Bicycle Tips

Bicycle Tips

Hi there, I am looking into purchasing a bicycle (more for recreation/exercise than out of real necessity -- I'd like to ride it to work but I still have a car). I have recently learned that (duh) bikes should be taken seriously, as in the sixty dollar bike at Target I was looking at is probably not going to cut the mustard. In short, I would like some tips on how to find a nice, trusty bike within the expected 100 - 250 (kinda pushing it) range. Please recommend brands, important things to look for, how to get the most for my money, etc. I am completely new at this (the Wikihow on buying a bike really didn't help me out). I'm not looking to do any serious marathons or mountains with my bike but I also DON'T want a beach cruiser - they are cute but way too big/heavy for me. Also: please please please don't tell me to look for a used bike on craigslist. I am short (5'2 - 5'3) and even though I live in the SF Bay Area there are very rarely bikes suitable for my height available and I really don't have the time to travel all over god's green earth looking at them. I just want to go to a bike shop and be done with it. Thanks for your help!
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does anyone know what this bug is?

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The good, the bad, and the tasty!

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I found this little girl. . .

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Plant ID please