Join Date: May 2002
Location: Clermont County, Ohio
Bikes: Electra Townie 21D, Fuji Saratoga 1.0
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I am about to purchase a 2002 Trek 7300 for just the reasons you state. I mainly ride a road bike (Specialized Allez), but I want another bike for casual riding on rougher roads and some light trail.
Hybrids vary, so be studious. Some have 700cc (larger) wheels, others have 26" wheels (like mountain bikes). There are other differences among them as well. For casual riding this will not make much difference to you, but if you wanted to start riding a little farther and faster for fitness workouts, the 700 will offer you a chance to put a skinnier, higher pressure tire on it, which may or may not make a bit of difference to you in the long run!
I'd suggest looking at Trek's 7000 series and the 7500fx and 7700fx. Also Specialized Sirrus, Crossroads, Expedition and Sequoia. Cannondale has the Adventure 400 and Silk Adventure bikes which are nice. Bianchi, Jamis, Giant, Raleigh, Diamondback, and many others have "hybrids" and "comfort bikes".
I'd say hit the local bike shops and start test riding. Your initial impression of what you want may change the more you look and ride. Good luck!