Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Sunny Tampa, Florida
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Whether a frame is harsh has more to do with who designed it, how and for what than the material. For what you're talking about the only thing you don't want would be an expensive race-oriented frame of any material. Doesn't matter if it's all CF or steel or what, a race bike (even a cross race bike) is rather unpleasant on bad road. My very old aluminum Redline is no more harsh than my steel road bike. Cross race bikes ride nicer than road race bikes, but neither is really suited for the riding you describe. Unless coffee shop cred is at stake, in which case I'd say change the game.
In the last 20 years or so road bikes have adopted imitation crit racer geometry and as a result a lot of cross bikes have been designed and sold for people who just want a classic road and all around bike instead of some buzzing lightweight that's fast as hell, punishes you on every RR crossing and won't take tires over 25mm wide. That is probably the sort of bike you want one of the cross bikes with fender and rack bungs and a slower geometry. You know, like there's room between the seat tube and the back tire.
Soma is said to be a nice one. There are a lot of good choices out there. Don't get locked into what you see online.