Hopefully this is an appropriate forum for this post. I'm 6'3 and weigh 270 pounds and have owned a Huffy brand bike from Sears for the past 5 years and throughout this Summer have actually been riding it 2-3 miles a day for more exercise in conjunction with walking.
I'm planning on buying a new bike next Spring (one that actually fits me) and since I live in a rural area, my choices are limited. I did a lot of research online and was thinking of a Hybrid bike (I ride on asphalt roads around town and on gravel roads, some with large rocks) but after looking at bikes in person, I came to admite a Specialized Hardrock (base version) on display in the only local bike shop around. I particularly liked the extremely beefy rims and the larger 2.1" tires due to my weight: it just seems like a lot stronger bike than a hybrid.
In the future, I plan to ride maybe 5 miles a day on asphalt/gravel and maybe go for rides up to 15 miles on blacktop country roads. Reviews I've read say some of the components on this bike are "lower-end" which I expect from any bike in this price range (I can't go over $400). So, I really don't worry about any of the components causing me any real problems since I definitely won't be pushing the bike that hard.
My choices are to buy from a local small bike shop (pretty much Cannondale and Specialized only) and support it, and also have it handy for repairs/annual adjustments, etc. or drive 100 miles and maybe get a better price, but also have it be a lot harder to access maintenance. I know I could probably get any work done at the local shop if I bought it from a larger seller, but probably not at the same level as if I had actually purchased it there.
Anyway, in closing, the local dealer wants $400 for a 2006 Specialized Hardrock base version, said he will install a taller handlebar stem so I can get more comfortable plus replace the seat with a larger one for $10. Does this seem like a reasonable price for this bike? Online prices seem to range dramatically for this particular bike, I suppose depending on how many they sell. I'm willing to pay a little more to support the local dealer and save the hassle of driving farther, but I also don't want to get ripped off badly, either.
Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.