TheDude wrote:I just bought a Cannondale CX9 frame and had a Campagnolo Centaur build-up done on it. I really like it. Last year of US manufacture for the Cannondale.
Heartily endorse the recommendation of getting a CX9 - and also for kitting it out with Campag. I bought an X6 last year - the Tiagra equipped CX9 - and have given it a real battering since. It was raced, used as a winter commuter, used as a roadie and as the type of "adventure bike" that you're talking about. It has handled everything really well - and at C$1000 or thereabouts is great value.
Another good thing if you're wanting to use it as a bike to explore back roads is that Cannondale put both water bottle bosses and fender/rack screw mounts on the frame and fork. Not sure why - but you'll even see the same thing on the pros' race bikes. Anyhow, for what you're after, it'll give you heaps of flexibility if say you wanted to go overnight camping or something ...
The 'dale has a great ride. I was comparing it to a Specialized and the 'dale wins hands down. I also found it better than Stevens, Felt, Norco and Kona. Of course, this is intensely personal - so my comments may not hold for you.
Oh, and apparently enough of us complained about Cannondale moving all production offshore and the aluminium bikes are going to stay with being produced in the US - or at least so says my local Cannondale dealer.