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.
Surly Pacer (http://surlybikes.com/bikes/pacer) - My friend recommended this bike.
VO Rando (http://store.velo-orange.com/index.p...mes/rando.html) - My friend suggested this bike too.
Soma Double Cross (http://www.somafab.com/archives/product/double-cross) - Everyone says this is their favorite all rounder but does not excel at any one thing.
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.
Thanks in advance for your help and advice.