the life of the bike.

You'll find some differences in how bikes handle which you may or may not notice. You will likely adjust to whichever one you choose. It is even more important to be properly fitted to a bike and to get a saddle that is comfortable to you. They will go much further to making biking enjoyable than choosing an upgrade to components.

Figure in the extras like helmet, shorts, gloves, etc. You may find that you want clipless pedals too but you can do that later if you like. Consider learning some basic maintenance and getting parts (inner tube, pump, patch, tire irons, allen and nut wrenches, screwdriver, bike bag).

Good luck.
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Old 05-05-09, 01:13 PM   #4
Jerry in So IL
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I have a slightly different approach on bikes. I feel anything under $700 is just about the same thing in a different name/color.

But in crank forwards, I would try to find a RANS. They are higher, but there is NOTHING that compares to them in weight, power transfer, and style.

Jerry
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Old 05-05-09, 04:09 PM   #5
Tom Bombadil
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Tough question.

You want to find a bike that you enjoy riding, that will motivate you to get on it. But that perception on a limited riding experience can be highly influenced by how the bike is set up. Things like the seat being in the right position, how the handlebars are set up, if the shifting system is properly adjusted, etc. Try to get these adjusted for you by the shop before you take a ride, so you can more fairly compare the different bikes.

You have a decent list of bikes. The Suede and Townie are nice, comfortable pedal-forward bikes that most people like a lot. The Raleigh Circa looks like a nice bike, especially the Circa 2 with its very nice 8-speed internal hub. Technically, it is only a bit "pedal forward", not as much as the Townie or Suede.

There really is no way to determine how well you will like a bike in 2-3 months, after you've ridden a lot. Many people who purchase comfort bikes and then get in better riding condition, are quickly ready to move up to a higher performance bike. Even if you do that, you haven't wasted your money, because that bike did get you in better shape.

If you are limited to short test rides, then pay attention to how comfortable you feel on the bike. Is it fun to ride? Does it make you want to ride further? I've had test rides where after 5 minutes, I couldn't wait to get off of the bike. Swoop it around some turns and see if you are confident in its handling.

BTW, the Townies and Raleighs are on sale through May 10 from REI, if you have one of those near you.
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Old 05-05-09, 04:13 PM   #6
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Oh, if you can ride any of the Giant Suedes, then do so. Don't worry about riding the one with any particular gearing. The overall feel of the bike will be the same. Then if you like it, buy it in the gearing that you desire.
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