I've been researching off and on for a few weeks, and very intensely for the past few days. I feel like I should be able to make a decision by this point, but I'm not even close, and as an extreme novice to bicycles, I'm not sure I fully appreciate the value in some of the components that come on these bikes. So here's my dilemma (I apologize in advance, I can already tell this is going to be a long post):
I'm 6'0", 180ish lbs, and I haven't ridden a (non-stationary) bike in over a decade. I live in Northern Virginia, and the "Silver Line" Metro (train) stations are set to open (relatively) near my home and work within the next couple months. My goal is to sell my car, and commute via bike / train every day, rain or shine (I can telework for snow / hurricanes). I'll have to cover 2 miles from my home to the metro, fold and carry the bike on the train, then cover 1 mile from the metro to my work (twice a day = 6 miles per day). I'm super anal retentive and get annoyed with very minor imperfections (so quality is paramount) e.g., I've purchased a couple brand new sports cars in the past 3 years, and decided to sell them for "minor" things like creaking/rattling noises.
I think I've settled on a full size folding bike, lugging 30 lbs on and off a train doesn't strike me as a major inconvenience, and my home and work are only 1 stop apart (6 miles) and are the last 2 stops on the line (in the current phase) so there shouldn't be an issue of over crowding. The terrain is fairly smooth on my anticipated path (city streets and bike paths), but I'm leaning toward bikes with beefier tires in case of bad weather, bumps, etc.
I'd prefer a bike that's comfortable, as I'm not getting any younger (soft saddle, adjustable handle bars, etc.), with enough gears to get up hills, and pick up speed on the way down. I plan to pack clothes and shower/change at the gym at work, but fenders/mud flaps are a plus. Beyond that, I don't know what I need: disk brakes? top of the line crankset / derailleurs? Am I wasting money for 6 miles a day?
Additionally, being able to attach baskets and such is a huge plus (especially ones that don't hook on the handle bars and make the steering clunky). We have a couple Maltipoo pups, who I'm sure would love to go for a ride around town on the weekends. For example: I think the Terns have a special hookup on the front post (i.e., non-turning part) for this sort of thing.
The Bike's I'm considering and my rationale
The Montagues (Paratrooper or Navigator): I like both of these bikes for different reasons, but I think I've ruled them both out due to having to remove the front wheel (see anal retentive comment above).
Tern Joes (D24 & P24): Both seem to have beefy tires, adjustable stem (aka handle bars for us lay-folk), no fenders (but I assume they can be added for rainy days). The obvious difference in these two bikes is the disk brakes, but there also appears to be differences in the chainset, derailleurs, cassette, shifters, and wheels (source: http://www.thebikelist.co.uk/tern/jo...s/joe-p24-2012) bear in mind these are all just words to me, do these components really justify the $250 price difference?
Dahon Espresso: Seems comparable to the Tern Joe D24 but costs $50 more, is one better than the other? If so, why?
Tern Eclipse P9: This one was recommended to me by a bike shop, and it seems to tick all the boxes, but I'm not sure about the gears. I tested out a 7 gear bike, and the top gear doesn't seem very fast, not sure if this one is better? with a wider range between 1 and 9?
The Brass Tacks
I don't really have a budget. I'd love to keep my purchase under $200, but I'm certain the bike would be a piece of **** that I'd want to drive into a giant trash compactor. I could spend $2k+ but I'm not sure that I need that high end of a bike (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). So my target budget (I guess) is $600 - $1200 based on what I've seen, but this is negotiable if justifiable.
Summary / Conclusion
I'm looking for a daily commuter that I can also take out on weekends (and toss the pups in a basket). I prefer full size bikes (I tried out a bike with 20" wheels and I'm pretty sure it's not for me). I prefer beefier tires, but could probably get by with 700c. Quality and reliability are worth extra money to me. I prefer a comfortable bike but understand that things like saddle and fenders can be upgraded / added later.
So if you have experience with the bikes above, or think I'm overlooking a better option, please enlighten me. Feel free to provide links, etc., I will read them.