From what folks may know, is the steel frame a big advantage in the Jamis Coda line (and I like Jamis because they seem to provide a very solid product at a very fair price)? This is what keeps cropping up in my research for a hybrid bicycle - go with a lighter bike (which means no suspension fork) and a steel frame and fork for the most comfort, which is why I am now focused on the Coda Sport and Coda as my priorities as a newbie who wants to get back on a bicycle (50 years old, 6'0", 200 pounds, and in decent shape from two to three weight circuit training workouts per week for over 30 years) to ride mostly on pavement but with the capability to do light (rather than mountain) paths and trails.
In addition, as I continue to pinch pennies in attempting to squeeze this bicycle out as a Christmas present from the family, are the Coda Sport (MSRP $600) components worth the extra $125 over the Coda (MSRP $475) in your view?
Specifically, we are talking about the same frame, headset, fork, tires, rims, spokes, seat posts, tape, and brakes between the two. But the wheels are different (Shimano Road 2200 hubs versus Formula sealed alloy QR hubs), the derailleurs are different (Shimano Deore rear and Shimano R453-A bottom pull front versus Shimano Acera rear and Shimano C-102 bottom pull front), the shift levers are different (Shimano ST-440 for flat-bar versus SRAM TRX Unilever trigger-shift), the chains are different (KMC Z9000 versus KMC Z-82), the cassettes are different (SRAM PowerGlide 950, 9-speed, 11-32 versus Shimano CS-HG40, 8-speed, 11-32), the cranksets are different (FSA Vero Triple, 50/39/30 versus RPM alloy triple, 48/38/28), the BB sets are different (FSA Sealed Cartridge versus Sealed Cartridge BB), the pedals are different (full alloy platform type versus platform type, steel cage/resin body), the handlebars and stems are different (Ritchey Alloy flatbar and Ritchey Comp Adjustable stem versus alloy flatbar and alloy adjustable stem), the saddles are different (Selle San Marco Elba versus Jamis Touring with SL top and satin steel rails), and the weights are slightly different (25.75 pounds versus 26.50 pounds).
I am hoping to use this bicycle for pavement, paths, and trails without having to change the setup. Are the 700x28c Vittoria Zaffiro tires going to be acceptable for this? I almost wish a somewhat wider tire (700x32c or 700x35c or 700x38c) came standard, plus something that was puncture resistant.
Picking a bike for someone else would be like trying to pick a wife for someone else. You need to figure this out yourself...take some test rides.
It is easy to change the tires on a bike at least once size up or down from the "factory" tire, so a bike that is sold with 28mm tires can use 32mm tires, and a bike sold with 35mm tires can use 32 tires. Don't let the factory's choice of tires become a major factor in your decision making.
I don't think a suspension fork is useful for riding on smooth dirt trails, especially if a bike has "fat" 32mm tires...it just adds weight and something that will need service.
Put a lot of attention of getting a proper fit...most of the folks I see on new bikes are riding bikes that are too small, in an effort to get that low, aero position use by pros during time trials. Most of us are not pros, and most of us are not planning to enter a time trial.