I am not sure I would classify myself as a cyclocross person but.... I used to ride roads pretty fast but never liked racing. I had a mountain bike but never liked the cloddiness of it (plus driving to start every ride always seemed silly to me) and tearing down unidentifiable trails was not my idea of fun. I sold them both and bought a hybrid back in the late 90's but was never terribly happy with that bike because it was not as nimble as my road bike and the change to full time upright was too much of a contrast and I longed to lean down and really book. Now I also want to ride my bike on errands as I am moving from a subural area closer to a town.
Can one bike make me happy? I was at the bike store and was drawn to the Bianchi Volpe and Axis and the sales guy explained to me about this new sport when I told him what I liked to do: ride roads fast solo, accompany my kids for rides here and there, go on dirt roads with low to moderate hills, and run around town, and he seemed to think I was on the right track with this style of bike. He did not have the bikes in my size (I am 5'10" with a 35" inseam) so it is still an unknown for me! What are bikes are available besides besides those from Bianchi? Since I was a bit concerned about not having shocks for the dirt riding, he said that the bikes with steel frames don't need them as much since they are inherently more forgiving.
Any thoughts from the experts? As far as cost, I don't want to spend more than I need to but I am anathema to buying something that I won't enjoy just to save $$. I would probably still cave to a high end hybrid if I could find one that I really liked. Thanks for your sage wisdom....
If had to slim down from 3 bikes to, one bike it would be a Cyclocross bike. My current cross bike, a Jake the Snake, is a dream. The versatility of a cross bike with eyelets is unparalleled. The eyelets allow me to mount a rear rack so the bike will double as a commute to work bike and race bike. The bike is very comfortable for longish rides, 50 miles, yet I can get down into the hooks and hammer it home on my local bike trail. The extra clearance allows for fattish tires and fenders if I need. Some bikes might accept tires as fat as 40mm for a fast comfortable ride. When you go to check out bikes make sure you can get the bike up on to your shoulder as well as a proper ride fit.
The bike still remains a race bike, and it will get plenty of use this season. I’ve done a couple of crits here and there, and a few MTB races. I would say that I do not have the time to train for a full road season, nor do I patience to sit in and wait till the end to go hard. I’d agree with your points concerning MTB races. Cross is a great meathead sport. Get out there, go hard at the start, and try and rail for the duration of your race. Plus you can throw down on the weekend at your local cross race, and commute on the bike M-F. Sounds like a cross bike would be the perfect investment for you.
Check out Kona, Surly, Lemond, for good basic no-nonsense cross bikes. Test ride lots of bikes.