have been looking through this forum and finding lots of great information; but was hoping to get some more specific advice. here's some background:
-i live in the seattle area and am looking to buy a bike that i'll primarily use for commuting to/from work. i will occasionally also use it for errands, short fun rides, etc. i may go off-road very occasionally. but i will NEVER use it for racing or any kind of competitive activity.
-my commute will be about a 7-mile ride on regular roads (paved, bumpy, potholes, ruts, etc) that are fairly hilly. the hills are a bit of a struggle for me right now, given my (lack of) conditioning, but i'm assuming that'll improve over time.
-my main requirements (i think) are (1) very comfortable ride (over bumps, etc), (2) easy to ride up/down hills, (3) good braking in rainy weather, (4) ability to put fenders and a rack for panniers.
-i went to a couple of local stores and asked for advice. one recommended a cyclocross bike (the lemond poprad, in particular) and the other recommended a flat-handlebar bike (like the kona dr. dew).
-i've spent just a bit of time trying drop-down handlebar bikes and flat handlebar bikes and think i have a preference for the drop-down ones mostly because it seems like having more hand positions would be helpful. but if i'm overlooking something that makes the flat-bar bikes better for commuting on hilly roads, i'd love to hear it.
-if i get a dropdown handlebar bike, i definitely want to have brakes on the top part of the drop-down handlebars, in addition to the drop-down part.
-the poprad seemed pretty nice, but the easiest gear didn't seem easy enough for a couple of the steeper hills (again, probably due to my conditioning).
-i also tried the fuji cross pro at an out-of-town store when i was travelling and liked a lot about it...but only rode it for a few minutes.
-i saw in the most recent publication of bicycling magazine that they named the schwinn dbx one of the top bikes for 2005, though i can't really tell why it's any better than other cyclocross bikes.
okay, so now my questions:
-should i care about disc brakes vs. pull brakes? some bike stores seem to say that disc brakes are better for rainy weather, but others say that mechanical disc brakes aren't much better than pull brakes and only hydraulic disc brakes make a significant difference.
-what would be a good bike for me, given the purposes described above? some of the ones discussed on this forum that sound interesting are: lemond poprad, kona jake the snake, fuji cross pro, soma double cross, surly cross check.
thanks in advance!