I had to borrow a bicycle for a mini-triathlon I was entering. After realizing how much fun I had training for the bicycle portion, I had to get my own bike.
Recommend this product?
Unfortunately, there are NO beginning level road bicycles. You are lucky if you find these models beginning at about $600. I was not doing any trail riding, so my local bike shop recommended this hybrid model. The tires are not as slick as road bikes but good for road and side-walk rides. If you are a serious racer but strapped for cash, you should talk to the professionals at your bike shop about swapping the Trek 700 tires with road tires. The hybrid bike I borrowed had this configuration.
The 2000 model of the Trek 700 is a 21 speed, unlike the 18 speed of the 1999 model. You shift gears by twisting the handlebars. There is a "dashboard" or two dials which tell you what gears you are using. Because of the gear mechanism on the handlebars, it could be difficult to put on handlebar extenders. I had to switch between different materials until I found a set of extenders which I could tighten sufficiently.
It is also hard to get the front shifter into a high gear. You are already at a disadvantage competing with the road bikes, you need the high gears on long straight-aways, or slight declines in the course. Even after having the gears and brakes adjusted after the first 20 miles of use, I cannot quickly get the bike into a high gear. Now going up hills, the bike easily slips into the low gears.
I enjoy the bike, and hope to one day graduate to a real road bike. However, this hybrid model is good enough to ensure you are committed to the sport and recreation of cycling.