I've never owned or used a "nice" bike. I grew up with a bike that was $40 from Fleet Farm, and replaced it post-college with a $50 Target bike when someone stole the old, cheap one (sigh). Now, I kind of hate this bike because it's a "mountain bike" style and the frame isn't really comfortable, so I'm thinking of replacing it. As I'm looking around, I'm having a hard time justifying a more expensive bike, so I figured I'd ask the Hive.
What, exactly, is the difference between a cheaper brand like Schwinn and something spendy like Trek, if all I'm going to do is bike around town a little with the kids? I'm never going to zoom down a mountain, long distances are for cars, even if I commuted to work, the whole town is only a few miles across. My current bike is worthless because the brakes don't work and the gears fall off, but will I, as the casual city user, really notice a difference between a $150 and a $400 bike? I don't mind spending more money for quality; I prefer to buy fewer, higher quality things, but I don't like burning money. I understand features like disc brakes, nifty shocks, and so on adding price, but the "entry level" bikes from expensive brands look pretty damn similar to cheap bikes to my uneducated eye.
I didn't find the right solution from the internet.