Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
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NEvans
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Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby NEvans » 22 Mar 2014, 3:06pm

Hi, looking for a light tourer for the wife. We like the look of the Orbit Alfine which has a small frame (48" - she's 5'), 11 speed hub and butterfly bars. But they do not have a similar bike to test ride. So it would be ordering and paying in advance for a bike which we don't really know if she will like when she gets it.

I know a lot of people have bikes made to order, but would you do it if you couldn't have a test ride on a similar bike first?
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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby Brucey » 22 Mar 2014, 3:14pm

Thorn have many customers who can't travel to their shop, so they offer a satisfaction guarantee or something.

I have bought bikes without a test ride but then I'm happy to consider them an experiment in some cases. If I really want it to be right then a test ride is essential otherwise.

cheers
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LollyKat
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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby LollyKat » 22 Mar 2014, 3:41pm

Thorn give an unconditional 14-day trial period on any of their bikes, though of course you have to pay to send it back if you don't like it. They are also very good about finding out what size and set-up is likely to suit you - there are lots of frame size and component options. They are not the cheapest bikes but I considered it was worth paying the extra for their customer service. I'm delighted with the bike (Audax Mk3) - very comfortable and handles brilliantly.

If you buy just a frame and forks you get a 100-day trial. This would be a cheaper way of doing it.

thirdcrank
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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby thirdcrank » 22 Mar 2014, 4:10pm

I can't see how this is one where others can help. You have understandable concerns about shelling out megabucks for something which may not be suitable and presumably you have had no joy in resolving this from the retailer in question. This is often a matter of the purchaser's own knowledge and experience: by the time I was able to buy new bikes to my own spec I'd ridden so many second-hand bikes I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. Your circumstances sound a bit different in that your wife may be unsure what will suit her. Nobody else knows either. Going somewhere such as SJSC where they try to accommodate people in this quandary may be your best option.
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Edit to add: If this is a matter of your wife feeling uncomfortable with the advice she has received from retailers, it's occurred to me that we did have a thread a while ago about bikes shops where they had people able to advise women eg female staff who were experienced riders themselves. The info on that thread will be out-of-date but it may be something else to consider.
Last edited by thirdcrank on 22 Mar 2014, 4:20pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Vantage
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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby Vantage » 22 Mar 2014, 4:13pm

I bought my own bike without a test ride. I'm 5'2" and also chose a 48cm. As much as I love the bike, there are times when I think the 46cm version would have been a better choice.
On the other hand, I did test ride a mountain bike once before buying and found myself hating the thing months later, although not because of sizing, just how it felt.
Personally I'd test ride first but don't get too exited over the thought of a new bike or she might forget to make sure it's right for her.
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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby Vorpal » 22 Mar 2014, 5:53pm

It depends....

If I were pretty confident that either it would fit, or I could make it work well, I might buy a bike without test ride, especially if it was second hand, or a good bargain.

If I were buying new, spending lots of money, and/or unsure about the fit, I would definitely want a test ride, first. Or a money back guarantee, in case it didn't work out.
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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby Mistik-ka » 22 Mar 2014, 6:05pm

Buy a bike sight-unseen? We commissioned a custom-built tandem based on the measurements of our singles, from a builder (daVinci Designs) a thousand miles away and in a different country. We'd done our homework with web-research, but the completely non-refundable price was more than we've usually paid for a car in the past, and the bike finally arrived the same day as the first blizzard of the winter. (On the Canadian prairies, so no opportunity to try it out for another 5 months, resulting in a throughly anxiety-inducing wait to see if we'd wasted our money.)

End result: after changing the captain's stem the tandem fit like a glove. (Well, a pair of gloves, really.) Best money we've ever spent! :D

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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby horizon » 22 Mar 2014, 6:10pm

I don't think you really find out much on a test ride. I think you need to take a punt and then find out what you like or don't like, put it right or sell the bike. The important thing is to know what sort of bike you want and that's it's roughly the right size. You won't go too far wrong. The worst is probably being sold a road bike from an over-enthusiastic sales assistant. I would like to think that the shop would offer different stems and cranks etc but to be fair to them it may take a while before you really know what you want. If the bike is well thought of or well reviewed I would say take the risk.
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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby FarOeuf » 22 Mar 2014, 6:16pm

NEvans wrote:Hi, looking for a light tourer for the wife. We like the look of the Orbit Alfine which has a small frame (48" - she's 5'), 11 speed hub and butterfly bars. But they do not have a similar bike to test ride. So it would be ordering and paying in advance for a bike which we don't really know if she will like when she gets it.

I know a lot of people have bikes made to order, but would you do it if you couldn't have a test ride on a similar bike first?


Yes, and I have done. Even if she did test ride it around the block, that's no real assurance that it's the right bike for a tour. Given that you can adjust the fit (stem, bars, seat, cranks) quite significantly, so long as you have the right size frame any minor adjustments should be possible. Whether the bike actually delivers what she expects, well you don't know until she actually tours on it. At that point, it may not be right for any number of reasons. Some can be fixed (gearing, more fit changes, etc), or it's just not a bike she gels with.

Even the worst case isn't so bad, as she's learnt a bit more about what sort of bike she doesn't want to tour on.

cheers

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horizon
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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby horizon » 22 Mar 2014, 7:34pm

FarOeuf wrote: At that point, it may not be right for any number of reasons. Some can be fixed (gearing, more fit changes, etc), or it's just not a bike she gels with.

Even the worst case isn't so bad, as she's learnt a bit more about what sort of bike she doesn't want to tour on.



It was the gearing that I was most concerned about as an Alfine 8 won't have much room for change. But you can know that without test riding it anyway.
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PS I always wondered why the YHA HQ was called Trevelyan House. :)

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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby alpgirl » 22 Mar 2014, 8:09pm

If you are buying off the internet with a big discount, then you take a risk in not trying it. One of the reasons for paying full price from a LBS is being able to try and be fitted for the bike. I have bought both my road bikes from the internet, but I did some research to make sure the measurements were right for me. You can always tweek things with shorter stems etc.

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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby MikewsMITH2 » 22 Mar 2014, 8:35pm

I have lots of bikes and I only ever test rode one and that was just round the car park, because the shop owner insisted! yes they all ride a bit different, but that is the joy of it! When I get a bike, I just change anything I don't like, such as saddle stem, handlebars etc. so over the course of a few months it is how I want it. I suppose you need to know a bit about bikes to do this, but that is the beauty of bikes - they can be customised. The last time I bought a complete bike, my wife said "there is no point you buying a bike, because you always want to change things", so for my birthday she bought me a frame. I bought new wheels and just fitted the rest of the parts from my old bike such as saddle, bars, pedals, gears, brakes etc. Then i started the process of changing things as usual :D
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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby FarOeuf » 22 Mar 2014, 9:37pm

horizon wrote:It was the gearing that I was most concerned about as an Alfine 8 won't have much room for change. But you can know that without test riding it anyway.


true. but I think you can change sprocket sizes, and presumably altering the chainring isn't too difficult either. though I'm just guessing (I have a rohloff, which I'm basing this on). the problem with a ride around the car park is that you probably don't get to use the gears 'meaningfully', and I suspect gear ratio numbers don't mean much either.

or they just need to choose their touring destination to suit their gears :-)

EDIT: for clarity

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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby Edwards » 23 Mar 2014, 7:42am

Having read your other thread my answer would be no.

The good lady is going to be carrying nothing heavier that YOUR Credit Card, so does not need a heavy stiff frame.
She is of a proper height (I am 5ft 3 and a bit) and finding something in this size that you just want to sit on is not easy.

I am wondering about the Hub Gears, is it because she is not certain about other types of systems or is that what she is used too?
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Re: Would you buy a bike you couldn't test ride

Postby squeaker » 23 Mar 2014, 8:45am

Yes! Have bought several, mostly S/H, but in excess of £1k, recumbents, which have the advantage of greater adjustability. I'm pretty sure that those that were sold on were for reasons that would not be immediately apparent on a test ride, even an all day one. My experience with DF bikes is that, provided you know what basic geometry works for you (in the case of my last acquisition, this was based on my experiences with a very adjustable folding bike) then you should be OK, as the detail of the contact points can easily be changed.
My only hesitation might be with the choice of hub or derailleur gears, where IME it does help if you've tried a similar system first (and please note that the Rohloff has unique characteristics, IME).
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