hi all! great forum. i've been scoping out the site for a couple of days now, and have a couple of questions.
i recenlty fixed up my dad's road bike, and it's awesome!!! it's quick, easy to ride, and more importanly, has renewed an interest in me to go biking. however, i've been biking with two friends who own mountain bikes. i go WAY faster than they do as my bike is built for speed. and that sucks, because we want to go riding together and for exercise. i'm not getting either as they have to peddle faster and more (i don't...at least relatively to them), and it's not together as i speed off on my road bike. so after some research, i've came to the conclusion that i don't need a mountain bike because i don't go off trail. and if i do, it won't be anything extensive, and i also don't need a road bike as it's quite impractical to ride with them. afterall, i still do want exeercise and to be able to ride with them...at least have them to keep pace. so i've now narrowed down to a hybrid bike. and here's my question: 1) because i'm a newbie...what are the good companies out there to look for (i know the usual suspects...sprcialized, trek, bianchi), but what are the better ones? 2) how much should i spend to get a decent hybrid bike? 3) what's the real difference bewteen a road bike and a hybrid besides the handlbars (i'm sure that's a dumb question, but i don't know, so i'm asking )? they all look quite similar to me...at least in pictures...
and that's that. i know there's a few questions in there. and this may not even be the right place to post it. i just wasn't sure. i thank you all in advanced.
'01 Gary Fisher Tassajara; '03 Litespeed Blue Ridge; '04 Cannondale Road Tandem; '93 Schwinn Traveler
Why not get a used mountain bike? There are lots of those for sale on ebay and craigslist.com. A hybrid will not work well on a true single track for mountain bikes. You may find you like mountain biking and then the money spent on the hybrid is wasted.
The $500 for a decent hybrid could get you a used mountain bike and a road bike if you have to give the road bike back to your dad.
I went your route, trying to get one bike to do it all, and it can do it all, but none of it well. So after I bought the do it all cyclocross bike, I still ended up getting a fast road bike and a hard tail mountain bike. I ended up spending more by trying to save up front.
'98 Lemond Alpe D'Huez - go fast days
'03 Litespeed Blue Ridge - go long days
'01 Gary Fisher Tassajara - up and down days
Cannondale T2000, Gary Fisher Sugar2, Trek Madone 5.2SL
Essentially, you're looking for a bike to slow you down so you can ride with friends? Don't take this wrong, but that's seems to me to be an absurd reason to buy a bike. It would be cheaper to buy extra brake pads and drag a brake or buy a kid's trailer and throw in a cinder block or find the fattest, biggest tread tires for your wheels. I imagine someday your friends will want to go faster, then they'll want road bikes too.
A hybrid (generally speaking) will have lower gearing than your road bike, be more upright, come with wider tires and likely weigh more.
I'd make your friends keep up with you. If that's truly not an option, I'd see how long they intend to commit to biking on-road. If this is something they're not going to stick with, then buying a hybrid is probably a really bad idea. If they're wanting to really do this regularly, you have to wonder how long until they get road bikes, and the sooner that happens, the worse that hybrid purchase is going to look. If you really want to slow yourself down, and don't like my other ideas (how about a parachute?), then like the above guy, I'd find a decent used mountain bike so at least you can use it for mtn biking should you try off-roading with them.
For your first good bike, picking the "right" bike shop is far more important than the name brand decal on the bike. Every name brand hybrid bike at the $300 price point or $400 price point is more or less equal in quality. So, proper fit, proper assembly, and service after the sale are the REALLY important factors.
Visit all of the shops within two or three miles of your home. Ask each to show you the bikes in your price range, and get their suggestions on the correct size for you. Ask them about their service after the sale (most shops include free tune-ups and adjustments for thirty days, or longer). Check their hours and their repair facility. Look at how they treat you and other customers.
Then, pick the shop where you feel most comfortable. Every new bike news adjustments and tune-ups from time to time. Buy from a shop where you will enjoy returning in the future.