Hi All --
First post, about my first bike (at least my first one in 20 years). I am 48 years old, weigh about 380, and am 5'11 with a 30-inch inseam. As a gift to ourselves for our upcoming 20-year wedding anniversary and to start losing weight, my wife and I are buying bikes. We plan to ride primarily on hard-surface roads for short distances (a 10-mile ride would be a big deal for us at this point) but might work up to longer distances if we started getting in better shape. My wife is going to have to get a coasting bike with an auto transmission because she has problems with her fingers and can't brake/shift with her hands. She is 5'4, about 160 lbs. We're looking at getting a Trek Lime or a Giant Suede; she rode a Schwinn Collegiate with the auto-trans and was never able to feel it shift at all.
We have a number of LBS' in the area (far NW suburban Chicago) but every place I visit gives me a different suggestion. One shop says because of my weight I should get a MTB (the Giant Boulder, $380) and replace the knobby tires with street tires. When I test-rode this bike it felt very strong and I liked the less-upright riding position, but I was winded within a 1/4 mile of riding (admittedly, I am totally out of shape).
Another shop suggested the Specialized Globe ($399) and told me I didn't need to worry about a heavy frame or bigger tires -- I just needed to make sure that the tires were fully inflated every time I rode. I tried this bike out and it was easier to ride, and I liked the rotary shifters as opposed to the thumb-bar shifters on the Giant. But I worry whether the wheels and narrower tires are strong enough and even after riding it a couple of blocks the saddle was pinching my "neutral zone."
The third shop I visited suggested the Trek Navigator ($390). It was raining and I haven't been back to ride it yet, but I liked the look of the bike and the Bontrager tires seemed stronger than the tires on the Specialized. But a 4th shop farther away that I was corresponding with via e-mail claimed that Treks are much cheaper bikes than Specializeds (they're a Specialized dealer -- big surprise).
I am very confused over the whole MTB/Comfort/Hybrid thing, and every LBS wants to sell me the bike they have, not necessarily the one I need. I can't afford to spend more than $400 or so on a bike, and I certainly can't spend $1,000 to get special wheels, rims, etc. I want a bike that is strongly built but one that is going to encourage me to want to ride more, not one that tires me out every time I get on. To be honest, if the bike gives me too much of a workout I am not going to want to take it out of the garage. Any advice from my fellow Clydesdales (love that term) would be appreciated.