I have been lurking here for a while, and decided to register this morning.
Tom, you are an inspiration. My personal story is this: I played linebacker in college football years ago. My "fighting weight" was always between 230 and 240, at 6'4."
I rode a Raleigh Grand Prix 10 speed road bike in the mid 1970s, and then in the mid 90s I got a GT Alterra Karakoran. I was living in Vermont, and a mountain bike was the ONLY way to go.
I never felt particularly comfortable on either of those bikes, mostly because of low back pain.
In 2003 I was diagnosed with stage 3 bladder cancer. If I hadn't ignored the symptoms for 2 years, I could have caught it at stage 1. But, it is what it is. I had surgery to remove the tumor, then chemo directly into my bladder as well as general chemo. It's 2012, I still have my bladder and my check-ups show me to continue to be cancer free.
HOWEVER: while I was on and off the chemo, I was on steroids to handle some of the side effects. My weight almost doubled to about 440#. I have felt like crap for the past 11 years, and it finally came to a head for me in January. I became a vegan on 26 January...no animal products, no free oils, no refined grains or sugars. Lots of veggies, fruits, whole grains and legumes. Blood pressure is now 115/62 without medication, cholesterol went from 258 to sub-normal, triglycerides are normal, and fasting blood sugar averages 88. All very good indicators. Oh...and I was down to 370 at my last weigh-in three weeks ago. (70 lbs in 104 days)
Recently, I began thinking about getting a bike. I scoured Craig's list but couldn't find anything suitable. I did a great deal of research, and narrowed it down to 3 bikes that would fit my budget and what I want to do with the bike: The Specialized Expedition, the Giant Sedona, and the Giant Suede DX.
95% of my riding will be on gravel and packed dirt roads in the National Wildlife Refuge here East Central Florida. I am a professional photographer, and there are roads that have been closed to motorized vehicles because of wildfire damage, but a bike will be ideal. I can also get a lot closer to the animals I photograph (Florida panthers, bobcats, otter, bald eagles, heron, egrets, gators, etc) on a bike than in a loud vehicle. I will need to fit the bike with a basket to carry some camera gear, but other than a flat repair kit, spare tube and pump, I don't see the need for much else (at least not yet).
Riding on the paved roads scares the hell out of me. 25% of vehicular traffic is teens who have seen "Fast and Furious," bought a Honda and drive like Jeff Gordon on amphetamines; another 25% are rednecks who drive their monster trucks like Dale Earnhardt Jr. after a case of Coors, and about 30% are blueheads who should have stopped driving when they lost their eyesight and vision 20 years ago. (I live in Orlando.) So I'll transport the bike to the coast and ride off road there.
I went to a LBS and was very pleasantly surprised. They had the Specialized Expedition in stock in my size, but the Giant Sedona they had was too small (they had the correct size frame in stock) and they didn't have a Suede DX in stock at all. (I am looking at the Suede because of the "pedals forward" geometry, and the DX because of the front suspension absent on the regular Suede.) These folks at this LBS were terrific. They told me not to buy anything yet. They ordered a Suede DX in my size, and said when it comes in, they will assemble it along with the Sedona in my size, and have me ride the Specialized, the Sedona and the Suede DX and decide which of the bikes feels right.
Additionally, they offer free parts and labor for a year (including rims and spokes), free replacement tubes for the life of the bike (just a labor charge for them to install the new tube), and free adjustments for a year. If I want to spend $50 more, they warranty everything except brake pads and tires for 3 years (parts and labor) against any mishap (like having the bike in a rack on the back of the car and getting rear-ended by a semi), and for $25 more the warranty extends to 5 years. It's transferable.
So...as soon as the Suede comes in, I will be test-riding 3 bikes. I suspect I'll spend 3 days/week in the refuge, and at some point I will likely venture on to the back roads in the least populated area I can find. But for now, I'm excited as all get out, and I can't wait to test those 3 bikes. (Oh...they wouldn't even accept a deposit against the purchase of a bike. As I said, I really like these people.)
I'll keep you updated on my progress, and my goal of losing another 150#.