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It really depends -- how much riding experience do you have? Is this your first roadbike?

The simple answer is more than 5 minutes around the parking lot. 30-45 minutes should be good, especially if there's a hill to ascend and some sharp corners to take. Miles? I'm going to pull "5 to 10" out of thin air.

If it's your FIRST first serious bike, and you're doing it in sneakers, platform pedals, and reg'lar shorts, it'll be really hard to tell much more than "wow, this is so much faster than (some cheap hybrid)!"

The catch-22 is that you should test before you ride, but that an absolute beginner probably won't know what "right" feels like. Developing a good relationship with a shop you buy the bike from is crucial, (or just learning to wrench and scour eBay).

If the stem is the wrong length, the saddle not quite right, the seatpost needs more setback, or whatever, it may not be obvious until a week later when something is sore. You may stretch out and need to take out a spacer, find your lower back is sore, whatever. As Zinn said, it's a marriage between a "machine that is somewhat adjustable and a body that is somewhat adaptable."

If you're a male in the average size range, say, 5'8" to 6'1", it should be pretty easy. For a very small or very tall rider, it becomes more complicated.

Let us know how it goes!
 

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I am not aero
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Depends of course

I've come to the conclusion that test rides are overrated for new cyclists so long as the bike is in the ballpark size-wise. When I first started, any test ride would have told me nothing since I didn't know what I was expecting. Newbies are probably better off going to a reputable shop and having them make a recommendation.

Now that I've been riding a while though, I think five or ten miles would do it. Many things I can tell in just a few miles (overall reach, seat to bar drop), some others take longer (seat tube angle).
 

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RoadBikeReview's Member
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baking3 said:
I've come to the conclusion that test rides are overrated for new cyclists so long as the bike is in the ballpark size-wise. When I first started, any test ride would have told me nothing since I didn't know what I was expecting. Newbies are probably better off going to a reputable shop and having them make a recommendation.

Now that I've been riding a while though, I think five or ten miles would do it. Many things I can tell in just a few miles (overall reach, seat to bar drop), some others take longer (seat tube angle).
Hm. It only takes me like 15 minutes to determine how stuff ffeels... Seat tube, ride smoothness, et cetera. Maybe I just don't know jack and as such am easily satisfied :p
"well... it goes forward when i pedal..." :D
-estone2
 

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Great point.

baking3 said:
When I first started, any test ride would have told me nothing since I didn't know what I was expecting.
That's pretty much what I was trying to say.

I tested 6 bikes before I got my first "real roadie," and the differences I "felt" in them were all in my head, or minor, irrelevant adjustments like tyre pressure.

I ended up going to a small, independent bike shop (not a chain, not a dealer for any pre-built brand) and basically said "I need a road bike for training / fitness, with thoughts of racing in the future, but not for commuting and errands or touring. I have $1500 to spend. Build me something!"

I ended up with a really pretty lugged 853-steel frame, NOS Chorus components, 32-spoke Open-Pro wheels, etc. It was a great bike, did everything I wanted -- I should say, everything I didn't KNOW that I wanted at the time I bought it. Bombproof, as they say, but not Nissan-proof...
 

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your god hates me
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As I am still recovering from last night's exhaustive test riding experience at the LBS, allow me to chime in:

I went to the shop with a short list (well, actually it was up to 8 or 9 models...not so short!) of bikes that I was considering. My extremely knowledgeable & helpful LBS employee proceeded to not only set up 6 of those 8, but also threw another bike I hadn't even considered into the fray, for comparison. The purpose of this, my first test rides in what is to be a major once-a-decade purchase, was to limit my choices down to 2 or 3 contenders. So I basically spent 10 minutes on each bike, just getting an initial impression of how they feel, & how they compare.

I did a one or two mile loop of urban city blocks with some minor hills, one stretch of cobblestone, lots of sprinting, cornering, starting & stopping, and a bit of self-imposed "slalom" type handling tests (because I started to suspect that a couple of the models had dramatically different handling characteristincs when subjected to that scenario).

So that was at least an hour killed right there. The next hour was spent refining my initial sensations: Eg, okay, I think bike #2 is more responsive than bike #6 so let me check them back-to-back... or, I think the reason I *don't* like bike #4 has nothing to do with the bike per se but is simply because the saddle's too low, so let's raise it & try again, etc.

(Incidentally, raising the saddle on a bike 1" made more of an impression than the difference between any of these bikes. So believe folks when thay tell you Fit is the most important parameter!)

As we got it narrowed down towards what would be the final contenders we swapped some wheels to eliminate one variable, and we adjusted more seat heights to eliminate yet another. All in all I spent amost 3 hours and probably put on a good 10-12 miles ...but no one test ride was longer than 15 minutes.

And we managed to narrow it down to 2 contenders (with a possible 3rd, simply because my impressions from last night about that model are so bizarre I want to clarify those sensations). So the next step, ostensibly scheduled for next Sunday, is to do the REAL test rides: My extremely knowledgeable & helpful LBS employee will set up the 2 contenders in identical frame sizes with identical wheels, pedals, & saddle heights, and I will take them on a local 20 mile loop that fairly accurately represents the ride characteristics of most of the rides I do. Presumably after doing 20 miles on each I may want to do more short-term switching back & forth, but I envision this part of the test ride process will be an all day affair. My extremely knowledgeable & helpful LBS employee wouldn't have it any other way; he *insists* I go through this sort of rigorous testing before arriving at a decision.
 

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It has been years since I test rode a new purchase.

I figure that it takes a couple of thousand miles for me to completely dial in a new bike. No company is going to let me "test ride" for that long.

Folks worry too much about bikes. If the size is close that is close enough. You really need to ride the thing day after day after day before you can really know the bike. With that knowledge you can take advantage of the things it does well and minimise the things it doesn't do so well-no bike is perfect, almost every bike is good enough.
 

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Dwwc said:
How long do you test drive a car before you buy it? 15 to 30 minutes?
Ok, less than 5 minutes before I bought my Miata after owning 3 other Japanese sports cars. The bike is different: as you physically get used to what you ride. Changing geometry will either feel great or take a few rides to get those muscles used to a new position. Bad habits may be hard to break? I like to take a test bike over a varied course to feel how it handles, etc, & can tell in a few minutes if I like the bike. For a newbie nothing beats a fit done by your local bike shop expert! Use your 1st purchase as a test bike.
 

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good luck..

Argentius said:
It really depends -- how much riding experience do you have? Is this your first roadbike?

The simple answer is more than 5 minutes around the parking lot. 30-45 minutes should be good, especially if there's a hill to ascend and some sharp corners to take. Miles? I'm going to pull "5 to 10" out of thin air.

If it's your FIRST first serious bike, and you're doing it in sneakers, platform pedals, and reg'lar shorts, it'll be really hard to tell much more than "wow, this is so much faster than (some cheap hybrid)!"

The catch-22 is that you should test before you ride, but that an absolute beginner probably won't know what "right" feels like. Developing a good relationship with a shop you buy the bike from is crucial, (or just learning to wrench and scour eBay).

If the stem is the wrong length, the saddle not quite right, the seatpost needs more setback, or whatever, it may not be obvious until a week later when something is sore. You may stretch out and need to take out a spacer, find your lower back is sore, whatever. As Zinn said, it's a marriage between a "machine that is somewhat adjustable and a body that is somewhat adaptable."

If you're a male in the average size range, say, 5'8" to 6'1", it should be pretty easy. For a very small or very tall rider, it becomes more complicated.

Let us know how it goes!
getting a shop to let you ride a bike for 30-45 minutes...I've never been told more than 10-15. Some shops are different in that they will suggest a given path (of which they know takes 10-15 minutes to ride). let too many bikes out the door at once and begin to lose track!
a rider with a few bikes under their belt knows the pain of adjusting a bike to fit them perfectly and should know in about that time if that particular model will work with minimal adjustments from the shop (later is a different story)...I've been put on bikes I knew wouldn't fit and it took about 30 seconds to figure it out....it should be PAINFULLY obvious...
 
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