I'm not looking to spend a fortune since I obviously don't really know what I'm getting myself into yet. I would prefer my purchase to be somewhere between 250-400, but am willing to go into the mid 400's if I could get substantially greater bang for the buck in doing so.
I'm looking for a sportier/performance hybrid as opposed to a comfort/cruiser hybrid. A highly flexible/adjustable bike would probably be preferable since I'm not sure what is going to feel comfortable in the short/long term. Lightness of the bike is also a priority as I will be carrying it at times and as an engineer inefficient (heaviness being a form thereof) things irk me. Looks/paint aren't extremely important, but I definitely don't want it to look spacey or odd.
I will probably travel 80-90% road and 10-20% bike trails. This is one area I am curious about. What are the real limitations of a hybrid bike vs. a true mountain bike? When people say "off-road" do they simply mean not a paved road or does it imply that the terrain is not even a "bike trail".
I am willing to buy used and/or parts If I could get a substantially better bike this way. My plan is to make a list of about 5-10 bikes here and then try to find them at a local bike store and compare their feel/qualities.
A couple of examples I have been looking at:
http://www.amazon.com/Diamondback-In...f=pd_sbs_sg_42 (would probably have to find one used to fit my budget)