Of the 14 bikes I currently own, I was able to ride only 2 before buying
them. One is a Surly Cross Check that I bought new from a LBS in about
2007, and while it's useful as my commuter-bike, it's my least favorite.
The other is a 60cm Hillborne, which I test rode at an Ohio Rivendell
dealer in 2012 and liked and bought, but over the course of that first
summer I decided it was a bit too big and I never could love it. I still
have it, and I *like* it, but I don't *love* it---but I love my 58cm Sam
that I bought on presale 2 years ago without riding. I also have a Homer
Hilsen, 2 Velo-Orange bikes, and a Waterford that I love, none of which I
could ride before buying, and I have a custom-built 650b rando that's the
most expensive bike I own and is the one about which I'm most ambivalent.
Obviously I couldn't ride that one beforehand, but still, it was
custom-built for me so it should be perfect, right? It's not.
Over time I've learned about myself, my riding style and bike
preferences---both of which have "evolved" over the years---and can figure
out now whether a bike will fit and whether I'll like it. For example, I
learned from the first Sam that I don't want to buy a Riv for which I'm on
the edge of the recommended PBH range; I want to be in the middle of the
range. It's why I later bought the 58cm Sam, and why I won't buy an
Appaloosa with the current sizing.
Some bikes have been better for me than others, but none have been bad and
most have been very good to great. The ones I've sold I sold not because
the bikes changed, but because my riding style moved away from the bike to
the point that I no longer rode it. In my case that means I've gone from
racier bikes to less-racy bikes (country bikes, anyone?), and the bikes
I've sold were ones with more aggressive geometry and lower-than-the-saddle
The advice above to let Riv guide you is good; they know what they're
doing. On my 58cm Sam I thought I'd need to lengthen the stem and replace
the bars with more narrow bars, but when I got it and rode it, the fit was
perfect just as it was. The folks at Riv had never met me, but they knew
more about my fit than I did!
You'll never know if buying sight-unseen can work for you unless you take
the plunge, and I sense that if you don't then you'll always wonder what
you've missed. As one of Riv's less expensive bikes but with Riv-bike
design features, build quality, ride quality, and great customer-service
behind it, the Roadini would be a great one to take the plunge on if you're
ever gonna do it.
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