Best bike for short woman just getting back into biking?
I am approaching my 40th birthday and want to give myself a birthday present of a new bike. My last bike was (I think) a shogun road bike with the ram style handlebars (which I converted to flat eventually) and always felt too tall/unsteady. I got rid of it a few years ago. I have three boys, 7,5 and 2 and want to start riding in my neighborhood with my 7-year-old in the evenings. Eventually I envision family bike rides and maybe solo rides around my neighborhood for excercise. Where I live there are gradual hills (not too steep) and it is pretty much all pavement riding.
I am also 5'2", overweight and haven't been on a bike in 15 years. My LBS's have steered me to look at comfort or hybrid styles and I am considering the Giant Suede, Raleigh Venture, Specialized Globe and Gary Fisher Tiburon. I looked at the Electra Townie because I hear such great things, but I was told there is only one size to the frame and it was too tall for me -- nowhere near the "flat foot" technology in my case!
So far I have only gotten to test ride the Specialized Globe. With the seat lowered so I could reach comfortably to the ground my knees were almost to my elbows when pedalling. But I was informed it should be a higher seat and tip-toe reach and I should come off the seat to stop. I don't want to have to do that, if possible. I do want to be able to feel steady and like the flat (or nearly so) foot idea, especially as I get more into it and might want to add a baby seat.
I plan to test ride more but my LBS didn't have my size in stock in the Raleigh and I need to go when I don't have the kids with me, limiting my ability to do research in person. I also like the look/ease of the women's style step-through frames.
Any suggestions? Am I missing any to consider? I want to stay in the $300-$450 range, but am willing to stretch a BIT if I really like something. I want to like this bike and I want to be comfortable and be able to have fun when I ride.