already posted on the utility forum about it, just wanted some feedback from the utility forum as well. great forum with some more informed people than myself.
the 8 speed front quote is actually on the part itself. was a marketing thing by shimano itself to represent that the front cage and swing were wide enough to not rub on a larger cassette. over time, it just ceased to matter as cassettes went to 9- and 10- speed, and all FD could cover the duty.
i am considering the trek 7.1 fx, but parts-wise it is a great step down, but as you said, hospitals ain't cheap. (the bike WOULD have to fail in an epic manner)
my local LBS does not stock any models i am interested in, and the wrench skills they have are not trusted by me. of several parts i have purchased new from them in support of the local business, all but one installed by them had to be replaced due to mis-installation. in the last case, it was not even the part i purchased, but a great substitution, and "i would love it".....too bad a 1 inch threadless fork 1.5 inches too short would suck, when i have a 1 1/8 and like my pedals to be above the ground when i ride.....found this out just by looking at the damn thing, and got yelled at for being "in the shop". had to yell back at them to put my damn fork back in. they did that okay (had to re-do the pre-load at home, of course.)
they actually wanted to charge me for the labor....
long story, but i offer it in explanation of why my local LBS does not have much loyalty from me, and is not much different than any other mail-order part//bike house.