For the past ~4 years I’ve been using a cross bike (which is my first “real” bike) to do all my riding (group rides, crit racing, cross races, a bit of gravel riding) and I love it, but I’d like to get a dedicated road bike. However, covid restrictions combined with limited bike availability is going to make test riding bikes pretty difficult or impossible (I ride a ~52 frame, which seems to never be in stock at my local bike shops during normal operation, and covid means that nothing seems to be in stock,) so the end result is that I’m thinking about buying a bike that I’ve never ridden, a Giant TCR.
For what it’s worth, I have test rode bikes that according to geometrygeeks.bike are fairly similar to the TCR’s geo, and I got along well with them, as much as you can during a 15 minute ride.
Is buying a bike you’ve never ridden before a good idea? Have you all done it? I don’t want to throw away money but it’d be nice to get it ordered sooner rather than later in order to get it before next spring!
I bought my Canyon Ultimate CF EVO without ever riding it (let alone any Canyon) before. It took a little bit longer (maybe a month or two of riding it) to figure out the fit adjustment that suited me best, but in the end, it’s been 100% fine. Zero issues.
Unless you have unusually long/short body parts for your overall height you should be able to get a good fit following the manufacturer’s sizing chart and talking to an experienced bike shop. The only ‘test ride’ I’ve ever had was riding a road bike around a car park. Beyond changing stem length this has never been a problem.
If you were buying a full suspension mountain bike I’d say go for a decent test ride. On a road bike I think you’ll be fine.
I bought a Specialized Diverge gravel bike sight-unseen earlier this year.
The most important thing is that you are sure the geometry works for you. I spent a lot of time taking measurements from my other bike, and running spreadsheet models to ensure I could replicate my fit on the diverge.
There’s obviously more to a bike than just the geometry - in the case of the Diverge I really liked the idea of the Future Shock, so I read all the reviews I could find about it. Same with tire clearance.
I would have preferred to test ride one, but inventory was very limited with COVID, and the new Diverges were popular and selling quickly.
I ordered from a bike shop 180 miles away and picked it up a few days later.
I keep a mental list of which bikes I’ve test ridden and how they felt with a stock setup. I plug that list into geometry geeks and then used to that to make sure the bike I ordered was within the sweet spot for my dimensions. When I received my new ti frame this summer, it was just about perfect for me. I think I’ve adjusted it maybe once since the initial setup.
Basically take the opportunity anytime you’re at a shop to ride what they have and get an idea of what you like/dislike.
In my opinion, you should be fine ordering the bike without riding it first, assuming your dealer has the ability and willingness to get your position dialed once it comes in. However, the TCR is currently on backorder until Sept 2021, and some models/sizes are already sold out for next season. Unless your dealer has one on backorder already, you likely will not be able to get one. The TCR is an awesome bike, hopefully you have luck in finding one.
I bought a TCR SL without ever test riding, coming from a Specialized Allez which I had a bike fit on. I rode the bike for 3 years and have now finally given up on it. I went the opposite direction from you and went back to a TCX (Cross bike). I had the aluminum model and loved the fit and handling everytime I got on it. The TCX has slightly less reach and just fits me better. Also, the TCR was just a little too twitchy for my lack of descending skills. The TCX has 25mm more length behind the bottom bracket and a slightly slacker head tube. I also found that the disc brakes and room for more tire helped my confidence. I think the new TCR has all of that!
I just bought a 2021 TCX Pro. The frame is the same weight as the TCR SL (2016), though the overall weight is about 2 lbs heavier due to the disc build.
Sadly, my TCR SL is a 54 (Medium), but it is for sale! The bike is a climbing beast and a total land missile.
In my opinion the few minute test ride in a parking lot, in street cloth, with flat pedals, with a different than your usual saddle, with different wheels and tires, with a quicky adjusted seat height is pretty useless.
In an ideal world I would love to test bikes after setting them up and adjusting them properly for a multi hour ride / for the weekend. I would be happy to pay money for that, but I’ve never been in an area / country where this would have been possible.
My advice: Fit first then buy. Invest in a professional bike fit and your fitter should be able to tell you exactly pre purchase if the decided model works for you and what size you need / what stem length, spacer height etc. you need. Or, alternative like you mentioned, work with the geo charts.
I think this has already been mentioned above, but direct-to-consumer brands will often give a window to return a bike after purchase. Additionally, sites selling used bikes like theproscloset.com have a “no questions asked” return window. Worth looking into.
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