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There are questions telling me what to look for in a new bike or a second hand one, and things to look for during my test ride, but nothing about what I should actually do during my test ride. That last question has been updated to say "What should I actually do on the test drive?" but the answers don't really address that.

I assume I need to make sure the brakes and gears etc all work, but how do I do that? Just change into each gear, or do so while pedaling hard? Should that even work? Is braking hard enough to lift the rear wheel a legitimate test? Is it reasonable to (say) ride each bike round the same 10 minute circuit as fast as I can to see which ones feel best at speed (assume I'm buying a fast road bike)?

What should I do for a 5-10 minute test ride on each bike I look at? What about a quick 30 seconds in a car park if that's all I can get?

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How do you go about testing driving a new car? –  Randy Minder Jul 2 '12 at 11:42
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@Randy I don't know, I've never owned or test driven a car. –  Kohi Jul 2 '12 at 21:25
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2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

30 seconds in the parking lot: Do you feel comfortable on the bike. Does it fit you (and not completely just "bike fit"...do you like it...dig it...get it). That's what I would spend the first thirty seconds on.

Medium ride: How does it respond and do you like that response. I personally like my road bikes to be a bit "quick and twitchy" but I know a lot of folks that feel like the bike is going to do something on it's own...they want a bike that is a bit more relaxed. Several factors go into this, geometry, materials, components, etc, so best way to see if it matches what you want is to ride it.

Longer Ride: Start with mellow flat if you can to just get a feel for the bike and to warm up a bit. Then pick things up, but this is a test ride, not a race, go 70-80% but keep a bit in reserve...you don't know this bike completely yet. How does it react when you really put some power to the cranks? Do you like how it handles in a bit of a descent? How does it feel in a climb?

I would also check the brakes, drivetrain, etc...but this would actually be lower on my list. The "check the gears and the brakes", for me, is more about safety...if it doesn't shift well and has at least minimally okay components, I (or my LBS) can get it shifting nicely. Same idea with the brakes.

If it's a used bike you'll want to do a safety check BEFORE a test ride.

Good luck on finding the perfect bike...Happy Riding.

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+1: Great Answer –  zenbike Jul 2 '12 at 7:31
    
Brakes, shifting, "feel", getting up on curbs, wiggle the headset, BB, wheels. If you are going to be hopping/jumping on your rides, hit a few curb cuts and see how it handles. I give it a few bunnyhops to feel the balance between the front and rear ends. –  BillyNair Jul 5 '12 at 9:05
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Are you spending $5000 on a new bike, or $50 on a used one?

When purchasing an expensive new bike you should take about a 15-minute ride, trying it out on curves through side streets, going over bumps and tracks, etc. Test its stability, responsiveness, and comfort, based on your standards. And, of course, check its fit.

For the cheap used bike you ride it for 3-5 minutes or so -- long enough to be sure it fits OK and long enough to verify that the shifters and brakes are OK (or will be, once tuned up).

Of course, if you're trying out multiple bikes you'd cut the 15-minute ride down a bit, but then come back to the bike you've settled on for another, longer ride.

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+1 for longer ride. Good bike shops will let you take a bike you're serious out for quite a while. I believe I rode mine for 20 miles before buying it. –  Reid Jul 4 '12 at 18:24
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