Just read your how to buy a bike tips and bike scenarios at http://www.jimlangley.net/crank/howtobuyabike1.html. They really helped me narrow down what I need, and were a fun read.
Now if only I could decide how much to spend!
Thanks, Darcy. Glad my stories helped. Once you visit a shop and ride and see some bikes, it should become clearer how much to spend to get what you want. Keep in mind that you'll get the best value by buying the most you can afford at the outset. Sometimes people spend less thinking they can upgrade later, but it always costs more to upgrade than to just get what you really want on the bike you buy new.
Another consideration is that you may want some accessories like a bottle cage, lock, gloves, helmet, etc. When you buy a new bicycles some shops offer slight discounts on accessories with the sale or don't charge labor for installation or fitting. By taking advantage of these offers you can sweeten the deal.
Have fun picking out your new bicycle!