Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Bikes: 2014 Specialized Crosstrail Disc, 1995 Specialized HardRock Ultra, 1991 Trek 1200, late 80's Tunturi 500R, plus various others moving through my garage...
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It's hard to make specific recommendations without at least knowing your ballpark budget.
I definitely think the hitch mounted rack is the way to go. They all sit at a good height for loading and unloading and many can carry more than just two bikes (you didn't mention kids, but you are in the rec and family forum). Yakima and Thule are two of the top brands out there. I personally have the Yakima HoldUp 2"
. It's a bit pricey but can be found for quite a bit less than MSRP. One nice thing about it is that it doesn't rely on the top tube of the frame (or the frame at all) for carrying the bike. You can also buy their 2+ expansion to increase the carrying capacity to four bikes. I've owned a TON of racks over the years, and this is the best rack I've ever owned.
As far as bikes go, I'm a big guy too (6', 295lbs), but I've put a huge number of miles on my Specialized Crosstrail Disc
including some moderate off-roading without any breakage or issues. I replaced the cheek-spreader seat with a gel one that fit me a bit better but other than that my bike is stock.
I'd recommend looking at hybrid bikes. Most all manufacturers offer them at a fairly reasonable price for entry level models but the sky's the limit as you go up the model line. They can do most anything (road, trail, mountain biking, touring) and I find them extremely comfortable. Their capabilities sit right in the middle of the more specialized bike types and they will fill most any role you want. Once you get more and more into cycling, you'll probably buy something else more targeted to the kind of riding you're interested in, but for a first bike you can't beat it.
I do recommend staying away from bikes with reduced spoke numbers. Stay with standard rims and 30+ spoke counts. I also find front suspension is nice and like the ability to lock mine when I'm riding purely on the road. Front suspension talk around here tends to start religious battles, so form your own opinion on that.
Good luck in your search!