Join Date: May 2014
Location: Rural Minnesota
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Big box store bikes are what they are. Some are crapfests, others are serviceable but low end to entry level. For commuting I'd skip the two bikes you mentioned, you are paying for a very low end suspension fork that is unnecessary, will perform poorly, and will likely be the first component to fail. Look for a rigid front fork. Of the WalMart Schwinns, the Varsity is the entry level model and is only about $50 more than the bikes you listed. Properly assembled, adjusted and cared for you can get a lot of miles out of these bikes, just don't expect them to be "just as good" as the $500+ brand name bikes from and LBS or online vendor.
Honestly, I'd go to some local bike stores and inquire about used bikes. A reputable shop will sell quality used bikes that have been serviced and are in good safe roadworthy condition for fair prices. You can often find rigid steel MTBs from the 1980s and 90s for the same price range as what you are looking at and will get much more bike for the money. Bikes like the Trek 700 and 800 series, Giant Yukon or Boulder, Specialized Hardrock, etc. will all make great fitness/commuters for under $200. Most have eyelets for fenders and racks if you want that for your commuter, and will accept a variety of tires such as street slicks, hybrids, cruisers or 2.1 or larger MTB tires. For your stated purpose a 1.5 inch (approx 35-38 mm) hybrid tire will work very well but even the trail tires most of these bikes came with will be fine until they are due to be replaced. Here is an example of a bike I'd expect to go for between $100 and $200 depending on the local market.
Unless you are experienced with basic bike mechanics or know someone who is and is willing to help, I'd steer away from online bikes such as those from Bikes Direct. Many of these are fine bikes, but the cost savings is a trade off for having the buyer responsible for final assembly, adjustment and servicing. Not a bad deal, just not for newbies to bike mechanics.
Last edited by GravelMN; 08-17-14 at 07:30 AM.