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Hello, wise bikers.

I'm new to real riding, in general -- for the past two years I've just used my bike for errands around the neighborhood. This past spring I started working up to longer distances (6... 8... 10 miles...) and now I'm determined to do my commute (about 16-18 miles each way, depending on the route) at least one way, then round-trip. I'm at the point where I can do 12 miles roundtrip pretty comfortably, on a crap bike, so I'm almost there.

But I need better wheels. I have a decrepit 20-year-old Trek MTB that's making awful noises, despite a tuneup; I was going to just put slicks on it and keep riding but the front brakes are cracking, the chain is rusted, the gear shifts are unreliable, shock absorbency is nil and even though I'm on a budget I don't want to sink more money into what is clearly the wrong bike.

So far I've test-ridden:

Schwinn Sport Tour (LLBean branded, about $449, felt rinkydink)
Giant Defy 3 ($700ish but on sale at a local bike shop for $640, felt a bit too advanced for me, if that makes sense)
Specialized Vita and Sirrus (oddly, I preferred the Sirrus to the Vita even though I'm a lady and both were the right size. And it seemed to be a sweet spot between my mountain bike and a fancier road bike.)

Here's what I know:

I like flat bars. Aside from the familiarity factor, it's easier for me to reach gears/brakes that way. I have ridiculously small hands, and they make me feel steadier.
Pedals confuse me. The baskety things seem awkward and I don't have shoes with clips. I guess I can always buy different pedals for whatever I get.
I won't be racing, ever. Biking is what I do to not be aggro.
I will occasionally be wearing a backpack or otherwise transporting a day's worth of clothes and lunch to work.
My typical routes, both in-town and commuting, are paved but hilly and sometimes rough -- this is New England and winter does a number on our roads.
I'll probably keep the MTB around for short spins in town or whenever I feel like punishing my joints.
Price is important. I don't have a ton to spend, I'm a beginner, entry-level is just fine for now.

All that said, is there anything comparable to the Sirrus I should be trying to hunt down and test? Are there any red flags about the Sirrus I should know, because otherwise it's the leading contender? I'm also leaning toward it because it was at the first shop that didn't barrage me with jargon/treat me like an annoyance, but there are several shops around my county and I'm willing to drive a bit to find the right ride.

Thanks for any suggestions.
 

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Jamis Coda and Cannondale Quick are a couple others like the Sirrus worth looking at but I'm not trying to imply you should go out of your say to get them over the Sirrus. They're just a tad differnet but I wouldn't say better or worse. It's always good to try as many options as you can though.
The Jamis is steel which makes it heavy but the trade off is a smoother ride, theoretically anyway.

re pedals. I communte on a hybrid (the type of bike you're looking for) and find just plain platform pedals are fine. As long as you're not going to be riding aggressive to work I wouldn't worry to much about pedals for now anyway. Just regular pedals should be fine until you learn otherwise if you ever do.
 

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As long as it fits well, for your stated purposes/ goals I thing the Sirrus is a fine choice. FWIW my SO has the Vita (essentially the Sirrus in WSD geo) and loves it. It's been very reliable, so I see no 'red flags'.

IIRC when she was bike shopping she checked out a Giant (I forget the model, but think it's been replaced with the Dash) and Marin Larkspur, so you may want to give them a look as well. I also agree that the Jamis Coda might suite you, but test rides will answer that.
 

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First of all, let me say that it sounds like your'e doing great. If you can ride 12 miles round trip on an old decrepit (as you say) mountain bike that is rusty and noisy, any of the new bikes will get you to the 16 miles RT.

My wife recently bought a bike and the options were the Specialized Sirrus, Vita and one cheaper bike (she ended up with the cheap bike against my best judgement - but she only rides 10 miles on the weekend to go to the market and stuff). Her favorite bike was the Vita, but between the Sirrus and Vita, I think it's just personal preference. They seem to be basically the same bike.

Every major bike brand will have a similar type of bike in that price range, but I don't think you'll find major differentiation going on. Look for fit and ride something you're comfortable in. Either of the Specialized bikes should last you a very long time.

(and get those chains changed before they rust). :)
 
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