I live in the PacNW but once a month for about a week, I find myself in Ann Arbor, MI since I work for UMich (from remote). I at first was thinking about getting a bike case and just fly my bike every month (my employer has agreed to reimburse me for the baggage handling fee) but statistically speaking this increases the chance my bike would get lost or damaged. My other option would be to buy a bike and just keep it around in Ann Arbor at the office. I've lived in MI before and grew up in the midwest. I know what the roads are like around here... especially after the winters. Since I would probably also be using this bike for commuting as well as "stress management" and boredom relief year round, I was thinking of getting a cyclocross bike (I already have a MTB and RB at home).
I'm 5'5" (5'5-1/2" during high tide) and I ride a 48cm RB although it's an Aegis Aro Svelte and typically people ride a smaller Aro Svelte frame than they would a frame from other manufacturers. Also, the Aegis is closer to 49cm I think. I haven't seen any CX bikes smaller than 50cm. Could I get away with riding a 50? I'm also looking for a bike with at least Tiagra (I don't like Sora shifters) and if at all possible a carbon fork but would like to stay under the USD$1000 mark... I know that's asking a lot.
Also, Ann Arbor is fairly flat. I have a 12-27 and a 39/53 double on my RB to tackle the Seattle hills but I'd imagine that I could get away with a 12-21 for this bike. Or would people suggest I stick with a common set of gears to make things similar? I am currently thinking about new closeout or previous year's bikes but I'm not ruling out used. Any suggestions on brands/models?