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College campuses can be pretty high-theft areas, so unless you have a very safe place to keep yours, you might be better served getting a used road bike for a lot less. Keeping it for four years may not be a matter of whether or not the parts last that long.

If everything works and the bike fits you right, you can still use it for recreational riding. Downtube shifters don't give up much to STI levers unless racing or speed workouts are involved, IMHO. Putting a little of the money you saved in the right places can make an inexpensive bike a lot more fun - good saddle, nice tires, things like that.
 

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If you're lucky enough to have a good shop dealing in used bikes in your area, I think that's the best way to go. It's a little more expensive, but they should give you at least a 30-day guarantee that things are not worn out and are properly tuned. You also get the opportunity to ride several different bikes, which I think is very important in getting the right one.

I ran into a good article on inspecting a used bike a while ago, and can't find it again. This Yahoo Answer isn't so bad, though.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080401063525AAe7YKk

I think it's very telling to actually measure the chain for wear.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/chains.html#wear

Since you're talking about riding for over half an hour at a time, getting a good fit is really important. I think riding in cities is a little more forgiving of questionable fit, but as soon as you get out of town and ride in the same position for more than a few minutes, you'll start to notice if the reach is too long or too short. So the opportunity to try a few bikes in a shop helps with that. Otherwise, there are some fit calculators online that can ballpark your size, but I don't think anything really compares to actually riding some different sizes.
 
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