Back story: I am about 60 pounds into losing half my body weight (estimated goal time, some time this late summer). I'm 5'8" and female, with long femurs and relatively short arms. I currently ride a Diamondback Response MTB which was (a) cheap when I didn't know if I'd like to ride, and (b) sold to me as the bike which would support my weight when I was pushing 280. (The shop owner had a No Fat Chix sticker on his truck, which I didn't know until later but explains a lot of the sales process.)
Fast forward a while - I really like to ride. I want to ride more, but the Response has, shall we say, limitations. I want a bike that will let me do whatever I'm in the mood to do: commuting 15 miles each way on hills, some touring, the bike leg in sprint/Oly triathlons and yes, possibly even actual cyclocross races if I can find some nice muddy New England races where it's okay to be a beginner. Oh, also some fire road/not too technical singletrack unpaved riding. It seems like a 'cross bike is the best solution, what with the beefier frame to stand up to my weight plus the chameleonic ability to load it up for whatever.
Am I on the right track here? If so, let's move to question 2 - what should I buy? I'm dithering between a Volpe and a Crosscheck, though a guy I know keeps saying "don't rule out a Novara Rivet just 'cause it's an REI house brand and an ugly color". The Bianchi is, well, a Bianchi, and it's celeste green! That's cool! But is an Italian 'cross bike too roadie in its soul for true all-purpose riding? OTOH, the Crosscheck has the urban attitude you need to ride in Boston, and I have a trustworthy local bike shop to help me build it up from the frame (Harris Cyclery, where the inimitable Sheldon Brown labors, though they also sell Bianchi). Guess I ought to throw the Poprad in there, too.
Thanks for any help you can throw my way.