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raging results nerd
925 Posts
1) For most commuter-specific questions, I would recommend the commuting forum -- most everything written here will have a cyclocross racer bias to it, my response included. But, I'll try to answer your question anyway.

There's no fundamental reason you need a cross bike for commuting. What you really want is a bike with decent tire clearance and cantilever brakes so you can put a wide/knobby tire on to ride in the chicago winter, and fender/rack eyelets so you can mount real fenders and a rack. None of these features are exclusive to cross bikes, and a real racing cross bike won't even have the eyelets, but a cross bike sounds a lot cooler than a touring bike, huh?

And obviously the bike needs to fit. And obviously, it should be cheap, since it's going to get abused and will be at a higher risk of getting stolen. So here's your shopping list in order of importance:

1) fits you. 42 miles round trip on a bike that doesn't fit is going to hurt.
2) cheap. somewhat incompatible with #1, especially if you don't know much about bikes and how they fit/how to adjust the fit. maybe price is no option to you, and you can disregard this, but otherwise i'd take a shot at craigslist and ebay to find a bike you won't cry about getting stolen/wrecked.
3) fender eyelets. if you've never ridden a bike with fenders when it's raining steadily, you don't realize how much of a difference it makes
4) rack eyelets (are these the same as #3? heck i don't know :)). If you are bringing a change of clothes and a laptop with you every day it's a lot nicer to get that weight off your back
5) canti brakes so you can put a beefy tire on for the winter. i do an 8 mile commute in boston straight through the winter with plain old road tires on my bike and i haven't died yet, so this isn't a big deal IMO.

Hope that helps. And btw, it's "cyclocross" (one word, with an 'o'), not "cycle cross."

Number 2 on the course.
4,405 Posts
To add to what colinr posted, I think you should consider your wants/needs and then see what bikes out there fit them.

What is your budget?
Will you have secure storage?
Are you going to commute year round?
Is road salt enough of a problem to rule out a steel frame?
Disc brakes?

Many CX bikes can cross over to make good commuters. So many, in fact, that you really need to specify your usage before you can get really good recommendations.

Surly Commuter
164 Posts
Lots of good advice! I opted for a Surly CrossCheck. Steel frame, canti-brakes, a rear rack, panniers, lighted with a my DIY triple cree LED and my own custom wooden fenders. The steel frame isn't a problem. I commute year round in Michigan, a can of frame saver cures any concern and the steel is real works. The CrossCheck has so many braze ons that you won't have a problem adding anything. Well designed, and in the winter I throw my 700x40 studded Nokians on with fenders.
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