How To Test Ride A Mountain Bike: In-Depth Guide for 2023

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Wondering how to test ride a mountain bike on your mind?

You’ve come to the right place.

Here I’ll take you through the places where you can get your test ride, what to look for while test riding, and so on.

So, let’s dig in!

5 Places To Test Ride A Mountain Bike

1. Mountain Bike Festivals

Mountain bike festivals are a great place to try out different bikes.

Since the events usually happen at destinations suitable for mountain biking, you will be able to experience the bikes in real-time.

2. Bike Brand Demos

Look out for brand demos that local bike shops conduct in association with the established mountain bike brands.

While there may be a limitation on the brand that you can test at a time, the testing would be free.

If you are interested in a particular brand, you can go ahead on their website or social media pages to get an idea about their upcoming demo locations.

3. Bike Shop

Your local bike shop may have an exciting collection of mountain bikes and may offer test-ride.

However, in most cases this typically does not come for free.

You may have to pay some dollars to test ride at a shop for every mountain bike that you try.

However, if you purchase a mountain bike, this amount will be deducted from the bike’s price.

Talk to the representative at the bike shop to understand the rule that they follow with regard to this.

4. Bike Rental

You can experience a more elaborate test ride if you get your bike rented for the next trail riding.

This way, you will get an opportunity to have a real-time experience with the bike on trails that you would often be visiting.

5. Demo Tour

You may have come across demo vans with bikes in them and would have never thought one day you would wish such a demo van passed by.

However, if you are reading this in summer, there are high chances that you may come across one soon at your local bike shop or trail.

The easiest way to find out when the next demo van is coming is to check out the mountain bike brand’s website that you are looking forward to trying.

Things To Do Before A Mountain Bike Test Ride

How To Test Ride A Mountain Bike With Right Preparation
MTB Test Ride

You will be able to experience the bike that you are test riding in all its virtues if you are well-prepared for the test.

First, it is essential to set the sag and ensure that the tires are inflated. The representatives at the shop or festival can do this for you.

If you are clueless about what sag is and how it is adjusted, let me help you out.

The percentage of travel that your mountain bike requires in order to support your body weight is referred to as sag.

This is important because the incorrect setting of the sag would not help the actual intended performance of the bike.

Technically, while setting sag, the air is added to the suspension components, and the effect of your body weight on the bike is measured using the ‘O’ ring.

When you test ride your mountain bike, it is better to set the sag at 15-25% or whatever the more informed people at your assistance would suggest/set up for you.

Your sag is set, considering your whole weight.

Your whole weight includes the clothes, the accessories that you are wearing, the hydration pack that you are carrying, and the likes.

If you already have a pair of pedals, it would be wise to carry them with you while you are at the demo place.

Also, check with the people there whether there is anything unique about the bike which should be considered while setting it up for a ride.

Things To Do During An Actual Mountain Bike Test Ride

Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts- Featured Image
Mountain Bike Test Ride

Now we’ve come to the best part. You are riding the bike to see if it’s one of your dreams.

First of all, it is essential to ride it like your own bike, without any apprehension or intimidation.

Then, you could make necessary adjustments with your multi-tools to feel at ease on your bike.

Check different saddle heights, positions, etc., to see what’s more convenient for you.

And if you are carrying your favorite handlebars with you, do not mind trying them on your test bike.

Ultimately, it would help if you weren’t shy to try out anything that you would try on your own bike.

In order to make a fair comparison, you may also want to adjust the rebound, the brake lever reach and angle as well.

Secondly, it is crucial to test the mountain bike on all types of terrain at your disposal.

Look out for flowy terrains, barmy corners, and more challenging hard terrains, and see how it feels to be riding your test bike over those.

Thirdly, try to understand what the bike is doing to you. Do you feel comfortable in it, or is something bothering you?

If something is bothering you, you may have first to make some adjustments and see if the performance has changed to suit your liking.

Lastly, if you are demoing more than one bike, note down your experience after each test.

Then, when you choose one, make sure that the bike is seamless and lets you enjoy the ride without any worries.

How Do I Test A Used Mountain Bike

Biking Trails
Testing A Used Mountain Bike

Buying a used mountain bike would be a great way to own your favorite brand on a budget.

More importantly, when you buy a used mountain bike, there is little to no waiting time.

Test riding is essential for used mountain bikes as well. But is that all?


There are other things to keenly check for when you set out to buy a second-hand mountain bike.

Below is an in-depth 12 point checklist to consider before testing a used mountain bike.

  • Beginning from the front of the bike, check if there are any bubbles being formed, which may indicate that the metal under the paint has started eroding.
  • Make sure there are no dents or cracks; not even a hairline crack is recommended for a carbon bike.
  • If you are used to riding hands-free, try it on the bike while test-riding to see if you are able to balance. If you are not, then the chances of misalignment due to bends are high.
  • Press the front brakes with both your hands and gently rock the bike to and fro. If the headset is loose, you would probably hear a knocking noise.
  • To check the wheels, lift the front side up and spin the wheel and check if it is straight.
  • Check if the spokes are tight. If the rims of the wheels are worn out, it could get expensive to replace them. So, check if they are flat and not concave.
  • Check if the wheel bearings and tires have worn out.
  • Check the drivetrain to see if the chain and the cassette have worn out.
  • To check if the chain has worn out, pull a link away from the chain ring in the front. If it pulls out too much, it indicates wearing.
  • Check if the teeth on the cassette are sharp or have worn out. If all of the teeth look uneven, they will have to be replaced.
  • To check the derailleurs, change the gears and pedal with your hands, and check if everything works smoothly.
  • Press the calipers with your hands and see if they work smoothly. Stiff calipers may need replacement.

Where Do I Get A Used Mountain Bike To Test

Some common places you can find a used mountain bike to test are eBay, Craigslist, or Gumtree.

You may find a used bike even on a local newspaper, on a bike shop’s notice board, flea markets, swap meets, garage sales etc.

While not all used MTBs may be good for you, you might as well find a gemstone among all the options.

Even though buying a used bike from private sellers are typically more economical than buying from used bike shops, one needs to vary the risks that may come along.

First, you must make sure that the bike is not stolen and does not have any damage that is not easily recognizable.

The other issue is the risk of being offered a counterfeit bike.

If you are entirely sure about these aspects, you could opt to buy from a private seller.

Else, look out for a specialty marketplace or a store near you, as they may offer some protection over private sellers.

So, how to test ride a mountain bike that is pre-owned? Just like you would test-ride a new mountain bike.

However, test-riding pre-owned mtb would be much easier.

This is because the set-ups would be already done, even though you may have to tweak them a bit to suit your preferences.

A test ride will also help you understand if the bike has got any damages that are not easily visible.

10 Common FAQs About Testing A Mountain Bike

1. How do I know if mountain bike is in good condition?

The bare minimum checks you need to do are how the bike accelerates, how seamlessly you are able to change directions, and the stability it offers.

Choose a route with a mix of terrains such as flat, climbs, and descent to test ride your mountain bike.

2. Is there an MTB shortage in 2022?

It is true that there has been a shortage in bike components following the pandemic.

Apart from issues like factory closures and associated challenges, the overwhelming increase in the demand for bikes has also had a significant impact on the shortage of supply of mountain bikes.

This scenario is expected to continue for quite some time.

However, this shouldn’t shy you away from placing an order, as the earlier you order, the more chances of getting your mountain bike at the earliest time possible.

3. How do you measure yourself for a bike?

Measuring yourself for a bike is no sweat.

First, measure the inner leg’s length with your biking shoes on, minus two centimeters from that.

The resulting measurement will give you an idea bout the stand-over height of the mountain bike that would suit you.

4. How long does it take to get used to a new mountain bike?

Typically, if you ride three to four times a week, it should take you approximately three weeks to get used to a mountain bike.

Try riding your bike as hard as you can from the fourth week onwards.

Soft riding for a more extended period of time may make your shift to hard rides difficult.

5. What should be my body posture while test riding a mountain bike?

Most mountain bike riders find a forward position at a 45-degree angle more comfortable.

However, it is one’s personal preference, and the position could also change during the course of riding.

In addition, the type of bike, saddle height, handlebar position, etc., may also determine your body posture while test riding the mountain bike.

So, do not be shy to try a posture that is comfortable for you.

6. How to test ride a mountain bike with proper arm posture?

The best way to make sure that your arm posture is correct is to see to it that your arms are slightly bent and not overstretched while gripping the handlebars.

And make sure that your elbows are positioned slightly away from the body for more convenient turns.

If you feel uncomfortable with your arm position, it is an induction that your arm posture is incorrect, and hence you may have to correct the same.

7. How to make sure that the pedaling is proper when test riding?

Pedaling largely determines the power of a mountain bike.

A simple hack is to make sure that your legs are able to pedal comfortably and your knees are not in contact with any part of your mountain bike while riding.

8. What to do if I cannot find a mountain bike to test for my height?

I would say it would be worth it if you waited a bit longer to find a mountain bike that is perfectly compatible with your height.

A disproportionate bike can end up giving you an unsatisfactory riding experience.

So it is better to keep searching for a mountain bike that best suits you and not settles for something that you see in the first shop or marketplace that you visit.

9. How to test ride a mountain bike on the road? Is it hard?

Unlike road bikes, mountain bikes need more power to pedal and hence are harder on the road.

So, it is better not to test ride the mountain bike on the road, as that would not help you understand how the bike would perform when ridden on trails.

10. What accessories should I carry to an mtb test ride?

It is best to carry the accessories that you have and are planning to use while riding your bike.

Even if you don’t have other accessories, make sure that you take a good mountain bike helmet.


I hope now you have a good idea about how to test ride a mountain bike.

I have also tried to cover other possible concerns that you may have had in mind regarding test riding or buying a new mountain bike.

P.S. If you found this guide to be helpful, do check out our resources on how to buy a new or upgrade an existing mountain bike.

Also check out our guide on how to increase the longevity of your mountain bike.

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Team Biking KnowHow

Rohan runs Biking KnowHow along with his team. Rohan has been a mountain biker since 2005. His mission is to simplify mountain biking for everyone. All Biking KnowHow content piece is thoroughly fact-checked. Our content is backed up with leading research and inputs from expert cyclists.