Over on Decrepit Old Fool, My friend George recently posted a fabulous article on how to tell a good bike from junk, and how to select a bike for purchase.
Those who know me personally might be surprised that yes, I can ride a bike (even my wife was surprised by that when I mentioned it recently; we've been married nearly 6 years now ... surprise, sweetie!), .... While it was my good ole Dad who taught me how to ride a two-wheeler, it was George who helped me understand what a quality bike is. At one point he rebuilt a bike that I purchased for $10 from a garage sale, essentially just using the frame which, while of high quality, wasn't particularly light. It was much more enjoyable to ride than anything I'd had. My Dad had bought a good bike to get me started (a Raleigh from the era when a decent Raleigh didn't cost a week's (or more) salary,) but DOF got me interested in riding better.
After the bike rebuild, I frequented a local bike shop a few times and did the test rides, although not to the extent that George recommends. It was a revelation when I got on a Fuji bike that was made for smaller folks like me. As I recall, the front wheel was about 2" smaller than the rear. This bike fit me like a glove, was easy to propel, and was smooooooth. (Smooooooth is a highly technical term that I use when I need to impress you with my grasp of physics and mechanics.)
I'm not really in the market for a bike right now, but out of curiosity, I have visited the Fuji Bikes website to see if I could find a contemporary incarnation of that model. Sadly, their website is a mess ... driven obviously by marketing types who use (oxymoron alert!) "lifestyle" design principles rather than common sense. Another reason to seek out a good dealer.