Well, I went ahead and ordered a K2 ZED 1.0 from REI.com. It was on sale for $295, which seemed too good to pass up, as I'm just looking for a decent entry level bike right. I was also looking at the Specialized Hardrock for $369, which is around my limit, but if I can save $60 woo hoo. I've seen some good reviews for the 1.0, but I figure I'll try out the Specialized before the K2 comes in and just return the K2 if needed.
Also ordered some Crank Brothers Eggbeater SL pedals.
Heck, at REI, you can ride it for a year then take it back! I can't believe some of the things they advertise. The one that really struck me was when REI sold a car, in the 70s or 80s and they returned it with 100k miles on it. Amazing.
Well, I took advantage of the great temps we're having here in Houston to test ride some bikes.
I tested an '07 Marin Bolinas Ridge that Sun & Ski had for $299 (from $429). I went in thinking I'd like it based on Marin reviews here and the fact that it was originally priced higher than the others I was looking at, but didn't care for it. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it just didn't feel right.
Next I went to REI to test the K2. I'll end up returning it. The bike just didn't feel solid for some reason.
Then went to my LBS and tested a Specialized Hardrock Sport, Trek 4300 (which was only $379) and a Gary Fisher Wahoo, I think. (Don't remember b/c it was out of my price range. :-) )
I couldn't tell much difference between the Hardrock and 4300, so went on looks. I'm now the proud owner of a black Specialized Hardrock Sport to go with my Specialized Allez Elite road bike. (I know, I know, the thread is useless w/o pictures, but I'm still waiting on my Crank Brothers Eggbeater SL pedals, which should arrive later in the week.)
I'm starting to feel like a Specialized shill, especially since both bikes and pairs of shoes are from them, but I really like the stuff they put out.
I'll post some pics once I get the pedals put on.