I have been doing some thinking and IMO no one sells what I am looking for. I have looked at hybrids, flat bar roadies and MTBs and none of them is really the right choice, I think I will be headed down the path of a custom frame in the next couple of years but honestly that sort of removes part of what I think this bike should be which is affordable. So here is what I want...what would you do if you could do anything.
Bike would be a flat bar road bike, I don't go off road other than some smooth dirt paths and gravel alleys at times. 700c by 28-36 with either slicks or a touring tread would be good. Steel would be my material of choice and a CF fork. Here is where it will get a little odd, I would want disc brakes because I will be towing a trailerbike and I like the added braking for safety. For this towing use I would also require a compact frame so that the seatpost clamp has room. Wheel base in the 1000mm-1100mm range (this is for a 55cm-56cm top tube). Clearance for fenders and braze-ons for racks.
Gearing that fits. My Marin has a triple but I never use the big ring, I am thinking that a compact double with a 48-34 and a rear cassette in the ball park of 13 (or 14) -> 29 (27 or 28 may do but >30 is too many). This could be a 9 speed or 10 speed if I was building this today I would go with Campy Chorus 10sp flat bar stuff and a 13-29 cassette. This gearing would give me plenty of low gears for towing the trailer bike and high enough gears for crusing but elinimate that extra ring and allow for a shorter chain and better chain line.
Wheels would be something like a 36 hole Mavic Open Pro and the brakes would be Avid mechanical discs.
So what is out there now? Well the 2005 Specialized Sirrus Comp Disc is close but still needs some modification. Dump the Pave seatpost to get something more robust for towing. and honestly an AL and CF frame seems silly on this bike and I would guess it would drive the price up ($1500 reatil) over steel but maybe I am wrong. Also I am not a fan of ALEX rims due to some things I have read about failures so a new wheel set would be nice. So that drives the price up to around $2k but the dream bike above has to be about $3k doesn't it? IMO a family bike should be $2000-$3000.
I guess I am dreaming here.