I am new to this site and am looking to buy a new bike for my wife for her birthday (am going to take her with to make sure she gets the right size). The bike would mainly be used for rides around the neighborhood, local trips down gravel paths, and rides in northern Wisconsin on gravel/sand paths. The area around our home is pretty flat, but the paths in northern Wisconsin can be somewhat hilly.
I am not sure what type of bike to get (she has an old mountain bike now) but am thinking a comfort or hybrid bike might be best. I would like to keep any purchase around or under $400 as the bike won't be used more more than once a couple times a week for more casual use. Any suggestions on types, manufacturers and specific models would be greatly appreciated!
a hybrid or a road bike with fatter tires would both be a good choice. The wider tires would be perfect for gravel or sand paths too. Another mountain bike is probably not necessary because most of the riding you said would be on road (paved or unpaved). As for brands, your local bike shop could help out better than me, but schwinn, gt, giant, trek might be good starts. Just look for each brand's hybrid bike.
This list got too long: several ‘bents, an urban utility bike, and a dahon D7 that my daughter has absconded with.
About a week ago I went looking for a bike for my wife. The salesman recommended a Raleigh Route 3. She is a non rider and took to it pretty well. It was just under $400. Nearly al of the manufacturers make something similar. Like others have said, take her and hit some bike shops. Make a day of it.
Trek, Fuji, Giant, Specialized are the good stuff. Specialized might be the best of the bunch (lightest). Giant might have more features as they are the biggest manufacturers of bicycle frames, they supply others such as Trek. GT is good too. Bikes made in Taiwan usually are better than ones made in China.