How I wish you lived near me! I remember going out for my first bike, I am glad for the friends that I had then.
The gear and brake thing, sometimes it's good to get a frame and build it up, but to me, when you are new and starting out, unless you have someone there that knows the ropes, it can turn into a nightmare. Frames are sometimes touchy as to what gear set or brake set will work on it and others are a breeze. If you are looking for a simple bike to roll around town on I would look at Specialized or Trek. Off the top of my head, you could get a Specialized Hard Rock, swap out the aggressive mtn bike tires for smooth road tires, and have a decent bike. You shouldn't need new wheels, just new tires. That might run you about 30 dollars. My first bike was a Hard Rock and I rode that thing into the ground!
This is a good time of year to be looking. Bike shops might have 2011 stock they want to get rid of. Don't be afraid to tell them your budget and what you are looking for. If they don't listen, go to another one.
The only way out is through...
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