Old, SLOW bike rider! ;)
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Colorado Springs, CO.
Bikes: 1993 Mongoose Switchback MTB
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Sean, good to see your looking at "bicycle shop" level rides, just stay away from X-Mart bikes! Ok, sounds like your my kinda rider, what I'd recommend is bitting the bullet and getting into a say $450-550 Hardtail MTB, (ie: no suspension in the rear/some suspension in the front). Most MTB's in this range come with decent level compoents, double-wall rims, quick-release wheels.
My example is my 09 Jamis Trail-X 3.0, it's easy rolling/lite enough to do some road/rail-trail rides yet if I choose it's STRONG enough for me at over 200lbs. to do some singletrack/doubletrack trails in our local area too. I don't think you'd go wrong with just about any Major bicycle MFG'er's Hardtail MTB in that price range to do what you want. I've added a "suspension" seat post to my Jamis, one to create the worlds most inexpensive softail ride, LOL, and two to compensate for my arthritis (Reiter's Syndrome, Chronic) and beat up old 50+ body!
The GREAT thing about a MTB is that it's totally veristal in it's usage, if you find your not doing hardly any dirt they make, "road tires", (non-knobby) for your MTB, which will let you roll faster on pavement/concrete. No you won't be able to keep up with the local "Roadie" rides but still you can zip along nicely. IF your even thinking about heading off into the dirt, DO NOT buy a Comfort Bike, they can handle easy/level dirt paths but after that the "Gearing" really limits your climbing ability, jmho, ymmv.
The shop can raise the stem/change to a shorter stem, ect. different places on the seat, ect. to get the bike to FIT you, that's VERY important for enjoying the RIDE! Hope this help's!
Take care, RIDE SAFE, have FUN!
1993 Mongoose Switchback Ridged MTB, converted to a "Rail Trail Bike"! :)