Test rides (and strange bike shops)

rah2501
rah2501 Posts: 49
edited February 2012 in Road beginners
Hi all,

I've been looking to buy a road bike from one of the local bike shops. I've assumed that the process for doing this would be something along the lines of the following:

1. Go to a shop and find a bike you like the look of
2. Take it for a test ride
3. Decide you don't like it
4. Go to a shop (possibly a different shop) and find another bike you like the look of
5. Take it for a test ride
6. Decide you don't like it
7. Go to a shop (possibly a different shop) and find another bike you like the look of
8. Take it for a test ride
9. Decide you liked the second bike best and buy it

This seems quite reasonable to me; I can't imagine buying a bike I haven't ridden. However, I recently had quite a confusing interaction with one of the local shops.

I went in and spoke at length to one of their people. We arranged for me to take a bike for a test ride the next weekend. It was the wrong sized frame, the next size up, but it was just for me to get an idea of what the bike was like as they had that one in the shop. We also spoke about a different manufacturer and he told me their 2012 bikes would be coming in at some point early in the year. I said I might wait until they were in so that I could test ride one of their bikes and with a proper sized frame. All, as I thought, was fine.

So, on the weekend just gone I went in to the shop, spoke to a different guy (the original guy I spoke to wasn't in) and took out the bike I'd arranged to, after they'd kindly put my pedals on it. I paid a £500 deposit and went on my merry way. I had a wonderful ride, really enjoyed it compared to my mountain bike. Then, a few hours later when I returned to the shop things got a bit strange.

While I was waiting for them to remove my pedals I was chatting to the guy who had taken my deposit. It was quite odd though, he seemed to be trying really hard to alay any concerns I had about riding road bikes, like the fact that I found the Sram gear changers difficult on the bike I took out. To me, that's just par for the course; something I'd pick up after a while using them. However, he made the effort of showing me to lots of different bikes and the different changers on them, really going to some length to try and get the point accross that there were different gear changers in existance. Which I found quite insulting and condescending.

Then, we kept talking and talking, or rather he kept talking and talking. They finished taking my pedals off the bike and I thought that was it, I'd get my deposit and off I go. But the guy just kept on talking and talking, and not really listening to what I was saying, just dismissing it out of hand and trying to tell me what I should think. For example he just didn't seem to listen about my wanting to take out one of the other manufacturer's bikes before jumping in to buy one. At one point, he said the £500 deposit would be taken off the price of a bike and then I knew there was a misunderstanding. I said I would want to take out a bike before buying it. His view seemed to be that, I just go to them and "buy bike" and if there's any problems they'll deal with it; for example, the wrong sized frame, wrong model, etc. Eventually he seemed to get the idea that I wasn't just going to shell out for a bike from a page in a catalogue.

This is where it gets more bizarre, though. He went off to ask his manager when the new 2012 models from the other manufacturer would be in so that I might give them a test ride. He came back and said that they were available now and that I could order one. He also said that I would only be able to put it on the stand in the shop or take it up and down the pavement outside; I wouldn't be able to take it out and ride it properly. I asked him where the bike came from that I'd just taken out and he said it belonged to one of the manager's mates! After that, I just said about the deposit refund, got it and left. The guy seemed really dejected, as if he'd expected that I would just trust in the shop and buy whatever they gave to me. In fact, his general attitude made me distrust him and, coupled with what seems like deceit in giving me the manager's mate's bike, I think it's unlikely I'll go back.


Anyway, the whole experience has made me question the 9-step process I gave at the start of this post. I went to another shop previously and they also seemed reluctant to offer test rides. I presumed it was the norm to take out a bike before buying it but now I'm not so sure. And if it's not the case that this is norm, how can one decide which bike to buy?

Advice would be appreciated.
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Comments

  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 42,201
    Most bike shops are fairly small businesses. To enable a test ride they would have to have a demonstrator of each model in each size and the bikes would then have to be sold off at a later date as used. It just isn't practical for them. Some larger shops will offer the opportunity and some, such as Epic Cycles, let you go and get a proper ride in when testing.
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    It's a bit of a problem really. You correctly want to test a bike out but that's a big issue for the shop. Imagine that each model of bike comes in five sizes and that each manufacturer has a five model range and that the shop only sells five brands. That means that to cover all options, a bike shop would need 125 test bikes a year. If they can't afford to do that, the only option they have is to let your roll up and down the pavement outside because, any more than that and the bike has depreciated from new to second hand (which means that they'll make a loss on it).

    Ultimately, this is why shops like Epic Cycles are so good - there they will set a bike up on the day to fit you specifically and you then get to ride it for many miles (I covered 45 test miles when I went!).

    Edit - lol at Pross and Epic Cycles snap! :lol:
    Faster than a tent.......
  • Pross wrote:
    Most bike shops are fairly small businesses. To enable a test ride they would have to have a demonstrator of each model in each size.

    If that's the case, then how is one expected to make a decision about which bike to buy?
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    If you want to do it more scientifically than "that's a nice colour, I'll have that one" then it's down to research - both in terms of reviews of bikes and assessment of their geommetry. Unless you do ride a significant distance (eg a longer trip than you'd be happy with if you were test driving a car), the test ride probably won't tell you as much as you can learn on the internet anyway.

    Note down what the local shop has to offer in your price range and research online to see what people think of them. The only thing that really matters is fit and a good shop should be able to rule out any bikes that really don't suit. If you have a fairly big budget, a long trip to a shop like Epic is well worth it. I had to make 3 visits there - that's Leeds to nr Kidderminster and back 3 times. It's about a 7 and a half hour trip!
    Faster than a tent.......
  • We had to make an emergancy purchase for the Etape Caledonia last year, I sodded off for 20 mins to test drive the bike I wanted. My blokie crapped himself because he seemed to think I'd absconded when I was just rolling up and down the street behind.

    Sounds like they really needed the sell tbh. If I was going to go to the bother of depositing £500 in a shop I'd probably be thinking of buying a bike from there.

    On weird lbs we have a tiny one next to us. It usually opens at 10am to 3pm, then it might open again at 4pm when the guys done the school run - if not then he's gone home with his kid. Depending on how long the staff and the manager have been out drinking on Friday, and if they've woken up drunk, it might be open on saturday morning - at least until the hangover kicks in (about 2pm). If they've woken up hungover then it might open at 2. You can't go in and browse, you have the staff asking you 90 questions. If you ask for something - eg. I need a pump. He gives you the most expensive one and when you question him he says 'nope, that's the one you need'. Then he'll sell you an attachment for it - one that may or may not fit the expensive pump you've just bought, that you probably don't even need, or know what to do with. Then you're pushed out the door, not really sure about what you've just bought, why you've bought it, but just know it cost a lot more money you intended to spend and are probably never going to use it.

    Mx
    FCN: Brompton: 12, Tourer: 7, Racer: 4

    http://www.60milestonod.blogspot.com
  • It would be completly unreasonable to expect a LBS to allow a test ride on every bike, my LBS is so helpful and friendly but they would not allow people to test ride new bikes first, sit on and try for fit yes but not ride it.

    You have to ask yourself would you be happy to buy a new bike that had been ridden already on a test ride by someone else and pay full price for this.
  • jgsi
    jgsi Posts: 5,062
    rah2501 wrote:
    Pross wrote:
    Most bike shops are fairly small businesses. To enable a test ride they would have to have a demonstrator of each model in each size.

    If that's the case, then how is one expected to make a decision about which bike to buy?

    No one said that bike buying is easy..
    I know it is something that you probably havent considered but quite a few people actually commission a bike to be built from the frame upwards (in some cases that is handbuilt of course )... you never get to ride it until it is finished
  • Cliveyp
    Cliveyp Posts: 173
    I was very impressed by my LBS (wont say the name for fear of advertising, but if i'm allowed I will!). I wouldn't class them as large, although the shop is a reasonable size they are still an independant rather than a chain. I was spending what they would probably class as a small amount for a bike (£600), but yet they bent over backwards to help.

    I dropped in on the off-chance one day to be greeted by a really helpful guy who took the time to find out what I wanted and what my plans were for it, then explained what I may or may not want. At that time he pulled out various modesl from their displays allowing me to sit on and feel what was right. Once i'd pinned it down to two or three they offered me test rides. I wasn't expecting this at all, and wtih time against me I declined for another day.

    Returning a few days later, I was remembered and the bike was checked over for me to take out. Once I got back, they found out which I wanted to try next and sorted that out for me. After 3 different bikes (none of which being the exact model, but representations of - most being one spec up from where I was looking, but I understood this and the differences) they left me to decide which I wanted. There was no deposits paid, although they did take a copy of my driving license so they had an address should I have disappeared!

    Anyway, bringing it back, I'd say your process was what could be expected, but that particular shop (IMO anyway) wouldnt be getting my cash!
    2015 Ridley Fenix 105
    2012 Cube Ltd SL
    2011 Trek 1.2 - Sold
    2001 Giant Boulder - Sold
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 42,201
    rah2501 wrote:
    Pross wrote:
    Most bike shops are fairly small businesses. To enable a test ride they would have to have a demonstrator of each model in each size.

    If that's the case, then how is one expected to make a decision about which bike to buy?

    Get a bike fit done, explain what you want from the bike (tight racy geometry, something slightly more relaxed for all day riding) read reviews beforehand (personal reviews as well as mags that have to protect their advertising revenue) and then pick the bike that you like most that suits your needs and provides the correct fit. It's not rocket science - people have been doing it for decades. Failing that you can buy from somewhere like Wiggle, they send you the bike and if you don't like it you return it within a certain time and providing there is no damage you pay nothing.
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 42,201
    Cliveyp wrote:
    I was very impressed by my LBS (wont say the name for fear of advertising, but if i'm allowed I will!). I wouldn't class them as large, although the shop is a reasonable size they are still an independant rather than a chain. I was spending what they would probably class as a small amount for a bike (£600), but yet they bent over backwards to help.

    I dropped in on the off-chance one day to be greeted by a really helpful guy who took the time to find out what I wanted and what my plans were for it, then explained what I may or may not want. At that time he pulled out various modesl from their displays allowing me to sit on and feel what was right. Once i'd pinned it down to two or three they offered me test rides. I wasn't expecting this at all, and wtih time against me I declined for another day.

    Returning a few days later, I was remembered and the bike was checked over for me to take out. Once I got back, they found out which I wanted to try next and sorted that out for me. After 3 different bikes (none of which being the exact model, but representations of - most being one spec up from where I was looking, but I understood this and the differences) they left me to decide which I wanted. There was no deposits paid, although they did take a copy of my driving license so they had an address should I have disappeared!

    Anyway, bringing it back, I'd say your process was what could be expected, but that particular shop (IMO anyway) wouldnt be getting my cash!

    Always worth naming a shop that offers great service!
  • Rolf F wrote:
    If you want to do it more scientifically than "that's a nice colour, I'll have that one" then it's down to research

    In other words, I'll have to buy a bike from a page in a catalogue :-(
  • rah2501
    rah2501 Posts: 49
    edited February 2012
    It would be completly unreasonable to expect a LBS to allow a test ride on every bike

    According to Cliveyp's experience, this is not at all unreasonable.
  • Cliveyp wrote:
    Returning a few days later, I was remembered and the bike was checked over for me to take out. Once I got back, they found out which I wanted to try next and sorted that out for me. After 3 different bikes (none of which being the exact model, but representations of - most being one spec up from where I was looking, but I understood this and the differences) they left me to decide which I wanted. There was no deposits paid, although they did take a copy of my driving license so they had an address should I have disappeared!

    This is what I want! Why aren't there any shops like this near me, damn it?! :-)

    That said, just out of curiosity, where are you in the UK?
  • It is an interesting one. I would guess that it actually gets worse for more expensive bikes. On the one hand if you are going to spend say 4K or more on a new bike you would really like to try it first. But how many dealers could manage to stock those in different sizes etc?

    You also get a big variation between shops. Some look at you like you must be mad if you ask to test ride a bike. Others have you on the bike and on your way before you even get chance to ask about the new chain that you actually popped in to buy! The real trick is finding a shop that does this but also stocks the bikes you are interested in buying...
  • keef66
    keef66 Posts: 13,123
    That's the very reason I made sure I had business trips that took me within detouring range of Epic Cycles. Great part of the world for test rides too! And good coffee.
  • Pross wrote:
    Get a bike fit done

    I don't know what you mean by "a bike fit".
    Pross wrote:
    explain what you want from the bike

    I want it to go along the road when I pedal. Although I don't think explaining that to the bike is going to help.
    Pross wrote:
    tight racy geometry, something slightly more relaxed for all day riding

    What is "tight" or "relaxed" geometry?
    Pross wrote:
    It's not rocket science- people have been doing it for decades

    Here, you're being a bit like that guy in the shop I wrote about.
  • Cliveyp
    Cliveyp Posts: 173
    Pross wrote:
    Always worth naming a shop that offers great service!

    rah2501 wrote:
    This is what I want! Why aren't there any shops like this near me, damn it?! :-)

    That said, just out of curiosity, where are you in the UK?

    I'm in Worcester. The shop is Worcester Cycle Centre, and I dealt with a guy called Sean during all of my enquiries, but all of the guys there have been more than helpful when i've been in for various things since. If you're in the area, they're literally 5 minutes from M5 Junction 7 in the City Centre.
    2015 Ridley Fenix 105
    2012 Cube Ltd SL
    2011 Trek 1.2 - Sold
    2001 Giant Boulder - Sold
  • pdstsp
    pdstsp Posts: 1,264
    rah2501 wrote:
    Pross wrote:
    Get a bike fit done

    I don't know what you mean by "a bike fit".
    Pross wrote:
    explain what you want from the bike

    I want it to go along the road when I pedal. Although I don't think explaining that to the bike is going to help.
    Pross wrote:
    tight racy geometry, something slightly more relaxed for all day riding

    What is "tight" or "relaxed" geometry?
    Pross wrote:
    It's not rocket science- people have been doing it for decades


    Here, you're being a bit like that guy in the shop I wrote about.


    Ummm - now don't get cross because people are trying to help you here.

    A bike fit is where the shop put you on a jig or on a bike on a stand to look at, measure and fiddle around with your position and to calculate what size and geometry of bike you need, together with saddle, bar positions etc. I had one at Hewitts in Leyland last year and was chuffed to bits with the results (without a test ride!).

    I don't think Pross was suggesting you tell the bike what sort of riding you do - after all most bikes are not great listeners. However you could tell the retailer - it will have a bearing on what he recommends - a full on racing bike, something a bit more relaxed for long all day rides or perhaps a tourer.

    The geometry of the bike will vary with what you use it for - see above.
  • pdstsp wrote:
    A bike fit is where the shop put you on a jig or on a bike on a stand to look at, measure and fiddle around with your position and to calculate what size and geometry of bike you need, together with saddle, bar positions etc.

    Won't every shop have to do that when you buy a bike?
    pdstsp wrote:
    I don't think Pross was suggesting you tell the bike what sort of riding you do - after all most bikes are not great listeners.

    Ah, that's where I've been going wrong :-)
    pdstsp wrote:
    The geometry of the bike will vary with what you use it for

    Vary how, exactly? How do the geometries differ? What is meant by a "tight" geometry compared to a "relaxed" geometry?
  • pdstsp
    pdstsp Posts: 1,264
    Not every shop will do a bike fit. Many will supply the bike you order, make sure the saddle is in roughly the right position and off you go. A bike fit is fairly time consuming and you will often need to book one and then order the bike according to the outcome of the fit. When you pick up the bike it will have been built according to the bike fit results and should fit like a glove. At Hewitts I knew roughly what I wanted but the process started with the fit and then discussion of the frame and components.

    I am in no way an expert on bike geometry but, as I understand it, a full on racing bike will tend to be more aggresive in its geometry with the emphasis on speed - high saddle to low handlebar to give greater aero advantage, stiffer frame to increase power transfer etc etc, while a bike designed for al day riding may well be slighlty less stiff to increase comfort and less aggresive so that you can ride comfortaby on the drops for 60 miles into a headwind!!

    I am sure someone will be along in a minute to give a more scientific response.

    However the advice in this thread is good - do some research and, if you are minded, find a local dealer who will do a bike fit.
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 42,201
    There are bike fits and bike fits. Some will just put you on a bike and say "yep, that's about right" but others will measure all the key dimensions. This will not only affect the frame size chosen but also any standard components fitted such as the stem length or handlebar width can be changed to suit your needs. Most shops will charge for the bike fit but then refund the money if you buy from them.

    When I ask what you want from the bike, what sort of riding do you want to do? If you are looking at racing you may want a bike that has an "aggressive" geomtery that will get you into a lower position and have tighter clearances so that it handles more quickly. If you are looking and long distance touring you will probably want something more upright for comfort with clearances for mudguards and racks or if you want to go out for leisure rides of a few hours on the weekend you might want something in between the two. If you tell a person in a reasonable bike shop what you are looking to do they will make recommendations and it's then a case of picking the one you like the most / fits your budget / is the right colour / has the higher standard of components but the most important thing is the fit.

    I'm not actually sure that anyone can really gain a decent insight into whether a bike is right for them from most test rides especially as, other than adjusting the saddle height, you won't get much chance to fit it to your requirements. You might rule a bike out because the saddle on it doesn't suit you rather than because the bike doesn't suit you.

    Where are you located? Someone will undoubtably be able to recommend a bike shop in your area that offers good advice and fitting service even if they don't offer a a test ride. If you are anywhere near the Midlands it is well worth a drive to Epic in Tenbury Wells.
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    rah2501 wrote:
    Rolf F wrote:
    If you want to do it more scientifically than "that's a nice colour, I'll have that one" then it's down to research

    In other words, I'll have to buy a bike from a page in a catalogue :-(

    No - who mentioned catalogues? All you'll get from the catalogue that is of any use is the geommetry.

    Really, you probably need to give us an idea of your budget. It does have an impact on the process (eg whether Epic is worth the trip). Even the longest test ride is unlikely to give you a feel for what the bike would be like after 5 hours in the saddle though.

    You could do worse than to name your local shop - on the basis that someone here might be able to comment on how useful their advice is. I wouldn't assume that a shop that doesn't allow test rides is a bad one anymore than I'd assume that one that does is necessarily good!
    Faster than a tent.......
  • Rolf F wrote:
    Even the longest test ride is unlikely to give you a feel for what the bike would be like after 5 hours in the saddle though.

    Now I'm even more confused. What do you mean when you say "test ride"? I picked up the bike I rode at about 11am and brought it back about 4pm.
  • rah2501 wrote:
    Now I'm even more confused. What do you mean when you say "test ride"? I picked up the bike I rode at about 11am and brought it back about 4pm.

    rah2501 Not sure exactly what bike you are interested in but if you go to your nearest Specialized Concept Store (find it here http://www.specializedconceptstore.co.uk/ ) then while it's only Spesh bikes they can offer you (and there is a big range of bike types on the Spesh brand) they can give you a proper test ride. I got my bike (Sectuer) for a week - left a credit card swipe for it - took it home and rode it round my local routes for a week (could have had it for longer if I had wanted to) - no problem before I bought it. Limited to Spesh yes - but as a consequence of getting a proper test I bought a bike that I knew was just right for me - worth considering at least ??
  • rah2501 Not sure exactly what bike you are interested in but if you go to your nearest Specialized Concept Store

    I'm interested in exactly the opposite of this :-)
  • giropaul
    giropaul Posts: 414
    I don't think that selecting a bike is like selecting a car. You can ride 3 identical frames, but if they are set up differently, or with slightly different e.g. wheels they will feel very different. Unless a "test" bike is set up precisely to your dimensions - saddle height, saddele set back, bar height v saddle height, bar angle, reach, brake lever position etc., you won't get a feel for how the bike actually is for you.

    I must have bought or aquired well over 50 bikes over the years - and I've never had a test ride. I usually start with getting a frame - based entirely on the geometry, and then add the kit I know I get on with. I've had cause to ride some very expensive, and very cheap frames over the years, and I could never really feel any difference - as long as the position was right.
    The story goes that the TI Raleigh Team once had early season training frames made of 531 plain gauge because the 753 hadn't arrived. The riders weren't told, and 753 decals were put on. The riders raved about the "new" tubing, and most rode the frames all year. When some were issued with the 753 frames, no one noticed!
    So I'd say that the key thing, unless you've an established position, is to get a really good bike fit. It might cost you £150+, but it will ensure that the bike feels great(and some shops discount the fee against your new bike anyway). A properly set up £500 bike will feel much, much better than a badly set up £10,000 bike. So get a bike fit, then select the bike that allows you to get your position. And then, of course -


    Make sure it's a really pretty finish!!!!
  • ahh ... I think your hunt is then for an exceptionally good independant shop then (hen's teeth in my experience!!) and I fear you will have to compromise on your test ride opportunities (for all the reasons listed above) best of luck though and hope it works out.
  • giropaul wrote:
    So I'd say that the key thing, unless you've an established position, is to get a really good bike fit.

    Yes, that seems to be the thing. Unfortunately, it looks like the only bike shop in the area that does bike fitting is the strange one I mentioned in my original post :-)
  • Gizmodo
    Gizmodo Posts: 1,928
    I narrowed my choice down to 2 bikes based on visiting local shops and online reviews. The first store was a Specialized Concept store who were happy for me to test ride the bike for £30 which could be taken off the price if bought but not refunded. But when I arrived they handed me a £4,000 top of the range model of the bike I wanted. I felt cheated and down £30.

    Then I went to Bridegetown Cycles - with a fully refundable deposit I was given the exact model I wanted (with shop old wheels and tires) for the day. I loved it and bought it and they did a full 3 hour bike fit as well!

    You can find good bike shops, occasionally.
  • Gizmodo wrote:
    ... some words ...

    I've seen your avatar picture in a few posts. I find it demeaning to women and offensive. It really detracts from this forum.