Q: How much should I spend on a bicycle, anyway?
A: At least as much as you spent on your television, for starters. Your bicycle can do for you what your television and couch cannot: make you healthy and fit. Cycling raises you metabolism, and lowers your blood pressure, for starters. Seriously, if you spent $350 on your down-time T.V., spend at least as much on your recreational ride. Discern bicycle quality first, rather than brand-names, and then choose.
Comment: The Tricky Trap - You may say, "I'll buy a cheap bike now, and see if I like it first."
Of course, most people don't buy the top-of-the-line television, either, but even far fewer buy the cheapest black & white 13" model. That just about insures that you won't like it. I call that bad insurance. Try that, and see how good your next Super Bowl party turns out. The same can be said for your cycling experience. Plus, you can't upgrade junk or put lipstick on a lobster. In fact, the quality has gotten just so low on many department store bicycles recently, that it's as if certain countries are sending us their scrap metal in the mere shape of a bicycle, and I mean it!