My girlfriend just learned to ride a bike and is looking to buy a bike. Right now the top choice is a Trek 7.2fx for $400, although I am a bit wary that it is much more mountain-bikey than, for example, the Specialized Sirrus, mostly b/c of the wider tires. We don't want to spend much more than $400, need something that comes in womens (or at least very small size), and would prefer something a bit more road-like to help on speed. It's already a bit frustrating b/c I know that for $600 or so she could get an Allez or Trek 1000 or something similar, but I just don't think she's ready for a road bike yet. I really don't know the Giant, Kona, etc, lines very well - do you have any suggestions? Any thoughts on the trek? Thanks
The Trek 7.2fx is a good option. Can always put 700c-28's on later. Nothing mountain-bikey about the OEM tires. It a good compromise for most road conditions. Fuji offers 42cm sized bikes, if your GF is that short.
Other brands in the $400 range with 700c tires: Raleigh Passage 4.0, Giant Cypress, Specialized Crossroads Sport, Schwinn Voyageur GSD or Super Sport, Kona Dew, etc etc.
The truth is that among bikes in a given price range, especially at the low end, there just isn't that much difference from one to another. The market's very competitive, and no one can afford to put more expensive parts on a bike than everybody else does. If they spend more on something like a rear derailleur, they have to cut back on something that doesn't show, like a bottom bracket or headset.
I'd get the one that fits her best, or that feels most comfortable. As Sci-Fi said, it's really easy to swap tires, and it makes a big difference in the bike's feel, handling and versatility. I have an Atlantis, and I've done centuries with it as well as run it on fire trails, just by changing tires.
If budget is a big deal, I think the 7.2fx is a fine choice. That said, the geometry of the 7.2fx doesn't seem to be terribly different than that of a road bike. If the end goal is road riding, it may make sense to spend the extra $200 now and not buy a new bike in 6 months when she's more used to it. Maybe have her test ride one for an hour or so and see if it's something she could go for. Obviously, the biggest thing is to make sure that she's comfortable enough with it to ride and enjoy herself. Best of luck!
One difference in the FX line is the rigid fork - similar models will usually have a suspension fork. That's a bit of a nod towards the road end, I suppose. I find the fatter tires on my 7200FX a good fit for the craggy bike path in my neighborhood.
I find the fit much more heads up than my road bike, even with the adjustable stem lowered horizontally. Don't even think about a road bike if she has no interest in lowering the stem.
I would also say this is a good starter bike. If she wants to try out a road bike, however, she'll have a decent bike for local errands and such. It will also be useful for simple trails, but that will open another can of worms...
Update - ended up going slightly higher in price and getting the Specialized Cirrus Sport. The smallest size of the trek 7.2fx had very short crankarms and just did not feel stable for her (she is very much a beginner). Also the seat was not very comfortable. Very happy so far wth the cirrus - it's very much a flat-bar road bike, with good components and a very light frame. The regular sirrus seemed like a great deal as well - for a bit more than the trek you get some real road components (sora rear derraileur, instead of the tiave, or whatever the trek has). The only dissapointment is that I think last year the sport came with tiagra. I was surprised that she felt more stable on a road-like hybrid rather than a more mountainy-hybrid, but certainly not dissapointed!