Bike Testing—Tips and Procedures You Can Use.
As a lifelong mechanic, I have been testing, evaluating, fixing and modifying electro-mechanical devices for over 45 years. This includes professionally, bikes, cars, motorcycles, aircraft, R/C models, electronic devices and sewing machines. With this comes certain mental procedures and checklists that drive my ways. I thought a little insight to the way I do this for the bikes in my life might help your cycling interests and the way you interpret my writings about bikes.
Before I start a bike test and review I will do a few things that I feel are pretty important. First is a thorough visual inspection to get a feel for what is to come. And this visual part continues from beginning to end. Also, there is just a feel for the movements, noises and vibrations that any item will use to tell you where it stands. Hard to teach, everyone is a natural at something, I just happen to be the mechanic type.
Many of the bikes I test are at remote locations and just for a short (one or two hours) time. I can usually get a good impression of the ride, quality and misgivings of a bike or E-bike in that amount of time. Very often I am presented bikes I can keep in my possession for days, weeks and months. These bikes get a much more intensive shake-down and are what I am using as an example as I write this post.
Whether it is a new bike for testing, a used bike for possible purchase or repair, or one of my vintage bikes before a ride, I am on the constant vigil for smooth operation and safety. I keep a simple log of my impressions, changes made or needed and modifications performed. This log can come in handy down the road and is also used to allow me to give feed-back to the bike’s maker, something I think is very important, maybe even more so than my posted reviews.
Before any major riding I will copy down the serial number and other pertinent information on the bike. I go over the bike fully checking every fastener and adjustment, some I tailor to my personal needs and fitting to the bike. I also examine it for cosmetic damage inflicted before the bike arrived at my door-step. Once these operations are performed, the real testing begins. Filled with conditions of many kinds, I attempt to put as many miles as needed to fully feel like one with the bike in question. These impressions are what I use to fill my bike reviews with information I think you can use.
There are several key points that I look and feel for. Ride quality, smoothness and steering response tell much about the design features of any bike. Each bike has its own reasons for being, such as for speed demons, beach cruising or commuting. The geometry and frame material differ on each, and if the manufacture got it right, each one should ride and respond in kind. Along these lines you should find no steering shake when your hands come off the bars and no slop or flex in the chassis and suspension as you ride.
Shifting and brake operation also come into play during my test rides. Needless to say I will expect much more from a very expensive bike compared to one from the opposite direction, as anyone would. I have been called out in the past for not using equal standards on my bike evaluations and critiques. My answer is this, if a pricey bike touts better features and performance, it should deliver them.
When it comes to E-bikes (electric-assist), I spend much time testing the control system, power and smoothness in operation. I do feel that my time here is well spent and will tell much about the manufactures’ commitment to their bike and customer. Once again, a simple E-bike whose power is controlled by a hand throttle only will not get securitized nearly as much as one that claims intelligent control.
One only need look back a couple articles to see that the cyclist’s safety and comfort are my prime concerns. Any bike or E-bike has things about it that can cause danger, yet the bike and its operation shouldn’t add to them. Also, the comfort you feel in the operation of an E-bike should not be compromised by bikes whose power systems surge at lower speeds and make you feel as if the bike wants to go when you don’t. If they do, I report that to you and lobby the maker to initiate changes for the better.
Another safety issue I am big on spotting are sharp edges that can cause cuts and scrapes. The most common one here are poorly cut tie-straps. These plastic tie-downs are on bikes everywhere and when cut after installation with the wrong tool, leave a sharp, blood bringing edge that I constantly pointing out to individuals, shops and the bike factories themselves. An inexpensive pair of flush cut pliers or a razor blade will leave them with a smooth, injury free end.
I guess the point I’m trying to make here is for you to keep your senses open as you are deciding on your next bike. Make a list of your likes and dislikes as you ride each bike you are considering. Read and investigate about them to help guide your own experience with each. And as you ride the bike of your choosing, listen and feel its needs for attention and service as the miles float by. The better you treat your bike, the better it will return the favor.
I do my best to be honest and open as my reviews hit the keyboard. You may have noticed I write more about the experience of the ride and bike than the exact specs and numbered geometry of the frame work. I also rarely mention price points. You can usually find all that on the manufactures’ website which is always linked at the bottom of each of my test reviews.
One last thing about my reviews, unlike many, I take no cash or checks from the makers of the bikes and products I write about. Sure the perks—occasional meals, bike goodies and free E-bike rentals are welcome, yet no cash changes hands. I do this as a passion, not an occupation. The ads you might see on this site are put there by Word Press to allow me a free place to communicate with you. Just like my You-Tube channel and my Facebook page, they place and receive compensation for the ads, I just enjoy a no cost venue to talk bikes.
Ride a bike? I hope so, Turbo Bob.
“A bike can be an important appurtenance of an important ritual. Moving the legs evenly and steadily soon brings home to the rider a valuable knowledge of pace and rhythm, and a sensible respect for timing and the meeting of a schedule. Out of rhythm come many things, perhaps all things.”—William Saroyan, The Bicycle Rider in Beverly Hills.
I have a couple posts on finding and checking a used bike. Have you seen them yet?
I have many posts about this subject. Check the categories section for more.