I could really use some advise. I have to admit to being completely ignorant to the benefits of one type of bike style over the other. Unfortunately, I have decided to become educated in a country where my ability to speak one of the local languages is moderate at best, and the other language I barely know 3 words! So language has made my education a bit more difficult.
I live in Belgium and would like to buy a bike for weekend rides through the country/forests locally and also for day rides in the countryside of the Netherlands and France. I would love to think that I will become a dedicated cyclist, and will use the opportunity to do longer, overnight trips throughout Europe - but if I do progress to that level, I can buy another bike.
The weather here changes constantly, and is often wet. The roads for the most part are in good shape, with some rough spots in places (especailly through the forest, and as long as I keep off the cobblestones!)
The bike that has been recommended to me by a local store owner is a Scott Sonoma. I've checked out the Scott web site but was unable to find anything that gave me the attributes (other than technical) of this type of bike style. If someone could explain the difference between "Urban Touring", "Outdoor Touring" and "Road" with some of the pluses and minuses - I would greatly appreciate the help!
I personaly dont know what kind of bike a "Scott Sonoma" is. However, from what i have read in your post, it looks like a hard tail mountain bike would be your best choice if you want to do both on and off road cycling, and maybe touring.
When you go on a longer road tour, or any multi-day trip, you could easyly add semi-slick tires for less resistance, and more speed & paniers for your gear.
I hope this helps, I'll try to fallow up later with some more information for ya.
Anyone else have anything to say? This isnt my specialty
Many people there speak english, ask what they use and observe as well. Walking into a shop/Store etc. and asking: "Does anyone here speak english" is remarkably successful!
It may be wise to get something that is used and popular there, that course of action may aid in repair quality and parts availability and you'll have a very good chance to find the "right" bike for your needs.
A mountain bike would work well, although I would prefer a sport or touring bike.
I have biked and lived in foreign countries and have found that the best bet is to get a bike that is popular locally.
There are several reasons:
First is maintanance. If your bike is common, you will find it easier to get your bike repaired even at the local little bike shop or garage mechanic or even borrow parts from friendly local people.
Second, locals generally know what bike is best for the local terrain and riding conditions. This is especially true in counrties with rich bike cultures like Europe, China, and Japan.
The one exception to this rule is the USA where, for some strange reason, the most popular bike is a cheap mountain bike which is "huff and puffed" almost exclusively on paved roads.
Have a ball biking in Europe. Bicycling is magnificent there. Try bicycling in France/Germany along the Rhine river. There is a "bikes only" road which goes along the entire river (on both France and Germany sides of the River) and brings your through charming small towns.
We spent 2 weeks biking in the Netherlands on bikes rented from the campground we stayed at. We rented a Treker hut (a well furnished garden shed). The bikes were roadsters, single speed with coaster brakes and full fenders. I can't remember the brand, but they were the standard bike in the Bergen op Zoom area. They work fine. These countries are flat, you don't need any extra gears. Also, since these were the standard bike, there wasn't much to interest a thief. Have a great time!