I have a KHS Alite 300. It's a good entry level MTB, commutes decenly, and is at the bottom of your price range, so you could consider its even more attractive big bros. I will go ahead and suggest a MTB. What you want is a hardtail (no rear shocks), lightweight frame (My wife's comfort bike is a hi-ten MTB frame and mine is Aluminum and you can RAELLY tell the difference.), you want either a solid front fork (hard to find) or adjustable, (Mine adjusts to the point where it absorbs bumps, but won't rebound when my 260 lb. butt starts pumping the peddals, which is a REAL problem for us big folks) and you'll need to invest in some steet and path tires (The ones with treads like your typical truck tire). The tires will give you good performance on streets and dirt paths. I have a 24, 34, 42 crankset, which is pretty typical. You won't set any land speed records, but you can handel serious hills. I live in the mountains and around town I rarely need to get out of the high gears. I pull the grade at the end of my street in high gear most of the time and it's about 200 feet in 1/10 of a mile. The good news is the typical MTB that will meet your needs is squarely in your price range from most companies. I went with KHS, and I know Trek makes a good little hardtail about $375. Hit the websites and see what's out there.
Last edited by Chris in WCVA; 04-14-07 at 06:22 AM.