I've been riding around on the cheap Walmart beach cruiser I bought in college for way too long. My husband just surprised me with a BikesDirect comfort bike as an early Christmas gift, which was a thrill, but before that I'd been hoping to find a used road bike. The new bike has been sitting in the kitchen, fully assembled, while I've tried to figure out if I should keep it or return/exchange. After all the bikeforums reading I've been doing I've decided not to keep it and I'm trying to figure out what to buy instead, while keeping within the $400 it cost.
I live in Indianapolis (flat terrain, terrible roads in our area, mostly have to drive bikes to get to decent bike path) but will be moving at the end of grad school this year. It could be anywhere at this point, so I have to plan for potential hills. In the past I've just taken out the cruiser for occasional two-hour rides, used it to get around town when we lived in a more bike-friendly area, and rented a bike for the day whenever exploring a new city. Now I'm hoping to start riding much more frequently as my main exercise, which would be on roads and paths of various quality and sometimes in poor weather conditions. My husband just got a new mountain bike and will be riding with me when he can.
I know nothing about bike construction or what the most important elements are to look for, although it sounds like the width/type of tire is crucial. I'd like to be able to get speed and efficiency at the same time as a little bit of comfort/safety/stability/ability to transport groceries etc. I've ridden a cruiser or rental comfort bike for so long that it'll be an adjustment to road bike body position, so I was thinking of compromises like a hybrid or a bike with a flat bar instead of drop-- I'm just worried I'll soon be ready for a road bike and be stuck with what I have, so I think I need to either just start all the way, with a road bike, or with something close enough to one that I'll be able to use it for years.
It sounds like a touring bike might be a good choice for me, but cyclocross bikes also sound appealing. I don't totally understand what a fitness bike is, and I'm not sold on a hybrid. I'm also not sure if these distinctions will amount to much at my under $400 price point. These are two I'm considering:
cheap cyclocross: http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...liberty_cx.htm
cheap touring: http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...alaxy_tour.htm
I think I'm off to the LBS to see what I can figure out there. Any thoughts/advice greatly appreciated!