Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Rocket City, No'ala
Bikes: 2014 Trek Domane 5.2, 1985 Pinarello Trevisio, 1991 Colnago Master, '06 Bianchi San Jose, 1987 Moulton Fuso, 1990 Gardin Shred, '82 John Howard(Dave Tesch)
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The differences I could see from the spec sheet are better drivetrain components on the Nirvana. Shifting should be a bit crisper.
Test ride them again, be sure to shift through all the gears while going fast, standing up, climbing a hill. Give it a workout. If you can't tell the difference and the LBS says there's really not much difference, then get the cheaper one.
Remember that it's always cheaper to get the best components on the bike than to upgrade them later.
The Nirvana saddle looks to be firmer, which on longer rides is what you want. A big squishy saddle feels good for a short ride but allows your sitbones to sink down, bringing painful pressure on other more sensitive areas. If you haven't ridden in a long time, all saddles will not feel comfortable until you and the saddle get used to each other.
The upright geometry of the hybrid is good in traffic, you are more visible to cars and you can look around easier. Hybrids aren't the fastest bikes in the world but that's okay; you can still ride the heck of it. The rigid fork is better; the suspension forks just add weight and rob power.
How long has it been since you rode and what sort of riding did you do? If you used to have a road bike and took it for long rides, you'll quickly outgrow the hybrid. If you had a mountain bike and just rode it around campus, the hybrid would be a good choice; lighter and more suited for your needs.
Tell us what you decide to do and give us a ride report.