Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Directly above the center of the earth
Bikes: Varies by day
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Hi Phil! Welcome to the fourms! I was in your shoes this past January and will share my experiences in hopes that they'll be useful to you.
I had bicycled in the 70's but not since. When I came back, I first began riding a "cruiser" style bicycle with a coaster brake. Since I wanted exercise only, I thought it would be sufficient.
I shortly found the cruiser unsuitable because I couldn't raise the seat enough to be comfortable. The cheap, 1"-diameter seat post that came with the thing would bend if I raised it. (this won't be an issue for you at your weight, but since I was 265 at the time, it was an issue for me).
I then bought a "comfort bike" from the local bike shop. The model I chose was an Electra "Townie." This bike had good components, multiple speeds, and a suspension to make for a comfortable ride. After about three months, this also became unsuitable. The "bolt-upright" seating was fine for the first hour, but became very uncomfortable afterward because I was having to use the muscles I was sitting on. Also, the handlebars caused me to pull back on them at all times, causing "tennis elbow."
I next bought a "hybrid" bike, a Kona Dew Deluxe. This bike had flat handlebars that were far enough forward that I could move around on the bike while I rode. The option of moving kept me from getting so sore and having my arms in compression rather than in tension kept me from having tennis elbow.
I further modified my Kona by adding some "road" handlebars (like on the old "10-speed racers"). These allowed even more riding positions.
So what feels most comfortable in the first few minutes of riding isn't necessarily the most comfortable after some time. Bikes that seem uncomfortable at first (with their harder seats and bent-over riding positions) may become significantly better after you adjust to them.
No matter what bike you get, plan on doing some experimenting with the saddle. What comes on the bike may not be the best for you. Fortunately, saddles are relatively inexpensive (particularly if purchased used), and you can experiment cheaply until you find something that you particularly like. The "Brooks" brand of leather saddles have a particularly good reputation for comfort.
The dealer you have sounds like a smart person. His recommendation for a slightly fatter tire is a winner, for sure. Best of luck with your purchase, and don't hesitate to ask for a ride on bikes in all price ranges before you buy. You may find out that the more expensive bikes have a feel that you really like. You may also find that you don't have to spend a full $1000 to get a bike that you can live with. Happy shopping!