I want to do some long distance touring, a more efficient (and less tire shredding) commuter, the ability to do some off-road exploring when I don't have my mountain bike, and the means to dabble with cyclocross racing and triathalons without embarassing myself. Essentially, I need a durable road bike and a cyclocross seems to fit the bill.
After much deliberation, I've narrowed my choices to the following:
2006 Specialized Tricross Double - $1500 new - full rack mounts
2006 Specialized Tricross Triple - $1200 used - best low end gearing, full rack mounts
2006 Fuji Cross Comp - $860 new - worst componentry
2007 Fuji Cross Pro - $1540 new - best componentry, lightest
2006 Jamis Nova - $1040 new - full rack mounts
Everyone is going to recommend that you get the Surly Cross Check due to its versatility. Since your price range appears to a be little higher than the stock build, you may want to do your own build-up. Or you could just replace parts gradually on the stock build, sell some of what it comes with, etcetera.
Your situation gets tricky when you say that you want to do long distance touring and cross racing. Most non-high level race cross bikes can be set up for some touring, and most touring bikes can be set up for a surprising amount of off-roading. However, touring bikes don't make good cross racers except for a real beginner (at least so I hear, I don't race). Likewise, cross bikes can tour, but I would much rather have a true touring bike for a tour that's beyond 5 days or so. The longer wheelbase allows for a more ideal position of the panniers, and the ability to put on a front rack can make a long tour much more enjoyable.
I guess the question is how long are your tours going to be?
If you know you want a cross bike, though, the Jamis Nova is a good bike. Some might call it a bit on the heavy side, but it seems a good balance of weight and practicality. The triple chainring is going to be pretty crucial if you are doing tours with a fair amount of weight in a hilly area, unless you're a real masochist.
For the chainring reason I'd also go for the tricross triple over the double. Keep in mind also that for touring nothing is needed over 105 level componentry, and tiagra is usally quite good enough, as anything Tiagra and up (some might say sora and up?) is quite reliable. Probably not an issue for you through, since you will be looking mostly at Tiagra/105 mixes in your price range.
Thanks for the info. My touring trips would be relatively infrequent and rarely more than two days, though I'd commute with the bike as often as possible (<10 miles). I should have qualified "long distance" considering there are come freaks out there that can rock cross-continent trips.
I test rode the Cross Check, but the bike was an absolute tank. I'd probably be able to run over other crossers if I could ever catch up to them. I definitely thought it was too heavy, plus, I REALLY didn't appreciate the bar-end shifters.
I'm very impressed with the Nova because of it's versatility/utility, but I still can't seem to eliminate any from my list above. I'm very interested in the componentry of the Fujis for the price but I somewhat suspect their comfort for longer trips. I might just end up waiting for the first of these to show up slightly used and significantly reduced in price. I'm certain I'd be happy with any of them.
Fuji Cross Pro:
One thing that I disliked most about the Fuji Cross Comp and Cross Pro is how similarly geared the chainrings are, 39/48 and 38/48, respectively. One shop agreed to swap the smaller 38 chainring on the 2007 Pro for a 34 tooth ring. The total for the bike would be $1559. Rear rack compatible.
Great all-around bike, it seems. I can get a 2006 for $1039. Rear rack compatible. No one seems to be able to tell me if the 2006 is front rack compatible. The web gives me conflicting info. I think this is a deal breaker for me for this bike.
It's a carbon fork right? You won't be able to use a front rack if it is. Irregardless, you probably don't need one if you're only going on weekend trips. I never do, though since I own a touring bike (a "tank," at 25 pounds with full steel frame and deore rear hub derailler ) I have that option.
Sounds like the Nova would be a great fit. Did you ever try the Jake the Snake? If so, what turned you off? I was looking at the Jake a while back as an all-rounder sort of bike and didn't really like the feel of it, though I've never been able to quantify why. Anyways, the triple on the Nova is probabky good for your purposes using it as a light tourer.
I'm also in the market for a cross bike to replace my old, worn-out mtn bike that needs an overhaul (1995 Giant Sedona ATX). I'll be using it for commuting, light off-road use, hilly and/or off road sprint triathlon courses, and cross races... I have not yet done a cross race, but hope to start this fall after the tri season concludes. I need rear rack mounts...msgr bags don't work for me (I had back surgery 5 yrs ago).
After reading this thread and doing some research, I think I'll be buying a frame and having the LBS build it up for me, or buying a lightly used cross bike and upgrading components (I'd like Ultegra). If I buy a new frame, can someone recommend a quality, non-Taiwan assembly line, aluminum frame with rear rack eyelets? I don't care about color...I just want a good value and quality product. I was looking at the Scott Cyclocross Comp (w/ Ultegra upgrades), but I don't think it has rear rack eyelets...
I've never riden cross either, and, though I own a cycloscross bike, it hasn't arrived yet. Nevertheless, I've done a ton of recent research and I would suggest the Fuji Cross Pro (more racing) or the Specialized Expert Comp (more touring). The two bikes are very different. The Fuji has a much more aggresive stance and costs $500 less, but probably would hurt for prolonged touring. Both have rear racks, AL frames, and ultegra+ drivetrain.