Hybrids suck. No I write not the car of the future which has singlehandedly allowed many conspicuous consumers to feel good about themselves and superior to non-hybrid drivers while simultaneously ridding themselves of the guilt caused by fossil fuel burning, but of the do-it-all-but-do-none-of-it-well-bicycle (yeah, that was a run-on sentence, but so what--its a blog).
People often come in the shop and want a bike that can be ridden on fireroads or light trails; such as those that exist in Forest Park, near Portland. They also want to be able to use the same bike to commute to work. They want it to be quick on the road. They want it to be comfortable and not chafe their nether regions when riding in jeans, cut-off shorts, cargo shorts, sweatpants or any other garment that was not designed to be worn when sitting on the saddles that are typically on bikes. But they don't want to spend more than $300 dollars.
Yeah, this is where I mentally sigh and try to prepare myself to throw up a bit in my mouth when I have to sell something that I would never recommend to any of my friends and family. I have sold a couple of these bikes over the past two shifts at the shop and it irks me everytime.
I feel like I am selling a pile o' crap. Please notice that this bike comes with a suspension seatpost, a suspension fork and disc brakes! Wow! And the retail is just over $400 bucks. We sell it for around $350. Wow! With the suspension seatpost and the fork it is like getting a full suspension bike. Sweet! How could anyone go wrong?!?!
I could bag and bag on this bike. For instance, it is almost impossible to get the brakes properly adjusted. They constantly drag on the rotor on most of them. Also the fork barely works and has more slop in it than Old McDonald's pig pen. Basically, picking on this bike is sort of like picking on my friend DTP--it is really easy but not quite as fun.
I know that I am a bike snob, but I am not recommending that people spend thousands on a bike. With any budget, people should try and maximize those things that they really need. Do people really need disc brakes? No, not on a bike such as a hybrid/commuter/do-it-all bike. Do people really need a suspension seatpost? probably not. Do they really need a sloppy suspension fork for riding in their neighborhood or to the store? No. So maximize the stuff you do need--drivetrain parts, frame, wheels, etc. Stick to the basics!
Here is my favorite cheap bike and yes, the shop I work at sells them. Sorry to be a shill--believe me I have no desire to shill for Performance anymore than I have to.
The Fuji Saratoga is a great simple bike. This bike knocks off the Electra's bikes, but Fuji does it really well and for cheap. It looks like a cruiser, but it would be a good commuter or around the neighborhood bike, or whatever. Retail is just over $300, but it sells for less.
This bike is very comfortable bike. The forward pedalling position allows those who are not too sure of themselves on a bike to shed there fear of falling. The position of the bottom bracket allows one to have the proper seat post extension while allowing the rider to easily put both feet on the ground while on the saddle. Simply put, try this bike--you'll appreciate it even if you don't fall in love with it. And it doesn't have the crappy extra stuff that will cause issues further down the road.
Please, please stop your friends from buying crap bikes. Don't buy them at departments stores. Don't buy the bike the has the most bells and whistles for the lowest price. Get the simple bike done well. The above Fuji is just one example, there are others out there. The bike that is good quality parts and doesn't try to be everything to everybody. Take the advice of a humble grunt at a bike shop who sees what these bikes are like a couple of years down the road. Unless the bike is just one of those that just sits in the garage for 363 days a year, in which case by the one that looks coolest collecting dust.