I used to work in a bike shop 28 years ago and I haven't ridden a bike since (school, work, kids, etc). I just moved to San Jose, CA and a friend who is really into riding (he has a couple bikes including a $5,000 custom one) has reminded me how much I used to love bikes.
So now I have to get a bike for myself. Since it has been so many years I am not sure exactly what kind of riding I will be doing. I used to love to go fast and ride aggressively, but now I am out of shape, much older and much larger. I am 46 years old, 6'1", 217 lbs with a 34 inseam (I am thinking I need to be measured to know the ideal sized frame and components).
I image I will be riding about 1 hour each day and several hours over the weekend (mostly with my friend and his fancy bike) and I think it would be fun to join one of the bike clubs around me to make some new friends who like to ride.
I don't plan to race (but as I said, used to like riding fast) and my friend is suggesting that we try randoneer riding starting in October. Randoneering looks like fun, but who knows if I will like it or get a heart attack riding so many miles.
Mostly I will be riding alone during the week for fun and exercise (I work from home so no commuting required), riding with my friend and maybe a few group rides. And I am looking forward to attaching a trail-a-bike so I can ride with my 3 year old daughter (now I have to walk behind her when she is riding her big wheel) and go on picnics.
I know this may sound like I need a $200 Walmart bike, but I really enjoy a great performing bike. I have tried riding a few bikes at some local bike shops and I always liked the ride of the more expensive race oriented bikes rather than the sport recreational bikes.
I am thinking I would like a steel frame rather than a new fanged carbon bike, also I am cheep (I told my friend maybe I would spend $300 bucks on a bike, now that I know better I am thinking $1,500 - $2,000 is more realistic) and I think it would be a blast to get a stand, some tools and build up the bike myself (as I used to do 28 years ago). Also, I just got a new Zinn book so I can get caught up on all of the new tech.
The bikes I am looking at are the:
Soma Smoothie (http://www.somafab.com/archives/product/smoothie) - This looks like the most fun, but I don't think it would good for randonee, if I decide to go that route since you can't put on fenders with the short reach breaks. and I am worried about hooking a trial-a-bike to it.
Soma ES (http://www.somafab.com/archives/product/es) - This looks like the best compromise, more stable for pulling my daughter and taking a picnic with us, and better for rando riding (up to 28 tires with fenders) but I am worried that I won't like the performance as well as the Smoothie for my day-to-day riding.
Salsa Casseroll (http://salsacycles.com/bikes/casseroll/) - Might even be better for rando riding (front rack, cani breask for larger tires with fenders) but may be less fun to ride. It seems to have a lot of people who love this bike.
Unfortunately I have not been able to find any of these in the local shops to ride. I went to American Cyclery in SF and road a few Soma bikes but they only had an ES in my size, which was very comfortable, but I liked the responsiveness of the Smoothie a bit better (but it could have been because it was 2 or 3 sizes too small for me).
I can only afford 1 bike now and maybe another in a couple of years. One bike shop told me I should look only at the Smoothie or the Double Cross as the ES would be too middle of the road and I wouldn't like it in the long run, while I would keep one of the other two bikes after I bought a second bike. American Cyclery told me I could get any of the Soma bikes and they would make them fit. So I am confused as to which bike I would like best.
I am leaning toward the Smoothie or the ES. If I got the ES would I like the performance? If I got the Smoothie would I have to get another bike If I start riding randos? Do randos prefer riding cantilever for bigger tires? Which bike would be best with a front bag? If I ride in the winter will I want fenders (my friend says he never uses fenders). Should I just buy an off-the-shelf bike? How about used bikes? (I looked at a Lemond from Criagslist but it was rusted out and I don't trust that I can evaluate anymore if a bike is in good shape or not.)
Sorry for the long post. Hopefully you can help me narrow down my choices.
Rans Enduro Sport, Hase Kettweisel Tandem, Merin Bear Valley beater bike
You've been out of cycling for 28 years, you want to do some long distance rides, and you want to be able to tow your daughter on a trail-a-bike. You don't need a race bike, you need a base mileage bike.
You're already thinking about buying a second bike in a few years. I'd be thinking relatively comfortable riding position, wider tires, and fun with the daughter for now and save the head down riding position and skinny tires for the next bike. By then you'll have some miles under your belt so that will be the perfect time. And I wouldn't go too middle-of-the-road on either bike. Make them be distinctively different.