Anyway, Marin's Highway One ($1,469; www.marinbikes.com) is an interesting bike. Basically, it's a mountain bike frame with road-running gear and tires. The idea is that you have the relatively upright, comfortable seat position of a mountain bike with the lighter weight and lower rolling resistance of a road bike. What's so interesting is that most "hybrids" are sorta low-end bikes, in the $400 to $600 range. I'm trying to decide if it's worth the dough to get a really good hybrid. I should think it would be a good commuter, and comfortable for shortish rides (up to 20 miles). But if you really intend to put in the miles on the road, I'm also inclined to suggest that a road bike will make you happier in the long run. Deduct points from that statement to account for the fact road bikes are indeed less comfortable than more upright models. But, they sure are a lot faster, too.
Be that as it may, I can't see a thing wrong with the Highway One. Nice aluminum frame, carbon front fork, Shimano nine-speed running gear. What's not to like? As for the notion that Marin bikes are "less" than they used to be, well, maybe and maybe not. I ride a Marin mountain bike, and think it's terrific. So I haven't seen any evidence that Marin is trying to ride (no pun intended!) on its reputation. In terms of the Highway One stacking up to some of the Specialized bikes, the Sirrus Elite ($980; www.specialized.com) is similar to the Highway One but has a lower level of components and some lower-end hybrid carryovers like a suspended seatpost. So it would be fine, but it's a somewhat different bike. The price spread between the two seems about right for what you get.
Hope that helps. Wait, of course that helped.