Online shopping has made it almost too easy to buy a bike. But just like purchasing a car, you’ll probably want to take it out for a spin before you shell out your hard-earned cash. Here’s everything you need to know about test riding a bike so you can get the most out of the experience (and your buck) and determine which model is right for you.
Most bike shops have deals with certain bike manufacturers and only sell their models. If the bike shop around the corner only carries Cannondale and Trek, but you’d like to try a Specialized road bike, for instance, you might have to find a different shop.
Once you confirm your intended bike shop has the model you want to test, you’ll also want to make sure they have the correct size frame. If you aren’t sure what size you need, it’s a good idea to head into the shop first and let them take some basic measurements for a bike fit. Some bikes shops charge fees for test rides or may have other rules, so make sure you inquire about these as well.
When you have a test ride scheduled, show up prepared and ready to ride. Here are a few items you’ll want to bring:
- Cycling jersey and shorts
- Pedals and shoes
- A preferred saddle, if you have one
- Accessories such as sunglasses and gloves
Bringing these items ensures you’re as comfortable as possible during your test ride and gives you a true feeling of what it will be like to own that particular model. Keep in mind, you may also need to leave your driver’s license or a deposit with the bike shop while you’re out, so bring these items, too, if required.
A big mistake many cyclists make during a test ride is hopping on the bike in regular street clothes and only riding around the block. If you’re buying a beach cruiser, this may be all you need. But if you’re purchasing a road or mountain bike, you’ll want to simulate how you’ll be using the bike as closely as possible. While this might not mean you can head out for a six-hour ride, 30 minutes should be doable as long as you get on the same page with the bike shop.
It might not take this long to determine you don’t like the bike you’re riding, but it will take at least this much time to decide which of the bikes you do like during testing is the best. During the test ride, try to take the bike on a climb or two, see how it corners and sprints, and determine whether there is anything about the bike that’s holding you back or is uncomfortable.
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There’s always going to be one or two models that appeal to you aesthetically. While this is certainly OK, try not to zone in on one model before riding it. In fact, even if you love the first bike you try after test riding it, always ride a few more models just to be sure. Try bikes above and below this price range and note any pros and cons. Chances are there will be a few other bikes you like just as well or maybe even more than the original bike you were drooling over online. Ideally you’ll be riding this bike for years to come, so it’s important not to settle and to find the bike that’s truly perfect for you.
Even if you love the bike you’ve ridden, don’t make a rash decision. Test ride one or two bikes one day and a few more the next. Don’t be pressured to buy anything on the spot. Instead, take your time and think about it for a few days after all your test rides are complete. Decide on the best model you can afford within your budget so you won’t have to upgrade in a year or two. Also make sure the model you’re going to buy suits your riding style and is equipped with the width of tire, handlebar and other components you’re looking for.
How the bike shop treats you is also important, as it’s likely you’ll be doing business with them in the future for tune ups and repairs. If the bike shop isn’t providing you with the service you expect, don’t be afraid to shop around for the same bike at a different shop.