A bike made for loaded touring or cyclocross would probably be your best bet. Something like the Surly Long Haul Trucker. Strong wheelset with 48 spoke rear and 40 in front. Wide cushy tires at least 35mm.
Ice has it right if you want to go the road bike route.
I have 6 bikes. three are pure race bred machines, two are just ride around types, and my touring bike. I find myself on my touring bike more than any other bike. I actually ride it almost exclusively. Part of that is my inability to stop changing the race bikes, Lil.
A touring bike or Cycle-Cross bike will have a heavier construction quality to it since they are designed for either touring or serious off road activities, yet have the classic road bike frame. They are generally more relaxed in their geometry so they are comfortable to ride as well.
Go with the highest spoke count you can get in the rear, and no less than 36 up front.
Good luck in your search. Don't hesitated to come back with questions on models or types of bikes. You Will probably get several opinions on each question, but that just signifies that there are several routes that you can go and that it often just comes down to personal preference.
I'd like to hear what kind of bikes you ride, especially the touring/cyclcross you mentioned. Thanks for your input pal.
Well, you're going to get a lot of endorsements for the Surly Long Haul Trucker, or LHT, as well as the Surly Cross Check. They have well earned reps for being well built.
Pretty much any loaded touring bike, from a REI Naronne or Randonee to a Trek 520, or all points in between will work. The one issue with new touring bikes is that they are a niche market and the type of bike folks buy and keep forever. This means there aren't a ton of choices and manufacturers charge a bit more than entry level road bikes.
There are all kinds of ideas on what weight limit bikes have. For any theory presented I bet we have a member that has successfully gone against that logic. Any steel bike will work, any aluminum bike will work, and the real debate is over Carbon Fiber. We have plenty of folks here who ride CF and have no problems.
Your only real concern will be wheels. It's an easy fix.
Where are you locatred and what lines of bikes do your local shops carry? Another option, my favorite, is the used market. I do most all my own wrenching so used doesn't worry as much as it may others.
May I ask if you have a set budget? This can really narrow down the model search, but it's also a personal thing and I don't want to be too personal if it isn't someting you want to answer.
Hopefully some others will chime in on models. I'm a vintage kind of guy and none of my bikes are still being built in the variations I own, lol.
Edit: Where are you in Texas? There is another option depending on where you are. There is a company called Bikes Direct. The internet company gets a lot of press, some negative, some positive. The issue is with marketing, not the quality of bikes or the prices, which are excellent. It just so happens that there is a brick and mortar chain of stores owned by the same guy called Cycle Spectrum. If you live close to one of those you can get the cost savings and the benfit of an LBS to stand behind the bikes. Our local Spectrum is staffed by some good folks.
Yer killin me Platy. You keep posting that piece of art to taunt me don't you?
Could I have everyones attention please? I would like to publicly state that I have a perfectly functional, even highly desireable, touring bike. I do no need another one, no matter how Schwagelicous and down right beautiful it may be.
Couple of things. First, good on you for road cycling--we need all the bodies out on the road that we can get! Second (speaking as a near-lifetime full time bike mechanic) Most frames are overbuilt for the rider--except for a few wacky-light racing frames and forks you will be able to get "enough" frame structurally on many bikes. Third: A tire with a bigger cross-section (35 or 38c at your weight) will protect the wheels against the bumps that will occur when riding over rough or irregular pavement. You probably won't be much harder on a bike than 200 lb. me riding with a touring load on the bike--all of your weight can stand in the pedals over railroad tracks; my panniers can't! Luggage weight is dead weight that bears down on the bike harder than rider weight.
Fourth: Put those big tires on mechanic-built wheels with 36 or 40 14gauge spokes per wheel.
Bikes with a good ride and good tire room? My own recommendation for maximum bike per dollar would be either a Novara (REI house brand) Randonee, or Trek 520. Happy riding!