I am a newbie getting back on a bike after over 25 years being off one. My last bike was a Schwinn ten-speed with the shift levers mounted on the stem such that you had to find each gear. I understand that the technology has made a quantum leap since then and that shifting and braking are easier and more sure.
I anticipate riding mostly on pavement for exercise and exploration, and (as a southern California person) would like to take the bike to the beach and to the desert and out on bike trails, though I am not a mountain person and won't be up there with it. As I progress I am sure I will want to take the bike for increasingly longer rides.
From my research I am very interested in Jamis bikes. They seem to be well made, well respected, and of great value.
I am hoping not to have to spend more than $675. And I don't think I am ready for or will like dropped road handlebars, so I am looking more at flat handlebars or even a mid-rise comfort bar for a more upright ride. Given where I am going to ride and the kind of cockpit I think I will be most comfortable in to start, I guess I need a hybrid with 700 x 28/32/35/38c tires.
I must admit that the intricacies, if not most of the basics, of gearing escape me...
With that in mind, the bikes that have caught my eye in the 2008 Jamis catalog for my needs and at my price range are the Citizen 3, the Coda Sport, and the Allegro 2X.
I like that the Citizen 3 packs a lot of punch for the dollar (MSRP $565) - with disc brakes and a Shimano Deore rear deraillerur and lockout (63mm) front suspension fork. Admittedly this is more of a comfort style bicycle given its geometry and mid-rise handlebars and tires (700x38c), so longer rides may be a problem as my skills progress.
I like that so many people rave about the ride of a steel frame bicycle, which is what the Coda Sport provides for a reasonable amount of money (MSRP $600). I would be giving up disc brakes (for Tektro alloy linear pull brakes) with this bike and adding flat handlebars (with stem spacers and an angle-adjustable stem to optimize positioning). And I believe the gear ratio (9-speed with 50/39/30 compared to the 8-speed 48/48/28 on the Citizen 3) and tires (700x28c) are made for more speed with this bike, though the Citizen 3 has puncture-resistant tires that the Coda Sport lacks.
I like that Jamis describes the new Allegro 3X/2X/1X bikes as "sport utility vehicles - off-road influenced and capable, but built for real-life everday use, whether urban, suburban, or rural." This seems like the kind of bike I am looking for based on my riding needs. The Allegro 2X (MSRP $675) has the same flat handlesbars and gearing and brake system and rear derailleur (Shimano Deore) as the Coda Sport, but has an aluminum frame, suspension fork (63mm lockout), and 700x35c (puncture resistant) tires.
What do those with knowledge and experience think about which bike would best match my needs? Make me happiest in the long-run? What are the plusses and minuses for each option? Any input would be greatly appreciated so that when I head to my local bike shop I know enough to make a prudent purchase. Thanks.