WEll, I am a 41 y.o. PT and AT teacher, buying my first bike since my beloved Huffy 10 speed which I left in teh basement of my apt. building after grad school. I hope it was adopted by a lovely person. Any advice about purchasing and riding hybrids in the $350-550 range welcome! I think forums like these are the best. If you ever want to travel to Belize, and I heartily suggest you do, check out belizeforum.net!
Welcome neighbor. Trek, Specialized, Giant, Raleigh and Marin are brands with bikes in your price range. Try Performance Bike, Revolution Cycles, Spokes or City Bikes, all shops in the Metro area. They have websites as well.
I ride a Trek730 hybrid (probably at least 10 yrs old, so I'm sure models have changed) but I love it. I've never had a problem with it, just a simple tune up every year and that's it. There's a lot of great trails to ride in this area too.
Yeah, can you believe it - I still ride that old thing! Truth is I hadn't ridden in several years, and just got into it again this year. I'm new to the DC area, so it's been fun to explore the trails around here. At the time I bought that so long ago, that was all I could afford (and I remember saving awhile for it). Now I can afford to make a serious investment in a bike, and thought I might - but I just don't really know what I want to get. So I think I'm going to finish this year out on my old and true Trek - then next Spring do some research, have fun test driving, and treat myself to something in the $1 to $2k range.