I'm looking for advice on an entry level long-distance commuting bike. Let me first say that I know nothing about this sport and I haven't owned a decent bike in my life. But I've got to start somewhere.
Here is what I need. I plan to be riding it a LOT, maybe thirty miles every workday, fifteen each way. I'm not sure if I can handle this at the very moment given the shape that I am in, but I'm pretty determined to make it happen eventually. About a third of my route will be on Chicago's pothole-filled streets, and the rest on the smooth (but crowded) lakeshore path. I'd also like something reasonably fast and elegant, but flexible enough to ride around the city and explore with without being constantly on edge. Unfortunately, I have less than $500 to spend, and I also have to budget for accessories. I'm about 5'10-5'11".
Being a complete noob, I am not sure if I should start to look for used bikes, or whether anyone is familiar with a good shop in the Chicago area where I can find something new. Advice would be useful.
A hybrid is what I'm aiming for, since I've never ridden a road bike and I like the flexibility. From what I've gathered, good options are the Specialized Sirrus, the Trek FX series, the Giant FCR, the Marin Fairfax, and the Bianchi Torino and Iseo. What do you recommend?