I've been lurking here for awhile, really appreciate the immense treasure trove of info built up on this forum, and I'm looking for advice on selecting a new bike. I haven't even owned a bike in five years, but I used to commute off and on, and I definitely want to get back into it. I've been test riding bikes at different shops for the past week, have determined a few top contenders, and would appreciate your comments. I have never been comfortable with drops, but would ideally like to be able to take the bike out of town for longer day rides. However, this would not be it's primary purpose. It will most likely be my only bike for the forseeable future. The commute will be no longer than 10 mi. one way, at least partially over rough city streets, with some hills and lots of rain. I'll defintely be adding rack and fenders. I'm not firm on the budget, but I suppose I'd like to keep it under $700.
KHS Urban Xpress
I've never owned a steel frame bike, but I love the idea of a smoother ride. After testing both aluminum and steel frames though, I honestly think the comfort of the ride has more to do with tire width and pressure. I'm pretty sure I want a minimum of 32mm tire width. I like the presumably stronger 36 spoke wheels and the apparently great value. Seems to be overall designed as a commuter as well. Has a threaded headset, though. Many of the people on this forum see that as a serious disadvantage.
I did notice more vibration through the aluminum frame, but also more responsive and zippy. Fun to ride. 36 spoke rims. Frame perhaps a little larger than perfect fit. Seems a good value, and Marin has solid reputation.
Kona Dew Deluxe
Another fun bike to ride. Felt surprisingly good over rough road. I've never had disc brakes before, and was initially leery of the apparent increased complexity over rim brakes. After reading up a bit on this forum however, I see many advantages: much improved rain performance and less adjustment. I used to suck at adjusting my rim brakes, and they seemed to go out of adjustment way too fast. Another thing I like about the Kona (based on some other posters' experiences), is it's ability (perhaps with a wheel/tire change) to handle non-technical off road, or at least dirt road, sufficiently well.
Sorry this is so long winded. I appreciate any advice you have, including experience with the above bikes.