After a lot of reading I think I am going to go with a LHT. It will be my first new bike (no more hand me downs or CL poor fitting cheap bikes). However, I don't know much about bikes. About 6 months ago I bought a 17" Rockhopper off of CL for $260, but since I have only been riding on pavement and now getting out everyday to ride, I want to get a proper bike for the pavement and more comfortable.
I would be getting the 52 cm, some people seem to not like the wheel size for the 54 cm and smaller frames, why? I have always had flat bars, so the drops will be weird and I don't know about bar end shifterss. Can I swap those out with the brifters?
Most of the time I will be commuting ~8 miles round trip. I will be carrying my laptop in panniers and stopping to get groceries on the way home once a week or so. After work and on the weekends I will be riding along the beach trail between Surfside and Newport Beach and on the Santa Ana River Trail. I would like to get in better shape to ride down to San Diego from Huntington Beach and ride ~50 miles on the weekends. I am thinking as a teacher with summers off, I may like touring at some point. However, mostly I will be commuting, carrying groceries, and riding longer rides on the weekends.
I had thought about the Cross Check and Casseroll also since I really won't be loaded down unless I get the touring bug, but it seems if I do grocery runs and maybe in a year or two some touring the LHT might be better. Or if 90% is long easy rides and commuting should I not go with the LHT?
Anyhow, with the LHT complete is there anything you'd recommend to swap out?