What to buy?
Looking to buy a couple of bikes that would be good for trail riding in Ohio and riding on the beach in Hilton Head...hard packed beach. Have looked at Trek (Navigator and 7000 series), Diamondback (Wildwood and Serene), and Northrock (SC7 and CL5)...but don't know anything about bikes....would like to spend $500 or less for each bike...obviously the cheaper you go, more trade-offs in quality...so looking for some experienced perspective...
You might look at the Specialized Crosstrail/Ariel series. A little more on the mountain bike side of hybrid. The Trek 7000 is a bit on the comfort side of the hybrid line. I have a Navigator, and it is great as a neighbothood bike. I would go with the 7000 over the Navigator for trails, but there are lots out there to look at. Find an LBS that treats you right and buy from them if you can.
What's wrong with going to the local bike shop and asking them. They are in the business, can fit you properly and provide on going maintenance and support.