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Test Riding

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Test Riding

Old 08-30-10, 03:19 AM
  #1  
seejohnbike
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Test Riding

So, I searched around a bit, but found no direct answers to my question.

I'm looking for a road bike, hopefully a 2010 on clearance, with Sram Rival (maybe Apex) components. But that's a little beside the point. Bikes I'm looking at are along the lines of:
-Specialized Allez Comp
-Cannondale CAAD9 4
-Kuota Korsa Lite
-BMC Road Racer SL01

Aside from the minor price differences, the bikes all seem pretty similar: identical groupsets (save for compact vs standard drivetrains), similar geo, alu frame w/ carbon fork, set up the same etc, etc. Your opinions are certainly welcome, but overall, my decision will probably depend upon a test ride, and maybe a little based on what kind of perks each LBS offers, relative to how far I actually have to go to get to said LBS (one 'LBS' in contention is 10 miles away. Another is literally around the corner.)

Anyway, my real question, what's a 'proper' way to test ride a bike, or what are some things to definitely do while on the test ride? I'm aware that each bike shop may have different policies regarding test rides, but I'm still trying to shake out the differences between similar bikes on a test ride, as opposed to miles and miles of thorough testing/tweaking and in-depth comparison. Also, test rides will be scattered over a handful of bike shops, depending on the lines they carry, and maybe even over several days. What's the best way to 'normalize' your review of a bike from one shop, to the next, or to somehow try to quantify results of a test ride, if you can't directly/immediately compare one bike to another?

For the tl;dr crowd: your opinions on the above listed bikes (or similar), and how would you best put a bike through its paces on a test ride?

Last edited by seejohnbike; 08-30-10 at 03:22 AM.
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Old 08-30-10, 03:55 AM
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rollin
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That's a great choice to have.

For me a test ride is at least 40-50km. Mix of the type of riding I will be doing.

A ride around the block isn't going to tell you much.

Not everyone will let you ride that long but that will also tell you about the LBS. To be fair not all LBSs are going to have your size available for test.

If you already have your own saddle and pedals then take them along.

Your heart will tell you as much as your head.

Choosing a new bike is a good "problem" to have!
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Old 08-30-10, 05:12 AM
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I have to wonder how much a test ride really tells you about a bike, especially given the typical 73/73 geometries of most road bikes. I'd think that the saddle and tires will play a huge role in determining what the ride feels like - and small differences in fit (saddle setback, stem, handlebars) also add another layer of variables to the mix. That would make it really hard to do a real A/B comparison, no?

V.
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Old 08-30-10, 04:16 PM
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Well, I know I can't get around some of the differences, but as far as setup goes, I can still pump the tires to the same pressures before a test ride, adjust the seat setback (maybe brind my own saddle), saddle to bar drop the same, etc etc. Although the stems and bars themselves differ, fit-wise, they shouldn't be too different.

Also, I would be buying a complete bike, so although I can replace other components, I'll still have to be test riding and comparing complete bike vs complete bike.
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Old 08-30-10, 06:14 PM
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Set them up the same and ride them back-to-back. I'll bet one of them will "speak" to you more than the others. I did this and it was pretty clear to me after my ride. Ultimately, they're all good bikes and there's no wrong decision so go buy one and spend your time riding rather than agonizing over the decision.
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Old 08-30-10, 06:39 PM
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No need to test ride. The Cannondale is the best, and if you might be able to score a Cannondeal on it your LBS is desperate.

I do want to note that "best" is subjective. "Right" people like the Cannondale while "wrong" people don't You decide which group you fall into.
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Old 08-31-10, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by vkalia View Post
I have to wonder how much a test ride really tells you about a bike, especially given the typical 73/73 geometries of most road bikes. I'd think that the saddle and tires will play a huge role in determining what the ride feels like - and small differences in fit (saddle setback, stem, handlebars) also add another layer of variables to the mix. That would make it really hard to do a real A/B comparison, no?

V.
Originally Posted by rollin View Post
If you already have your own saddle and pedals then take them along.

Your heart will tell you as much as your head.
We agree
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Old 08-31-10, 09:16 AM
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I just bought a new 2011 Trek 6.7 Madone SSL (Project One). Not only do you need to test ride it but after you buy it test it again for fit. Right now my steer is uncut and looks goofy because of the spacers. I am riding it for a few more days to find the length of the steer I want for a perfect fit and feel. Once you get your new ride the LBS should fit you to it however you need to ride it again and then tell them how it felt so that they can fine tune your fit. There is nothing worse than getting a new bike and then after a month of riding it you figure out the fit is wrong because the bike is kicking you butt.
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Old 08-31-10, 10:07 AM
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Here's a link to a lengthy post I wrote on this subject...
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Old 08-31-10, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
Here's a link to a lengthy post I wrote on this subject...
Great post, but regarding choosing a LBS vs choosing a bike, not all of us have the option to try out multiple LBS's that stock the same brand. For example, my "L"BS for Specialized is 50 miles away, and the next closest one is 120 miles away. The 50 mile away shop that I am buying from isn't spectacular (have to pay an additional $70 for a comprehensive fit on a trainer after spending $2000 on a new bike...), but my only other option is to buy an extremely overpriced Trek from the fantastic LBS down the road.
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Old 08-31-10, 10:56 AM
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I just picked up the BMC SL01 for my son from CC... I think it would be hard to beat that package at that price... one nice bike... he came off a Specialized Allez Elite and I think the BMC is a nicer package... he seems to climb better with it and get more out of sprints with the BMC... don't wait too long on it though, CC has had them on sale for a while and they will dry up soon I'm sure... good luck with your testing...
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Old 08-31-10, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
Here's a link to a lengthy post I wrote on this subject...
Good post - I agree, those are about the only things you can judge, especially stiffness and stability. My Damocles is noticeably stiffer and snappier than my Excalibur. Also, I find the Excal to be more stable/easier to ride no-handed than my Al BMC, even though both bikes are virtually identical in set-up and geometry.

However, my Excalibur feels like a completely different bike with Mich PR3s on it, as opposed to the Hutch Fusion IIs I had on it earlier. A slight adjustment of the handlebars and I can ride it for 6 hours straight without any problems vs getting a pinched ulnar nerve (when I first got it). Etc. etc.

I can state with some degree of confidence (although not 100%) what attribute belongs to the bike simply b/c after months of using and changing components, I know what has changed and what hasnt. But on a shorter test, I'd be hard put to say what's the bike and what's the different components.

As rollin said, taking your own pedals and seat will probably help - and as seejohnbike says, you are buying a complete bike so in a way, it doesnt matter what's the bike and what's the component... if it feels better, it feels better.

V.
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