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Sub £1000 bike for local commuting and keeping fit

I'm an unfit git 60+ and just wanting to get back to cycling after stopping as soon as I could afford alternative transport at 18!

I will be doing local journeys to the shops and longer stints (say around 1 hour round trips, some of it on steep hills) for keep fit; I may join a local club once I can get on a bike without immediately falling off.

I've been to a couple of local bike shops, Specialize were not very helpful - just said a Crosstrail with hydraulic forks should be fine (with no real explanation), cost £575, and another independent actually spent 30 mins with me and suggested a Merida Crossway Urban 100 Gents 2019 model at £700,

Does anyone have any suggestions?  I'm leaning towards the Merida because I like to support local independent shops, but would be interested to hear what more experienced cyclists say.

If you're new please join in and if you have questions pop them below and the forum regulars will answer as best we can.

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