Please don't buy a bike you haven't ridden.
I've done this and it was a disaster.
A bike you can take out in the street and compare to the way other bikes feel when you ride makes an enormous difference.
A road bike needs to fit. Perfectly.
Other bikes, ones you ride for fun, the fit is important but not crucial.
The only thing that matters is how that bike feels to you when you pedal it. All the advice in the world doesn't change that dynamic.
I'm chuckling inside over the seat tube bit...but then, you've seen my rides.
Originally Posted by dcv
But, seriously, good advice. Top tube trumps for me.
Test, hem and haw, and then test some more before you drop more money than you originally budgeted for.
I currently have two bikes that I bought new. The first one I bought without test riding because no shops had them in stock and wait time was 6 weeks. I knew that I generally need a 54ish cm frame, so I went with the 53 instead of the 55, knowing that it's better to ride on a slightly small bike than a slightly large bike. When the bike finally came in, it fit perfectly. So when I went to test ride my Cervelo, I knew to start with the 54 (nearest sizes were 51 and 56)...low and behold, it fit perfectly. So I think you can do without a test ride if circumstances dictate. Most fit issues can be fixed with saddle/stem/stack height adjustments. I think you'll find a test more useful in determining if the bike is too harsh/soft, how it handles, how you like the components, etc...
I've bought completely off the intranet without any problem. As long as you are close on frame size, you should be OK. Seat posts and stems are adjustable. What is most important is getting the appropriate type of bike and component level for your riding style. Minor fit adjustment can be done later, often without professional assistance.
Agreed with TwoWheelsDC and dcv.
When I'm coveting I usually look for something around a 53-55cm top tube assuming a basic road geometry. After that, standover might be important if it's a longer seat tube but usually not a big deal, I'd probably look at wheelbase before that. Anything under 1m for me is usually going to have some toe overlap (but obviously faster handling). Between stem height/flip adjustments, seat post and saddle adjustments I haven't had to change any stock parts on my bikes I've bought so I guess my relative dimensions are ...relatively... normal.
Test riding is important for handling, feel, components, etc. I didn't like the stock brakes on the Kona Jake for example, and had them switched out before purchase (best time to upgrade!) - much better now.
I want to work there.
Originally Posted by DismalScientist
I am in the test ride group and agree with ACC - dont buy without a test ride unless you have lots of money to spare (or unless you really know what you are doing, which I suspect a few folk above are that type of folk).
When I bought my Cannondale Badboy urban bicycle, I knew strongly what I wanted. I had ridden an urban bike for 25 years until a car informed me it was time to buy a new bike. I wanted a new urban bike and I wanted a Cannondale (for some reason I have a preference for Cannondale). I read and read reviews. I did all my homework. I found it on Craigslist. And the owner let me take it for a LONG test ride. I have been THRILLED.
Then I believe GuyContinental tried to sell me a bike. I think the sizing was perfect. I forget which bike it was but it was a sweet road bike. Then I test rode it and HATED IT. I have ridden with flat handlebars for 25+ years. That bike had drops. I felt so uncomfortable. Took it back to him the next day.
Then my Cannondale crapped out and I had to ride the subway - dont ever ride the subway unless you have test ridden it before (har har har). I pledged that I would never ride the subway again - so finding myself at Phoenix, I found a Trek FX 7.3 that was 25" and fit me wonderfully. I took it for a short test ride. Operative is short here. I did one lap around the park. It was Phoenix, I didnt really care - I was thrilled to have a backup bike which fit me.
Well I HATE the Trek. The first time I commuted on it I could not believe it. I told Steve (see "Oneeight sightings") that it always feels like I am fighting with the bike. The brakes were not set right. The handlebar was miserable (see Butterfly Handlebar). The wheels are 35s. And it just has crappy components I think.
And the Top Tube is just plane too short. dvm talked about how important top tube length is. On the Cannondale that top tube is long - on the Trek the top tube is so short you sit upright like a beach rental bike.
I dont like the Trek, even as a backup bike, and will probably sell it in time.
Bottom line - you cant know a bike until you have ridden in. And every bike is different. Like a shoe that doesnt fit, the slightest thing - and its just not right for you.
I use to not think so much of the "get a proper bike fitting." I have to admit that I still dont think that much for it because my experience with store sales people is that they are going to sell you what *they* think you want or what *they* will get the most commission for or what their shop sells - not necessarily the right bike for you. That said, I have come to realize how important sizing and geometry is. A bike that isnt right for you ---- isnt right for you. And what that bike is, isnt going to be the same as the next person.