I am a newb on a $300 budget and I'm looking for a bike for commuting to town (on pavement) and occasionally light trail riding (nothing serious, just mulch bike paths). I visited several LBSs in my area today and two bikes fit my price range, the Giant Sedona ST and Trek 820 (or for $30 more, the Trek 7000).
Between the Giant and Trek 820, I really loved the feel of the 820. I didn't get a chance to test ride the 7000, but I will try on Monday. I am leaning heavily towards the 820 but I am open to the 7000 if it has enough benefits to warrant spending $30 more. My only concern with the 7000 is that it might not be as durable as the 820, but I could be completely wrong there.