This is my third winter of bike commuting and I'm looking for ideas for a new bike to improve upon my current "rain bike". At the moment that's a 2003 Klein Attitude V (hardtail mtn bike) with full fenders and Nimbus EX 26x1.5 tires. My commute is about 11 miles round trip with some killer hills. About half of it is on a very busy four lane highway with a narrow shoulder/bike lane along the side. In winter that bike lane is a dark and treacherous obstacle course of huge piles of wet leaves, twigs, sticks, branches, beer cans, hub caps, glass. You know the story! In summer that same bike lane is dry and pretty clean, so at that time of year I ride my 2004 Lemond Buenos Aires road bike to work. The BA is so light, fast and nimble though that it's pretty much spoiled me. Getting back on the much heavier Klein this winter has seemed like a chore. More imortantly the Klein has always felt kind of squirelly to me, a little sketchy, twitchy and unpredictable. Not sure if that's the geometry of the bike or the Rock Shox front fork or a combo of the two. It might be a great off road bike, but I haven't ridden off road in years and never have with the Klein.
So I'm wanting to find a bike that's lighter, quicker and a little more stable and sure footed in the debris zone. We have very wet winters here, so obviously I'll need to add fenders and probably a rack too. I prefer drop bars to flat, so the cyclocross bikes have really gotten my attention. So far I'm pretty interested in the Bianchi Axis and Volpe models, the Cannondale cross bikes and the Felt F1X, so I'd really like to hear from any owners of those bikes. One problem is I really want a triple chainring and most cross bikes seem to be doubles. Anyone know how cosly it is to have the LBS swap in a triple? Or is that even possible? I'm wide open to other bike ideas as well. Price range is about $1300-1600 USD.
Thanks for the help!