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I've been spinning for the last two years and looking to purchase my first road bike, comparing road, touring, cyclocross and hybrid. I won't race, but do look to ride weekly & take some 40-80 mile rides on rough pavement/light gravel. I have up to $1200, what do you recommend?

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My usual recommendation is "used". For starters, until you figure out what kind of rider you want to be, you just want a decent fit and moderate comfort. For light gravel tires should be on the wide side -- at least 30mm or so, and preferably 38-50mm (1.5-2.0"). Otherwise it doesn't matter much, but for your relatively lengthy rides you probably want to avoid a heavy bike or one with a fully upright posture. –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 29 at 22:53
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Also, actual riding is different from spinning, so start with slower shorter rides and build up. There are also skills to learn. Remember to budget for clothing, helmet, and shoes. Make friends with your LBS, and they'll prolly let you try a few different bikes to see what suits you best. –  andy256 Mar 30 at 0:08
    
Thanks to both of you. I've spent quite a bit of time with all three LBS and have had a quick measure done. I'm also lucky enough to have inherited all of the other gear, so I just need a bike that will last me quite a few years. Our roads are chip-sealed so a bit rough and I think the slightly wider tires could be helpful. I know the components I want, just need to decide on a kind of bike/brand. All suggestions welcome! –  robin59718 Mar 30 at 1:20
    
Pretty much anybody can go 20 miles provided they're not extremely out of shape with little to no practice. You also need to take into account what you're carrying for the rides as well and how often you're doing them (if its once a year, maybe you should just rent a bike for the day). –  Batman Mar 30 at 4:44
    
Thanks so much, there's a lot to consider and I appreciate the insights. At 52 its interesting to try something so different than other sports. –  robin59718 Mar 30 at 13:53

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This started as a comment but I must be in a wordy mood this morning - here's a suggestion and a few things to consider. First though, when it comes to brand, any of the "proper" brands would do, it depends what you're comfortable on.

For multi-purpose use I recommend a hybrid with flat bars - but add ergo grips and/or bar ends.
Hybrids generally have rack attachment points, often for a front rack as well, and will take a wider range of tyres than road bikes -- mine (GT traffic) has 35mm, I'll switch to 28 on the same rims when I need to replace them anyway, and you could easily fit much wider tyres if you wanted. Road bikes often max out at something too narrow for even the lightest gravel, though drop-bar tourers are better for this and I'm sure others here will recommend them. The riding position takes less getting used to than a road bike, and it the road gets a bit too rough -- e.g. potholes -- I find it easier to stand on the pedals of a flat bar bike -- partly to do with the brake positioning on a road bike.

You don't mention hills, but they're a consideration when choosing gears -- while I'm sure there are people here who could do steep hills in twice as high a gear as I do.,if you're just starting to ride for real, you probably want quite a wide rang. Once again this says hybrid or tourer to me.

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I recommend touring and cyclocross bikes for mixed use because they also have the ability to add racks and wider tires, while at the same time having drop bars which I believe are much better suited to long rides, and don't require you to add bar ends and ergonomic grips to compensate for lack of hand positions on standard flat bars. They are also generally more upright than road bikes, which is more comfortable for people who aren't into road racing. –  Kibbee Mar 30 at 11:24
    
You both make great arguments - ultimately it sounds like personal feel/preference rules the day! –  robin59718 Mar 30 at 13:54
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@robin59718 - Which takes us back to my original point: You won't really know what sort of bike you want until you've been riding for a few months. It's not worth it trying to find the "perfect" bike now, nor is it a good investment to spend a lot on a bike you may not find suitable a year from now. –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 30 at 18:00
    
@Kibbee I'm not going to disagree with you there, having tried neither. I find drop bars pretty uncomfortable after 20 minutes on the hoods (too stop-start to spend that long in the drops anywhere I normally want to go) but my nice flat bars are easily fine for 1.5 hours, if a little wide. I'm prepared to accept that I'm in the minority though. –  Chris H Mar 30 at 18:02
    
@DanielRHicks makes a very good point - try anything plausible: If you have good hire options use them, consider 2nd hand as a form of hire (i.e. buy and sell on if you don't like it, which also improves your maintenance skills if you want it to) etc. etc. –  Chris H Mar 30 at 18:05

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