I had some thoughts after reading this thread that I thought would be better served in a new thread. What do y'all think? Do you find the bike or the environment makes the greater difference in your commutes and joyrides?
A crucial point almost no one in this thread has addressed is the overwhelming degree to which one's cycling environment affects one's commute. Think about it: do people log on to car forums and argue about which cars are best for driving to work? No? Why?
Because it really doesn't matter. As long as the vehicle starts and keeps moving reliably, a host of other factors will have far more significant effects on the commute; factors such as the length of the ride, the quality of the roads, THE TRAFFIC and congestion, and the parking availability at each end.
In other words, once the vehicle works, it becomes a utility transport device, and little more. However, the environment also has to be supportive of the traveler for travel to be feasible.
Don't worry about the bike so much. Any bike will do. Worry about the weather. Worry about being run over. Worry about the traffic, and the options you have for getting to work. Those are the important things.
Pride aside, a $50 Walmart bike will get you to work about as quickly as a $5000 TT bike if you live and work within a few miles from home, which most people do. Focus on finding a conducive environment to cycle in, and save your money.
Cyclists in this country have a tendency to preoccupy themselves with the gadgetry of their bikes over the quality of their routes, compared to cyclists in bike-friendly countries. I wonder if people only realize how little the bikes matter once they find themselves surrounded by cyclists--sort of the way no one really cares what they drive to work as long as it starts twice a day.