Hey all, I've been lurking in these forums for a little while now and finally registered to get some buying advice. I'm going into my junior year of college and I'm looking to get a bike. I typically ride to class and I'm also planning on riding for exercise around the lake that my campus is built on. I'm hoping to also eventually use the bike when i graduate for commuting through a city (such as Chicago) to get to work, and transport some groceries hopefully.
I had a vintage Trek 501 for a while that I did some work on (replaced tubes & tires, bar tape, brake levers & cables, seat, touched up paint, etc) and tried to adjust for my size... However, I've now just placed it on Craigslist because despite lowering the seat post as far as I can and raising the handlebar stem, the frame is just too big for me (I'm about 5'8" and the frame is 64 cm ).
Anyway, now I've been surfing through Craigslist to try to find a bike I like, but there are horribly slim pickings where I currently am (Orlando). That being said, I was hoping people could help me find a decent (entry-level, I'm not an elitist; I just want something that will ride nicely, stay together, and get me from point A to B while carrying a bit of cargo) commuter bike. I only have a couple criterion... My budget (college student) is about $500, and I love handlebars with drops.
Someone pointed me to bikesdirect, but I've heard some pretty mixed reviews about the website, so I'm thinking "steer clear." Another, bike-savvy friend, told me to look at Jamis (said he'd be able to get me a 2010 Jamis model at a current 2009 model price at the shop he works at). Any other recommendations?
Any help is appreciated. Thanks!