I've finally come to the conclusion that it's time for a new bike. I've been holding onto the mountain bike I got a good 15+ years ago as a teenager, and well - it's awful. It probably came from Canadian Tire. Or maybe Zellers (think K-Mart). And with all the repairs it needs I could buy another cheap bike and be done with it.
But, I don't want another cheap bike that I don't care about.
I've spent a good chunk of the last couple days reading, but I'm at a loss at what to choose.
It will be rode perhaps 75% of the time on a paved road and the remainder will be on a dirt/gravel road or a shortcut through grass or a farmer's field. I live in a rural area, so road quality varies quite a bit. At this point in time, the farthest I ride is about 5 miles (to a friend's house, gravel road) but I'd like to start doing longer rides to supplement my exercise routine and cut down on my walking (I do enough of it at work, and I'd like to give my knees/back/feet a break). Speed isn't all that important. I'm looking for comfort, and something that can handle a road with fresh gravel as well as new pavement. I live in the Great Lakes area, so snow is an option as well. My budget is around $500CDN, preferably less.
At first I thought a hybrid bike would be perfect, but I've also seen a lot of negative opinions on them. For my usage, what would suit me the best? I'll be heading to a bike shop on Tuesday (and possibly a different one Wednesday) to see what they have, but I'd like to show up with an idea of what I want.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!