I'm trying to decide among some hybrids or flat-bar road bikes at about $500, and would love some advice from the veterans. I read though a lot of the posts on this forum re: these bikes, and the consensus seems to be they are all good, but I don't know how to make a decision, or if there are some telling differences among them.
I'm a 28 year-old guy, 5'10", about 175, in decent shape, and have been putzing around on hybrids since college -- at least until I moved to L.A., and got in the awful habit of driving 2 blocks for coffee.
Now I'm back in the Bay Area, and looking to get a solid bike to go for some weekend 10-30 mile rides around the Bay Area roads, both flat and hills. I'm not ready for a road bike, especially since I'll also be occasionally just riding on SF city streets, so I thought I'd get a hybrid geared more toward performance than comfort, or maybe what some salespeople have told me is a "flat bar road bike."
There are four in particular I test rode (just a 5 minute spin) and liked within my budget ($400-$600), and would appreciate any insight on them:
2009 Marin Fairfax (19"). $499 at Marin Factory store; aluminum frame w/ carbon fork; derailer: shimano sora; crankset: TruVativ Touro 3.0; rims: Alex DC-19 (28c).
I liked that this is a light bike with road-bike components. It seemed pretty smooth and put together, but I see some people say that the bottom-of-the-line sora could be trouble.
2010 Specialized Sirrus (54 cm). $469 at LBS; aluminum frame; derailer: shimano altus; crankset: shimano FCM-191; rims: Alex S500 (32c).
Seems very light and comfortable, but I wonder what I'm losing with not getting the carbon fork of the Marin?
2010 Giant Rapid 3 (medium). $550 at LBS; aluminum frame (chromoly fork?); derailer: shimano sora; crankset: FSA Tempo; rims: Giant Sport Road (28c).
This felt very fast, but I was bouncing around from the vibrations on a rough city street on a test ride.
2009 Jamis Coda (19"). $430 at Sports Basement; steel frame; derailer: shimano acera M360; crankset: FSA alloy triple; rims: Alex ID-19 (28c).
I love how the steel makes it a smooth, sturdy ride, but I wonder what I lose with the added weight?
I also checked out a Gary Fisher Monona, but had to ride a 17" and didn't get a good idea about it, and the Raleigh FT1 Alysa, which was nice but I felt a little too upright.
I wonder too if maybe I can eliminate the Giant Rapid -- the 28c tires + all-aluminum frame being trouble w/ vibrations? My favorites rides are in the hills above Berkeley and Palo Alto, and just winding through the Presidio -- and none of those roads are particularly smooth, so maybe I need to go with a more comfortable bike.
I read in one of the sticky posts that, at this price point, there's not going to be a lot of difference, so perhaps I should just figure out what feels best.
I really appreciate the help. It's great to have experts here helping us newbies get introduced to the sport. Thanks again.