Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Beaverton, OR
Bikes: Kona Jake, Kona Jake the Snake, Kona Major Jake, Kona Kula, Ridley Excalibur, LeMond Buenos Aires, Pinarello Gran Turismo, Pinarello Montello, Trek 614, Austro-Daimler Team, Motobecane Grand Record, Schwinn Voyageur, Nishiki Olympic, Steyr Clubman
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A hybrid is probably pretty good for recreational use, if you're thinking about short rides on bike paths. If you think a 60- or 100-mile ride might be in your future, then get a road bike. Hybrids are generally much less expensive. I would recommend staying away from anything with front suspension.
Don't buy at Dick's or Sports Authority (and definitely not department stores). Look for a local bike shop (LBS). Depending on where you are in Maryland, you may be near a Performance Bike
(I think there's one in Rockville). They are a big chain store and hence lack some of the benefits and quality of an LBS, but they're better than department stores, and they usually have some pretty decent bikes at the low end of the cost spectrum.
Stay away from anything that says Magna, Next, or Kent. They're low quality. Be skeptical of Schwinn or Mongoose. There are both excellent and poor bikes with those names. GT, KHS and Diamonback make some OK bikes that might appeal to you. Some brands that I could definitely recommend include Jamis, Trek, Giant, Specialized, Kona and Marin.
Shop around and ride several bikes before you buy. Make sure whatever you get is the right size for you. As you shop, come back here and ask any specific questions you might have.