I am 56 years old and about 30 lbs. overweight. Currently going to school so looking for something to comute to school, ride around the neighborhood and perhaps take to paved trails in my area.
Currently considering a Trek 7100, 7200 or 7300 and a Trek Navigator 200 (used for $150). My question has to do with "confort" vs. "hybrid" bikes and specifically with the diferences between the Trek 7xxx and the Navigators. Which rides in more of an upright position?
By the way, my commute to school, although just 3-4 miles, involves a fairly steep hill.
Lastly, any recommendations for shops in Orange County, CA. I'm looking for a sale but it seems that although I've seen bike shop sales over the years, there is not one going on now that I want to buy a bike.
The biggest difference between the hybrid bikes (Trek 7200) and the comfort bikes (Trek Navigator) is that hybrid bikes use a 700c rim with tires around 35mm in width, a comfort bike uses a 26" rim with tires between 1.75" and 2.2" wide. 26" wheels are used on mountain bikes and 700c wheels are used on road and cyclocross bikes. At this level of bike there is not really a reason to go with one over the other.
Some general thoughts:
I really do not like suspension on a road bike. Its heavy, complex, unnecessary and power robbing.
Both types of bikes listed are fairly upright. Even more upright with a lower seat height is a crank forward design like an Electra Townie or Trek Pure (Sole Ride in 2006 models).
Nearly every manufacturer makes bikes similar to these. Smaller brands may offer slightly more for the money but your best value is probably to find last years model on sale.
If you are new to cycling or are not mechanically inclined it is best to find a local bike shop (LBS) you are comfortable with. Its easier if they are close but sometimes a good shop is worth the distance.
Sorry I just had to put those two next to one another.
I walked into a LBS with the same intention of buying something to take me around town 1-3 miles. I ended up getting a sportier flat bar hybrid that had 700c x 28 tires, no front/seat post suspension and a narrower saddle that's more comfortable over longer rides. I'm very glad I did as it has allowed me to go for longer rides, time permitting and stay fairly comfortable with a less upright position.
Check out the Jamis coda series bikes in addition to the Trek bikes.
We have very similar circumstances. I am also carrying extra body weight, commute 5-6 miles, and ride straight uphill all the way home. After trying the bikes you mention the LBS owner showed me the Trek 7.2FX. I was sold 3 minutes into the test ride! I got it because it still offered upright riding geometry, while having a little bit better equipment than the above mentioned bikes. I really like the trigger shift. It lacks front suspension, which I found to be a plus. 700c tires also make it seem quicker. I have had it for a couple of months and after a few hundred miles, I have no regrets.
2007 Trek Pilot 2.1 WSD & 2001 Specialized Crossroads
Whatever you do, go to several shops and ride a whole lot of bikes. Not only will you get a feel for the shop (and how much time they're willing to spend fitting the bike to you, which is insanely important), but you can take the bikes out for test rides of 3-4 miles, the length of your commute, and see how they feel. Any shop should let you do this distance without a problem.