questionswhat kind of bike should i buy?

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Check out Trek and Cannondale models at a reputable, serious bike shop. When you have decided upon what each of you needs, then online is ok if you are confident you can put it together properly and maintain it through its guarantee period.

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You can't go wrong with a Cannondale.

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I had a Specialized that I liked a lot. You might want to look at bikes w/a front suspension also. It will smooth out a lot of the bumps, esp. if you plan on doing some dirt trail riding. There are also a few full-suspension bikes with lockouts for the rear suspension that will be better for riding streets. Pay very close attention to the welds on the frame. They should be very even and smooth. Sloppy welds are not a good sign of quality construction.

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If you get really serious consider an electric bike. They are expensive, but you get the exercise and faster travel.

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A made in the USA Harley "FatBoy"!

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@davemeigs5: I had considered trying to find an electric bike to ride to work during the warmer months. My commute is only 5.6 miles but that's enough that I'd be sweaty by the time I got to work....

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Here's another vote for Cannondale. I've had the same one for 15 years and the only part that has broke on it is the shifter cable. Once you use one and see how light the frame is you'll never go back. My wife has a junky one from Walmart and that beast easily weighs 3-4x what mine does.

You pay a lot more for them upfront but the frame lasts forever.

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@zapp brannigan: @klozitshoper: @bigelowb:I don't see a cannondale in my price range. They seem to be more than double actually. I can't spend that kind of money on two bikes, especially since my wife could ride it for a week and decide she hates it.

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A friend a few years ago a friend bought a couple of bikes from an ebay seller, and (after looking) I decided to try her out. I bought two bikes from her: both hyrids for the kind of light riding you describe, and for the prices you are interested. Her ebay seller ID is chicabike, here is a listing of items in your price range:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw&_sacat=0&_udlo=200&_udhi=300&_ftrt=901&_ftrv=1&_sabdlo&_sabdhi&_samilow&_samihi&_sadis=200&_fpos&_fsct&LH_SALE_CURRENCY=0&_fss=1&_fsradio=%26LH_SpecificSeller%3D1&_saslop=1&_sasl=chicabike&_sop=12&_dmd=1&_ipg=50&rt=nc&LH_BIN=1

These do require some assembly, but it isn't very hard to do. You get high quality and I think you will be happy.

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@wilfbrim: Awesome! I like what I see so far. I'll pass this along to my wife. Mind if I ask which brands you went with?

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My husband and I have Giant bikes. They are mountain bikes, so not sure you would be interested. Mine was about $300 and my husbands was about $500. Both are about 8 or 9 years old and in excellent condition considering all the canyons and trails these have been abused by. We have tried Trek, but I didn't like it. Cannondale I did not try, but some friends have them and like their road bikes.

Go to a bike shop in your area and check out their selection. Most of them have used bikes, which is great as you are not sure your wife will continue to ride. You can also try them out before you buy. I use Bike Werks, but any local shop would work.

FYI: The more expensive bikes go by your height, so if you are really tall like my DH, you can still get a bike you can ride comfortably. My DH had a XL that is like 29" instead of the normal 26".

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@nmchapma: I would very highly recommend that you go to an actual bike shop, to make sure you get a bike that fits you correctly. You can get a very reasonable Trek or Specialized for the price range you want that will fit nicely; you can always upgrade the components later if you want but you're stuck with the frame if the size is wrong!

In other words, a Trek 18" frame is not the exact same thing as a Specialized 18", is not the exact same as a Canondale 18", etc ... Go to a shop, try out bikes for size and geometry. You'll be glad you did, even for an inexpensive bike - particularly if you are hoping to get your wife riding more often!

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@willyone: He said 200 - 300 dollars. I think you slightly missed the mark there :)

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@nmchapma - I agree with @lparsons42. Go to a bike shop. Not only will they be able to size you and get a bike that will fit you, but they can recommend bikes based on your exact use and budget. They may also have a used bike selection! Any that I've been to will also allow you to ride the bike "around the block" to get a feel for it.

I bought a Specialized for a little over $400 and it has been 2 years with only the yearly maintenance every spring ( the shop I bought it from performs this relatively inexpensively ).

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Our local bike shop let's folks trade up w/ bikes they have purchased there. Good if you are buying low end beginner to see if you want to go up later on. Also can be a boon as you can find great deals on their trade ins. They refurb them and they are always in great shape.
Definitely go local. You will get service, help and follow up. And perhaps a great deal on a trade in. Might be able to afford a nicer bike that way.

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@nmchapma: Looks like the bikes in that Ebay link are all from http://bikesdirect.com/ They have a big range of bikes, but all their 'brands' are names used under license and manufactured by big contract manufacturers in the far East. Similar story for a lot of the bikes from http://www.performancebike.com/ where I bought mine. Not saying that's a bad thing at the price, but you're not getting an original Motobecane or Dawes either For mixed use as you're planning the best choice would be a hybrid or mountain bike with front suspension only. DON"T get a full suspension bike for road/paved trail use, it'll be harder work than it should be, and many parents are doing their kids a great disservice by putting them on heavy cheap full suspension bikes that are off-putting to ride.
If you're not confident of being able to deal with issues you commonly get on these cheaper bikes, go to a local shop, they'll be able to advise, and maybe trade up if you decide you want to get more involved.

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I agree with going for name brand bikes like Specialized, Trek, Giant, etc. These bikes hold up well and, as such, have decent resale value. It is also easier to get replacement parts should you need them. I've bought Specialized bikes for my kids since day one and every time I need to go up a size, I am able to sell the old ones for not much less than they cost originally.

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See if you can find someone, a friend, co-worker, etc. that you know who rides already.
I decided to start riding last year. I asked a couple of people at work if they were in to riding and it turns out there is a large group at work that ride. By talking around, I found a few guys who buy and sell a lot of bikes. They helped me find a used bike (Specialized), made sure the bike was solid, hooked me up with lights, locks, showed me how to do maintenance on the bike, etc. It was like there was this secret club ... that wasn't trying to be secret.
After not riding a bike for more than two decades, I started riding several times a week and a month after I started, did a corporate challenge ride (25 miles). And probably more info than you want/need, but see if there is anything like this in your area - https://www.facebook.com/TacoRide Nothing like riding 10 miles out, drinking beer and eating tacos and then riding back in the dark!