This is my first post on these forums, so be gentle if I mess some of the protocols up a bit.
I am currently riding a 1996 Specialized Rockhopper A1 Comp with a rigid fork for my commuter. The only modification I've made to the bike to make it more commute friendly is that I've changed to semi-slick tires instead of the standard knobby MTB tires.
Currently my commute is about 3.5 miles each way, so this setup is fine for such a short ride. I don't get tired or sore, and the ride of the bike is fine. The only problem I have is that I'm at the top end of the gears the whole time. Only at one point in my commute do I have to go down off the top chain ring. Obviously the gearing on this bike is far too low for what I'm riding daily. I don't carry too much weight and don't use panniers (I ride with either a backback or messanger bag).
In the next few months it is likely that my commute will double or so and I'll be riding 7 to 8 miles each way. So instead of upgrading this existing bike to bigger gearing and all that, I thought I might as well get a whole new setup, one that is more suitable to this commute. I'm looking for something that will get me from point A to point B quickly while still being able to take a pounding from me daily including some rain riding. I am located in Atlanta, GA so the snow isn't a problem.
Looking at the bikes for sale, I noticed a type fo bike called a 'cyclocross' bike, which seems like it might be an ideal commuting bike. I'm 5'9", 165 lbs. and I grew up riding BMX bikes as a kid. Never really got into the MTB thing, but I do like to be able to hop over potholes and jump up onto the curb from time to time. I'm afraid if I get a full road bike setup with 23c tires, that I'm bound to thrash it a bit and break something with the way I ride (somewhat urban assualt, lane splitting, etc.).
So, my question is two-fold. First, is a cyclocross bike suitable for my commute and riding style? Second, if so (or not) what brand and model of bike should I be looking at? Any tips and suggestions are appreciated.