I'm looking to build up a Long Haul Trucker in the near future. I have a short daily commute (7 miles, round trip) and have been riding a fixed-gear Steamroller for the last five years. I've recently decided to go entirely car-free (I've been using the car on weekends -- one of my job entails twice-daily trips to various parts of the city, so I'd bike during the week and take the car on weekends, since I'd usually be doubling my milage then) and have been looking at my options as far as geared bikes go. I really don't want to deal with derailleurs, so I've mainly been looking at internal hubs.
I'd be building this bike up for my weekend commutes, as well as for days I want to ditch the messenger bag and get the weight off my back (hot summer days, days I have a heavy load, etc...). I'm also thinking about train-hopping to the 'burbs and riding out longer distances to visit family, orchards, botanical gardens, and whatnot. I want something versatile.
My questions are:
1. Is having an internally geared hub going to be a PITA as far as maintenance goes? I own a Raleigh Twenty, but I've yet to have to change the tire on the rear wheel, and only ride the bike on short rides (my commute if I don't have many visits after work, or around my neighborhood for grocery-getting and tooling around). How much more difficult is it to deal with?
2. I'm used to riding fixed. I'm used to standing up and soldiering on over hills. Are three, eight, or eleven gears going to be enough on longer, hillier rides? I've managed a few 25 mile club rides on my fixie, and hung in there. I think I'll be ok, but I've never left the Phila. city limits. I'm sure it get hillier (though I've - slowly - climbed the Manayunk wall).
3. I HATE drop bars - I've never been able to feel comfortable with them. Has anyone here done long rides with u-bars or mustache bars? Are they comfortable when you're carrying weight over distance?
4. Aside from the LHT, are there other frames (or complete bikes) I should look at? I'm looking for something that would be great for covering 25 miles with a load, but would also work for weekend trips or possibly camping, down the road.
Thank in advance for any suggestions.