I am looking for a bike to be used mostly on roads but I also want to be able to go on gravel/stone paths every once in a while. Hybrid bikes seem to be the best option so I have tested a few by different companies over the past few days, but there are so many variations that I am having some trouble figuring out what I really need. I have a few questions that I'm hoping to get some help on... Also, I'd like to stay somewhere around the $400 to $550 range if possible.
Are there any brands or models you recommend? Any you would avoid?
What tire size (width) would be best to handle mostly road but also some bike path use? I've tested everything from 28c to 45c and I'm getting the feeling that 32c or 35c is about the minimum for paths... is that accurate in your experience?
What brands tend to have decent components for the money? I don't need anything too high end but something a little above the bare minimum would be nice.
And a more specific question: I've seen the Specialized Crosstrail, but I'm concerned that the tire is 45c and that seems kind of wide since I want to be doing mostly road riding... How is a 45c tire riding on the road?
(I've looked at the Trek 7100 or 7200 and the Trek 7.2FX, Globe Vienna, Giant Cypress, Bianchi Verona and Iseo, and Specialized Crosstrail and Sirrus.)
Hopefully someone can offer some advice, thanks!