see whats already selling is a safer investment for the capital behind the company .
Thanks everyone, for the input thus far. Very helpful, especially for someone who's never really given much thought to a bike. My last bike purchase was a "oh, I like that one" *click*. This time, I'm really trying to learn all I can and research everything so that I feel confident in my purchase.
After test-riding bikes, I thought the Cross-Check was probably the most comfortable, but every so slightly. The aluminum frame bikes were also very comfy, and I was wondering if there were bikes out there that have the same geometry as the Cross-Check, but are aluminum instead of steel?
Surly Straggler. Steel, discs.
But regarding discs...I use my Cross Check with Canti's just fine in inclement weather. They're also easier to fit racks on than discs. Get some salmon Kool Stop pads and you're golden.
I'll pick the Classic version though, just because I like steel.
Flame me if you want, but a mid-level Motobecane 'cross bike is the perfect mostly commuter, sometimes-touring bike: fat tires, fenders, easily takes a rack, lighter and better spec than a CrossCheck, easily less than a grand, rust-proof (not oxidation-proof...) frame, no one will think you spent above your ability level, yada, yada, yada...
YMMV,but my carpel tunnel won't take an alloy fork unless I've got at least 1.5" tires under it. I had an older Conquest Sport Disc and wound up getting rid of it after I found my DBX SuperSport. The CF fork on the DBX made that big of a difference.
I am actually considering a Motobecane. Everything about it seems pretty ideal.. the only exception is that I don't get the rapport with my local bike shop. I'd pay them to assemble it most likely (I don't really know how to do anything other than replace brake pads) but I feel like I'd miss an opportunity for that relationship. It's not off the table though.
I'm late to the thread, but strangly it still seems to be on topic after four pages (how'd that happen?).
I've got a 2013 Kona Jake as my every day commuter. I like it a lot. The Jake has an aluminum fork, but with fat tires (I use 700x35) that doesn't really matter.
I had a Cross Check, but sold it. I could never get the fit quite right. I blame the short head tube, but fit is a personal thing and if you've ridden the Cross Check and liked it that says a lot more than you can get from words over the Internet.
Cantilever brakes can require a lot of effort to get tuned correctly. V-brakes with Travel Agents work well but they can also be a little tricky to get cabled correctly (though not nearly as bad as cantilevers). Mini-V brakes perform well and are easy to setup, but they limit your fender clearance. V-brakes with long-pull brake levers have no problems whatsoever, unless you count the lack of STI options. Have you considered RetroShift? They make V-brake compatible levers.
The first thing you should know about disc brakes is that mechanical disc brakes with road levers don't give you nearly the kind of performance you usually hear associated with disc brakes. Avid BB7's do pretty good, but they aren't in the same league as even the MTB version of the BB7. They are as good as rim brakes when set up properly. An improperly adjusted disc brake can perform worse than a well adjusted rim brake. Low-end mechanical disc brakes tend to be fairly unimpressive.
The second thing you should know about disc brakes is that most of them squeal horrendously when they get wet. It's not always a bad thing for everyone on the block to know you're there, but it tends to be annoying for the rider.
I've got TRP HY/RD discs on my Jake right now. I went through a rather bumpy process getting them dialed in, but since I have they are the bee's knees. For some people, apparently, they work well right out of the box.
My back-up commuter is a Surly Long Haul Trucker with V-brakes and 8-speed bar end shifters. It uses long-pull road brake levers I alluded to above. The braking is outstanding. I'm an STI guy too, and I wasn't sure I'd like the bar end shifters. They're slightly less convenient to use, but they shift better than anything else I've used. How inconvenient they are mostly depends on your riding style. If you like to sprint, it's an issue. If you ride casually, it's not. The thing I like about the LHT is that it encourages me to relax. It'll go fast if I make it, but I enjoy the ride more if I ease up a bit.
Another nice thing about the LHT (and the Vaya) is that it's available with 26" wheels. If you mentioned your height I didn't see it, so maybe this doesn't matter to you, but for shorter riders 26" wheels tend to make fit and geometry work together better.
Probably out of price range at $500 frame + fork, but the Cotic Roadrat is sweet:
Here's one I've been looking at.
If a Motobecane caught your interest (as you said), I strongly recommend that you keep browsing Bikesdirect. They have some great cx/commuter/wide fork bikes that may well fit into your budget, with much better parts than you could get from your LBS for the same price. Be sure to use a fancy calculator to get the size right, though.
Also, believe it or not, but the steel Surly Cross-Check was lighter than the aluminum Jamis Nova Sport. Perhaps it was the disc brakes on the Nova?
I feel like I'm starting to see the light though. I'm just going to keep test riding bikes until I find it. So far, the Cross-Check is in the lead. Though, I might go with a smaller size than I normally do, mainly because the top tube seems a tad longer. But it could just be what I'm used to.
Also, @azgreg, that Quiver is pretty sweet. I was actually hoping to find a 1x10. It looks like they ship in a box though, so, I'd likely run into the same issue with my LBS, the warranty, and the lack of a free year of brake and shifter adjustments.
Also, I don't know anything of their parts. Are they proprietary?Nevermind, it looks like they use SRAM gearing. Never used the doubletap though...
If you get the Cross Check and keep the bar end shifters you can probably have the LBS swap in V-brakes and long pull levers. It should be about even money relative to what comes stock on the Cross Check unless the shop is fussy because the bike is already marked down. My LHT with Tektro RL520 levers and Tektro M730 V-brakes stops as well as any rim brake I've used. This brake and lever combo retails for about $70 total.