How to Test Ride a Bike

Even if you’ve done your homework and selected the perfect bike model for your needs, it’s important to take a test ride. This gives you the best opportunity to find out what’s comfortable and what needs to be adjusted—before you make your purchase. Most local bike shops will let you take a test ride. You can also find bike shops holding demo events specifically for test riding bikes. If a bike shop won’t let you test ride a bike, consider moving on to another shop or borrowing a bike from a friend. It’s much easier to get a bike that fits than to have to adjust to one that doesn’t.

Getting Ready

It’s best to come in for a test drive on a sunny day, as most bicycle shops don’t allow test rides when it’s wet or dark outside. You’ll also want to bring in some form of identification, because many bike shops require you to leave ID behind as collateral.

Before you start riding, you’ll want to make sure your bike is the right fit and perform a couple of safety checks. A good bike shop will help you size the bike correctly, but if you’re trying out a friend’s bike, you’ll likely need to do this on your own. Check out the previous page to learn how to check things like your frame size, seat height, and handlebar height. For safety reasons, you should also squeeze the brakes a few times to make sure they work properly, and check the air pressure of the tires. You might also run through the gears to understand how they work.

In order to recreate normal riding conditions, it’s best to wear whatever clothing you typically ride in. If you typically wear special shoes with clipless pedals, bring them in and fit them to the bike before taking your test ride. You should also bring your own helmet.

Where to Ride

Before you take off on your test ride, you should pay attention to the first few pedal strokes and the overall feel of the bike in case some adjustments need to made before you get too far out. Ideally, the salesperson will watch you and help make any final adjustments. If the bike shop allows it, a 20-minute ride will give you a much better indicator of the bike’s ability than a lap or two around the block. Some bike shops will have a predetermined route and insist that you follow it for your own safety, as well as the safety of their bike. Ideally, you’ll want to find a course that includes a variety of terrain. If you’re not familiar with the area, ask the salesperson to suggest a route that incorporates different surface types.

What to Look For

Once you’re on your test ride, it’s time to consider if the bike is the right fit for you. Think about how you plan on using the bike. You should be able to safely ride the bike over any terrain you plan to use it on. You’ll also want to ask yourself about the quality of the riding experience. Does the bike put you in the position you want? Does it climb hills easily? Is the shifting responsive enough for your style of riding?  Does it have the right range of gears? Most importantly, does it provide an overall comfortable riding experience? If you’re planning on hauling gear with you, you’ll also want to consider the bike’s ability to carry weight.

Try Out Multiple Bikes 

If you’ve tested your first bike and it doesn’t feel right, it’s important to test another bike. Your process should be exactly the same as with the first bike. You should make sure it fits correctly—and that you’re wearing the proper attire—before taking off.

When test riding multiple bikes, be sure to pay attention to the differences between rides. You should be able to feel how each bike accelerates when you’re standing or sitting. Pedaling up a hill offers a good way to check this, as certain bikes love to climb and higher quality bikes shift into gear nicely. You’ll also want to consider how each bike handles bumpy roads and rough surfaces. If you have the skill, try a few speed bumps and gravel roads to compare the differences.

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