Based on all the helpful input at Eventually get a road bike or is the MTB doing double duty? and the mind-numbing discomfort/boredom of Friday's 2.5 hour mtb pavement ride (60psi, locked out, the hum of tires), I have gladly found my new bike.
Main use is xc mtb training, recovery, taking a break from riding the mountain bike. Tested more bikes in a few weeks than the past 20 years, it seems, and weighing price vs fit/feel (most important, not price) and weight, etc., it came down to a few finalist spanning my broad Needs vs Wants spectrum.
Cyclocross bikes that appealed to my 90% road/10% dirt needs. These fit the body and budget and made me smile during rides -
New 2011 Yeti Arc-X with stock build SRAM Apex. Weight was 22 pounds for a medium which surprised me. Whew, heavy even for a $1685 cross bike. Option to go full new 105 and Aksium Race wheels for 250 more. Nah.
Used craigslist 2010 Scott Addict CX. Light carbon with full 6700 Ultegra weighed about 18 pounds. But Scott told me no warranty if second-hand. Guy wanted too much anyway at $2050. Local shop had new Scott Team with Ultegra for $1100 (!) but not my size. That would've come home if 2cm smaller. The Scott Comp was just too heavy stock.
But hard thinking and talking to local riders & shop employees made me realize my budget wouldn't make me happy with a high-bb 20 pound aluminum CX bike even with a spare set of road-only wheels or tires. My recent purchase of a Anthem X1 with 650B front wheel made me realize "If I'm going to go in the dirt do it on the FS, and if I'm going to go on the road do it on a comfortable road bike. No in-between."
Putting aside the Want for a carbon 29er HT (mainly cuz my buddy just bought "my" Cdale Flash Carbon 2) I'd go the big-wheel route with a Plush/relaxed geometry road bike:
2011 Felt Z5 with 105. Kinda ugly with white tires/bar tape/saddle, but that's an easy fix. Local dealer wanted $1906 out the door which is too high in my book considering the '12 are coming in, and I've found them online for much less ($1400 plus $75 shipping if no one else bids on eBay). His smug attitude made me walk.
2011 used Cannondale Synapse Carbon 3 with Ultegra on eBay. Buy it now at $2299 plus $100 is gone since a $1599 bid was placed. Take the chance of its condition not being as stated, and the fact I couldn't care less about Rival vs Ultegra, I am going with....
Brand new 2011 Cannondale Synapse 4 with Rival. I felt like a kid racing around the streets during the test. Perfect mtb training too.....if you enjoy riding any bike it's only going to make ya faster and better. Price is $1650 delivered. The bike fits, I like the looks, Rival works, it is comfy and has a great warranty.
The Synapse is the perfect distraction for the non-mtb days. Thanks to all for the great input. Maybe one day I'll have a super light comfortable CX bike but for now the road is calling me.
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