Okay, so in the search for 'the' new ride I hit a local bike shop today. Wouldn't ya' know it...I got basically the opposite advice as the first shop I checked out. I liked the guy at this shop, he explained basically everything about the different bikes: riding positions, frame material, compact vs triple gearing, etc.
However, after visually 'sizing' me up, he recommended a women's specific bike. The guy at the other shop said women's bikes were for 'petite' women and I DEFINITELY wouldn't classify myself as petite. Also this guy said my legs looked fairly long, while the other guy thought my legs were short 'for my height.'
Sadly, the bike he was recommending for me wasn't in stock so I couldn't take a spin on it. I probably wouldn't have wanted to anyway since it rained most of the day. They're ordering one for the floor in a size that will work for me and will call when it's in so I can check it out.
Now, do I flip a coin as to who has the 'correct' advice? Or hit a third shop to see if I get a 2/3 situation on advice? I think the biggest problem is that I don't know enough about what I want/need to determine which bike is right for me.
The one certainty is that I don't want a tri specific bike. Evidently they're great for nice flat tri courses, but are horrible at hill climbing and a little squirrely on handling. And sadly, the going advice is that I would need to do some hills to get stronger. Sad, I know. ;-) Squirrely handling for me=bad, bad news...probably a crash. The guy today said that if you have a lot of money, you could buy a tri bike for racing and another bike for training. Uh, yeah, not me, but thanks for the advice. :-)
So the search continues......