I recently had my beloved 2000 Specialized FSR XC stolen and am looking for a new (or new-used) bike. It's kind of ironic because I was thinking of selling it anyway as I'm not into mountain biking so much anymore.
Basically, I want a good all around "do-it-all" bike for everything except rough off-road riding. I'll be using it for commuting, light touring, long weekend rides, possibly light to intermediate off-road use.
Based on the research I've done so far, it seems my best choice would be either a touring or cyclocross bike. I know a cyclocross is probably a little more versatile: You can set it up (based on components) for fast road riding, light to moderate off-road riding, just about anything except serious off road use. However, I've heard mixed perspectives on it's potential for touring. Some have stated it can be set up well for touring, others have said it's limited in that respect. Any suggestion/insight/etc are appreciated. Thanks
To add to that, the long ~18" chainstays of a touring bike help get large rear panniers back far enough to clear your heels. For fully-loaded touring, where you're going to be taking 20 to 40 pounds of gear, a real touring bike is the best choice of the two.
Given the spectrum of uses you're proposing, which do not include fully-loaded touring, I'd think a cyclocross bike would fit the bill better than a full-touring bike due to its quicker geometry, and it will probably come with reasonably light wheels. Presumably you will be putting on some 700x35 or bigger tires for the off-roading, which rules out most sport-touring bikes that are constrained by caliper brakes.