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Is The Test Ride Misleading?

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Is The Test Ride Misleading?

Old 12-15-14, 06:43 PM
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Is The Test Ride Misleading?

I test rode a specialized secteur that is supposed to be my correct size (54 cm). I have a bit of standover clearance and the top tube is the right size. I also test rode the same bike one size smaller (52) and enjoyed test riding this bike far more.

I posted about this issue in another thread, and one of the posters said that "the parking lot test ride" is deceiving since it doesn't mimic actual rides. The emphasis is on lots of sharp corners and the test ride itself is too short.

I took these comments into account when test riding the 54 cm. I just felt like the test ride was 'boring.' The bike felt extremely neutral but I didn't get any sense of a 'fun to ride' factor. I test rode on the street, not in the lot and as long as I felt necessary to get a sense of the bike's ride quality, steering and comfort level.


I got a far different impression from a 52 cm version of the same bike. It felt alot easier to turn and just generally felt like it was far more enjoyable to ride.

Do any of you find that the "parking lot test ride" is indeed deceiving? Does "quick handling" translate into "twitchy steering" on longer, actual rides?

I felt like in terms of spec, sizing and price, that the 54 cm secteur would have been the right bike but the test ride left me underwhelmed.
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Old 12-15-14, 06:54 PM
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Only if you don't know what you want in terms of fit and feel. Don't test ride a bike that isn't fitted to you.
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Old 12-15-14, 07:12 PM
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ALL BIKE TESTS are basically blind tests unless you have the bike for a solid week.

The parking lot test doesn't really do anything unless you're going from a 1. heavy bike to lighter 2. relaxed to aggressive geometry/position.
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Old 12-15-14, 07:17 PM
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test rides and real world rides are different things. like dating and marriage. one's a sprint, the other one's a marathon.
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Old 12-15-14, 07:25 PM
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Test rides are really important because once you get out into the parking lot the paint can look different in the sun.
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Old 12-15-14, 07:47 PM
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I don't test ride any bikes
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Old 12-15-14, 08:09 PM
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Originally Posted by pdedes
I don't test ride any bikes
Yeah, I've never test ridden a bike despite buying eight of them over the years.
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Old 12-15-14, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by hueyhoolihan
test rides and real world rides are different things. like dating and marriage. one's a sprint, the other one's a marathon.
I'm a sprinter, which bike should I buy?
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Old 12-15-14, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug28450
I'm a sprinter, which bike should I buy?
Consider renting.
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Old 12-15-14, 09:26 PM
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There's a difference in feeling from riding a smaller bike.
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Old 12-15-14, 09:46 PM
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The longer the better with a test ride. Ideally replicating conditions that you will be riding in. When I was shopping for a new bike, I eliminated shops that would only allow a parking lot test. I test rode my new bike, the BMC, about 10 miles. Even that seems laughably short to me now, that is my endurance bike. But that was as far as the shop would let me go, it's not like there were tons of BMC GF01s around in my frame size to test.

The guy who sold me my used bike, the Trek Madone, gave it to me for 3 days to test ride, I think I rode it 150 miles on my normal cycling routes. It was really easy to know the bike would work for me after that kind of test ride.

So I would say the longer the better, especially if you are inexperienced and not sure of what you want. My two bikes have a very different feel to them, the BMC just kind of lopes along forever, very easy to take. The Madone is a quick bike, it's literally faster than the BMC, but just every little movement it makes is quick.

As to frame size, what matters most is what works for you once you manage a decent test ride with a decent fit. My Madone is technically a bigger frame size than my BMC, but the BMC always feels like the "big" bike when I ride it.
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Old 12-16-14, 10:53 AM
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I test rode a CAAD10 and Synapse last week, I made sure to do as much research on the terrain that I ride normally and tried to match that on streets around the shop. I was lucky to find hills similar to those I would normally ride and got a really good feel for each of the bikes. The shop has a 30 minute test ride policy.

I'm glad I did because the CAAD10 I rode had an 11-25 cassette, but what I really liked was the 12-30 on the Synapse, but didn't like the Endurance fit. I was able to throw the 12-30 on the CAAD10 and walk away with a new bike that will rip around great on my normal routes.
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Old 12-16-14, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by hueyhoolihan
test rides and real world rides are different things. like dating and marriage. one's a sprint, the other one's a marathon.
it takes me about a year to decide if i really like a bike.
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Old 12-17-14, 01:17 AM
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My LBS owner watched me test ride a few Cannondale CAADs to figure out which size worked best for me before they placed an order for my CAAD10. I always thought a 54 would be the perfect size for me but riding a 52 for a few blocks made me realize how clumsy and stretched out the 54 felt.
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Old 12-17-14, 01:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Snakepit
My LBS owner watched me test ride a few Cannondale CAADs to figure out which size worked best for me before they placed an order for my CAAD10. I always thought a 54 would be the perfect size for me but riding a 52 for a few blocks made me realize how clumsy and stretched out the 54 felt.
I'm in a similar situation: the 54 secteur I test rode felt like a cruiser. The 52 cm version felt like a pocket rocket.

You're really lucky that you have a quality shop. The ones I visit locally just don't care. You either buy the bike or you don't. Proper sizing and builds are kind of an after thought.
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Old 12-17-14, 02:17 AM
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It looks like I may forego the test ride altogether and go with a BD bike.

The one feature that I can find rather easily with BD is a road bike with at triple crank. Since I'm returning to road riding, I want gearing with tighter ratios plus a nice, low gear.

I'll have to trust the geometry charts for proper sizing. I have the same choice however: slightly smaller for faster handling or slightly larger for a more stable ride (?). I

I want to purchase by end of. Jan. just so I actually buy a bike.
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Old 12-17-14, 03:28 AM
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I'll know the geometry I want for a bike going in on buying it. I find a bike that has the components I want for a price point that's comfortable for me, and ensure that I like how it looks.

No test ride happens.

Granted, I take the fit thing to a bit of an extreme, given that before I bought my last bike I went to a retül fitter who does fitting for several of the world tour teams, and we went through my fit until I had a good idea, within less than a centimeter, of my preferred stack and reach, and the positioning of the three contact points relative to that. Bought the new bike, put things in place, and it's been great ever since.
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Old 12-17-14, 06:27 AM
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I just bought a Domane 5.2 on Monday and last week as asked my shop if I could have it over the weekend so I could take it out on a ride. Did 20 miles on it Saturday and was sold. If you can, I recommend you asking your LBS if you can have it overnight to be able ride it. It is nice just to be able to ride without the sales guy watching you and really take your time to figure out if the bike is for you. I will also say that I have a real good relationship with my bike shop so it was easier for me to ask this of them. I realize not everyone has that same type of relationship so it my vary.

Love that Domane tho. It is technically a lower grade carbon than the 11 6 series Madone that it is replacing. But it sure does not feel that way.
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Old 12-17-14, 06:53 AM
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i test rode a lot of bikes, no parking lot test though. i would be gone a good 20 minutes each time riding through back streets on real world roads. i knew what i liked and knew right away what felt the absolute best. lesson, leave the parking lot. go explore.
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Old 12-17-14, 01:14 PM
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I was in the same issue and ended up with 2 bikes. A roubaix for long rides as it has a more comfortable sit up fit, and a tarmac that's a little smaller, and snappier for the shorter rides. It's like an Audi A8 and an A4. I enjoy ridding the tarmac "A4" more as it's like a little sports car just waiting to take corners and open up in the stretch, but after 20 miles and I'm tired it's a long ride home. However the roubaix is like an A8 and is quick and responsive, but much more comfortable on longer rides where you just want to get in a groove and peddle for hours.
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Old 12-17-14, 02:57 PM
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I'm a believer in tests for bikes you don't have experience with yet, though I think that puttering around a parking lot is fairly useless. With the exception of rides I quickly abandon because I know they're not a match, I take them out for long rides -- miles at least over different kinds of conditions. As far as making the bike fit, you can rough fit a bike in a couple minutes well enough to know if the way it behaves is even in the ballpark. There are a lot of ways to make the same bike feel very different, but it's still useful.

Different kinds of bikes handle very differently and if you're contemplating different geometries and aren't quite sure what you like, I think it's nuts not to at least see if a bike is something you might want to get used to.

I've never had trouble getting test rides. Even when I make it crystal clear I'm not buying, they'll often invite me to go for a spin. But I probably ride a much wider range of geometries than most people here. You're not going to guess how a bike like I tried a few weeks ago is going to handle until you try....

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Old 12-18-14, 08:36 PM
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I am not a big believer in the test ride. I pay attention to the geometry and know what I want after looking at that. Test rides have never shown me much.
A good fit on a bike that is the right size works for me.
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Old 12-19-14, 06:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Heathpack
The longer the better with a test ride. Ideally replicating conditions that you will be riding in. When I was shopping for a new bike, I eliminated shops that would only allow a parking lot test. I test rode my new bike, the BMC, about 10 miles. Even that seems laughably short to me now, that is my endurance bike. But that was as far as the shop would let me go, it's not like there were tons of BMC GF01s around in my frame size to test.

The guy who sold me my used bike, the Trek Madone, gave it to me for 3 days to test ride, I think I rode it 150 miles on my normal cycling routes. It was really easy to know the bike would work for me after that kind of test ride.

So I would say the longer the better, especially if you are inexperienced and not sure of what you want. My two bikes have a very different feel to them, the BMC just kind of lopes along forever, very easy to take. The Madone is a quick bike, it's literally faster than the BMC, but just every little movement it makes is quick.

As to frame size, what matters most is what works for you once you manage a decent test ride with a decent fit. My Madone is technically a bigger frame size than my BMC, but the BMC always feels like the "big" bike when I ride it.
Questions:

How far can a new bike be ridden for test rides before no one is interested in paying the new price for the bike because it has mileage on it?

If a shop lets a bike got for a day or two, and that happens in the summer two or three times a week, is that bike used?

If I am selling bikes, do I need each fame size in each bike and brand I sell so anyone can test ride it?

The average shop would have a lot of capital tied up in test ride bikes to allow people to cruise around on them to their heart's content.
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Old 12-19-14, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by roadwarrior
Questions:

How far can a new bike be ridden for test rides before no one is interested in paying the new price for the bike because it has mileage on it?

If a shop lets a bike got for a day or two, and that happens in the summer two or three times a week, is that bike used?

If I am selling bikes, do I need each fame size in each bike and brand I sell so anyone can test ride it?

The average shop would have a lot of capital tied up in test ride bikes to allow people to cruise around on them to their heart's content.
Sure, totally agree those are the constraints the LBS are operating under. These are the reasons why a test ride is typically shorter than most of us would like. But the answer stands: for a test ride, the longer the better. You just have to see what the shop will allow. There is a place of compromise which allows the customer to get an adequate test ride and the shop to protect/minimize its $ outlay. A shop needing to maintain expensive inventory is the reason that I'm willing to pay more $ for buying from a shop vs online store, that's only fair to them. But if a shop won't allow a decent test ride on the road, say 10ish miles, I probably wouldn't buy a bike from them. Or at least I wouldn't have at the experience level that I had when I was shopping most recently.
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Old 12-19-14, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by newbie101
It looks like I may forego the test ride altogether and go with a BD bike.

The one feature that I can find rather easily with BD is a road bike with at triple crank. Since I'm returning to road riding, I want gearing with tighter ratios plus a nice, low gear.

I'll have to trust the geometry charts for proper sizing. I have the same choice however: slightly smaller for faster handling or slightly larger for a more stable ride (?). I

I want to purchase by end of. Jan. just so I actually buy a bike.
If you decide to buy on line, the fit calculator on www.competitivecyclist.com is worth checking out. it worked well for me. I did have my bike professionally fit after buying, only very minor adjustments were made.
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