Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Valley Forge: Birthplace of Freedom
Since you mentioned Kona, their "Unit" single speed looks nice. Put some really fat tires on it for a little suspension and you're good to go. I would definitely go used to begin with.
The difficulty is as you said, you are just getting back into it and aren't sure if you want to ride a lot. I usually recommend people just buying anything as their taste will change as they ride more. The problem as I see it with you is a safety issue. You can't really just use "any" wheels at your weight and you don't want "just any" cheap fork. Maybe the answer is getting an old steel or aluminum bike in the largest frame you can, then have a set of wheels built. There are plenty of 40 & 48 tooth touring and bike polo hubs out there and something like a Sun Rhyno Rim or Velocity Chukker. BTW-I wouldn't get caught up in "that wheels too heavy...." line of thinking. The people making those comments weigh as much as you legs do...You're a big guy, it will take a big bike.
If you have an REI near you, you could try the Novara Safari. They sell for $899 and are a touring bike. The XL might just fit you. They come with a nice entry level equipment and will take 2.00"+ inch tires. If you buy an REI membership you'll get $90 back in store redeemable credit.
Sorry for the long post. You got stream of consciousness. I have a brother in law your size and was thinking of what I would say to him as I typed.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.