I'm really glad to have found this resource as I have come to know that forums are one of the very best knowledge bases for any hobby.
I'm completely new to biking. Besides riding a bike when I was in middle school (I'm 20 now) and riding a rusted out beach-cruiser to and from the library last year, I know nothing about bikes.
This coming school year, I will be transferring to UCSD, and I plan on biking the short 3 or 4 miles to school every day. Not a tough ride by any means. I'm looking for something that is comfortable to ride with a backpack on, has room for maybe a basket and/or a rack on the back (I've seen some baskets and even racks that look very easy to take on and off, which would be ideal), and isn't going to be too much maintenance (if the bike is down, I can't get to school!). I'm also interested in using the bike recreationally to get into shape, but that is the secondary mission of the bike.
I went to my LBS (I'm learning the lingo already) and was recommended a Giant Cypress (not the DX or anything). This seems like the perfect bike to my very inexperienced eyes. It is aluminum, so it's lightweight, it has 21 gears, has both the front and seat suspension, and it has the hybrid tires. They are asking $400, but they are doing a bike "Cash for Clunkers" program, where I can get 50 bucks off if I give them my old bike. So we're looking at $350 for the Giant Cypress.
I'm also looking into getting a headlight, taillight, bike lock and explore my options for cargo (rack, basket) so I'd love to hear your suggestions on this. Bike shorts and some of the more sporty things will come later, I'm sure. Another thing that has crossed my mind is a rear fender to protect me and any cargo from getting too wet if I ride over water or I'm in the rain.
I would love to hear your suggestions and comments about this bike, or any other that will fit my mission profile. I've read the reviews for the DX on this site, and they are all very favorable. I'm not sure how much height/weight matter at this stage, but I am abut 5'11" and ~170 lbs.