King of the molehills
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Detroit 'burbs, east side.
Bikes: '04 Giant OCR2, '87 Schwinn World Sport F/G conversion, '85 Schwinn Super Le Tour, '92 Trek 820
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My first bike (as a 50+ rider after a long hiatus) was a Trek 7200 with front suspension and supsension seatpost. I'm with Madmaxx: Even on the cratered roads around Motown I'm not sure the front suspension was that big a help. The suspension seatpost made more of a difference IMO.
I'd look more at overall comfort and fit. Beyond that there's no substitute for patiently trying different bikes till you find what suits you
, and a good bike shop that will allow and help you to do so. By 'suits you' I mean that no one but you can decide if the solution will be a hybrid, or a cruiser, or whatever. All I'd say for sure is that road and cyclocross bikes are probably out!
As for your gravel & dirt country roads, the tires will make the most difference in terms of handling. Depending on the bike you choose you might wind up replacing smooth pavement-oriented tires with something with more of a tread, more like mountain bike tires. The LBS might be willing to do so for free or a modest charge depending on the price of the replacement tires.
If you can, adjust your budget up $100 or so. It'll widen your options.
Last edited by bcoppola; 05-11-09 at 08:42 AM.