The only thing that really matters about any bike you own, or are planning to own, is that you like it. If you feel it’s suitable for what you’re using it for and you enjoy riding it, that’s what counts. Reviews and bike shop recommendations are useful, but the best way to see if a bike is a good choice for you is to try it. Take a test ride.
It’s worth doing research before your test ride(s) to narrow down your choices. What kind of bike do you want? For a breakdown of types, have a look here under the ‘Which bike should I go for?’ section. Not sure whether you want, say, a road bike or a gravel bike? Arrange to try one of each.
15-minute test ride
Most local bike shops will let you have a short spin on a bike for free. Short means up to 15 minutes riding around the block. That’s not a lot of time, but if you’re riding the bike in the town where you’ll be commuting, it is a real-world test.
The shop will usually require photo ID, such as a driving licence or a passport, along with a debit or credit card, both of which they’ll keep until you return with the bike. If you don’t have ID, some shops will let you take a test ride by charging you in full for the bike, then refunding you when you bring it back.
A test ride at your local shop has advantages. It’s easy to have a dialogue about what you’re after. When the retailer knows what you’ll be using the bike for and how much you intend to spend, they can steer you towards the most suitable bikes to try. They can also put you on the right size bike, correctly set up for you.
The fact that you’ll be getting the bike through Cyclescheme provides security for the shop. Some customers try things in store, then get them cheaper online. You, on the other hand, will be making big savings anyway due to the way Cyclescheme works – bigger savings, in all likelihood, than you would make from a non-Cyclescheme retailer who was discounting. So you’ll be back. Because your local shop knows this, it benefits them to spend time ensuring you try the right bike(s). Win win.
24 or 48 hour demo
Longer test rides are offered by some online Cyclescheme retailers and chain stores – bigger businesses that can afford to maintain a demo fleet. Examples include: Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative; Evans Cycles, for electric bikes only; and Rutland Cycling.
Once again, you’ll need ID and a credit or debit card. You’ll need to book the demo bike in advance rather than just turning up, and you’ll need to pay a fee, typically around £50 for 48 hours. This fee is usually deducted from the price of a new bike if you subsequently buy one. Online retailers may ship the bike to you by courier and pick it up again afterwards. You may have to pay an additional fee for this.
The advantage of having a bike for longer is that you can really put it through its paces. You could do your entire commute to work and back on it
While shops with demo fleets aren’t ubiquitous, cycle hire shops are everywhere. Just type ‘bicycle hire’ into your preferred internet search engine and see what shows up near where you live.
Hiring a bike is much like getting a demo bike. The main difference, apart from the fact that a hire bike may be more heavily used, is that you can’t recoup the cost of the hire. The hire business may not sell bikes or may not be a Cyclescheme retailer, and even if they are they may not discount the hire price from a new bike.
Bike hire tends to cost £20-£50 per day. Rates vary by location and bike value, with per-day discounts for longer-duration hires. It’s a small price to pay for getting the right bike, if you try one you like. Because even if you can’t get that model from the hirer, you’ll be able to get it from a Cyclescheme retailer somewhere.
Bike shows and demo days
If you want to try several bikes back to back, you need to go to where the demo bikes are rather than vice-versa. You’ll find them at bike shows and at dedicated ‘demo days’.
At a bike show, you generally pay for entry to the show itself but not to try out bikes on the show’s test tracks. The UK’s biggest cycle shows are The Cycle Show, which runs from 28-30 September this year at Birmingham’s NEC, and The London Bike Show, which in 2019 takes pace from 29-31 March at ExCeL in London’s Royal Docks. Cycling magazines and websites will have details of smaller shows.
Demo days tend to be run by bike shops in conjunction with one or more of the brands that they stock. For instance, they might bring a collection of mountain bikes to a forestry trail centre one weekend. The participating shop is your best point of contact for these. Some cycling magazines and websites also run demo days; see road.cc and MBR for examples.
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