Short version: Considering a $200 bike from Craigslist or Target vs. a $500 bike from LBS.
Long version: I'm a graduate student in North Carolina with a 2-mile (each way) commute that is almost all sidewalk and has two big hills. Also, I'd like to have a bike that gives me the option of casual rides around local parks and paved -- or mostly paved -- trails. I'm considering bikes at a couple price points and mainly want to know what it is I'll regret if I go for one of the cheaper options. There's a Trek bike shop a block away from where I live, and they think for what I'm doing the Trek fx 7.2 is what I need, and their price is about $500 -- also, they will do all maintenance and tuning for one year for no additional cost.
After shopping, here are the other options I'm considering:
- Used Trek 730 (trek 730 multitrack)
- Used Mongoose Alta (Mongoose Alta)
- Schwinn Trailway (Schwinn Mens Trailway 28"/700c Hybrid Bike - Blue : Target)
- Trek Allant -- mainly because I think it's a beautiful bike (Allant - Trek Bicycle)
After looking at these forums, it seems like the main disadvantage of not buying from an LBS is that I'll be on my own for tuning it initially. Also, the Target bike is likely to be lower quality. I'm on a student budget, but a yearly parking pass on campus for my car is $500, so a bike will be saving me that much anyway (In fact, it will save me multiples of that amount over the next few years if commuting on a bike works out for me).
My questions for you:
1. Will the initial work and parts required for one of the $200-ish bikes make me end up at the $500 price point, anyway?
2. Is the experience of riding the $500 bike and having the 1 year of maintenance from the bike shop enough to move to the $500 bike?
3. At each price point, which of the bikes I'm looking at is the one to choose? (Particularly, if I spend the extra money, are there any advantages to the Allant over the 7.2?)
4. Is there anything else you think I should think about?