People write about their bikes:Simon Moss: If you were new to this and wanted a commuting bike, I believe the Trek 7.3 FX is a very good "sweet spot" in terms of price versus quality. Other makers have equivalent models but I know the Trek after having spent thousands of kilometres on this bike over all sorts of terrain in France and Italy. It is a hybrid - medium thickness tires, flat bars, three cogs at the front including a small ring for hill climbing. The price is about $800 or $640 on special. If you pay any less than this, the quality of the components noticeably goes down to a level where the smooth and reliable operation of the brakes and gear changing mechanisms can not be guaranteed over time. Pay more than this and the law of diminishing returns sets in. A $1600 bike may only be 30% "better".
Simon Moss: If you haven't considered a cycling holiday before then I think you are missing out on one of the great holiday opportunities. Europe is fantastic for cycling over summer with the long days, milder maximum temperatures and towns and villages only kilometres apart. The Europeans also respect cycling and cyclists in a way not seen in Australia and there are a profusion of D-roads and routes away from the main vehicular arteries. I have done quite a lot of independently organised touring but the commercial tours are a good way to start. I have done six trips with the Chaingang, a small outfit from the UK (thechaingang.co.uk) with only their seventh tour to Umbria left to do. They have small groups of typically six to twelve riders but with a maximum of fifteen. Rather than a wagon following the group there is a guide who rides with you to sort out navigation and mechanical issues. Luggage is transported for you each day to the prearranged hotels so you only carry water, camera, jacket, snacks and so on. We have met some great people from all over the place and a good feeling of camaraderie usually develops as the group conquers the hills together and shares some of the local appellation in the evening. By the way, the 'milder maximum temperatures' is not a guarantee, I have spent some days in Provence at 38 to 40 degrees when the surface of the bitumen melts and stick to the tires in a way that sounds like the ripping of Velcro as much as anything else.