Originally posted by Moose
You might be able to find a Raleigh R300 for around 500-600.
He'd have to find a 2001 leftover, since it's been discontinued (along with its clone, the Diamondback Interval).
It would be helpful to know more about how far the guy's riding and what he'll have to carry. $500 isn't much if he needs racks and panniers as well. Actually, it isn't much anyway, especially for a road bike that's ready for loaded touring.
Personally, on long trips my biggest concern is durable wheels, properly tensioned and stress-relieved when new. Very few machine-built wheels on inexpensive bikes are going to survive a 2000-mile trip (if that's what we're talking about) without being gone over by a good wheelbuilder first.
And that assumes a bike that actually fits well. I shudder to imagine what it would be like to be forced onto a poorly fitting bike by budget constraints and then have to pull 75-100 miles a day on it.
But then, maybe somebody with young knees and robust recuperative powers would do better. I don't remember any more.