A:Well, lets see winter riding in Seattle. Been there, done that. Fenders are a must. Good brakes too; discs would be nice. And plenty of gearing for those infamous Seattle hills. And an aluminum frame to resist corrosion.
I must say both the Schwinn and Kona would fill the bill nicely. The Schwinn Super Sport DBX ($1200; schwinnbikes.com) is very much an all-purpose/commuter bike, with a 27-speed Shimano drive train, disc brakes, aluminum frame, and friendly riding positiondrop handlebars, but a relaxed geometry for a comfortable day in the saddle.
Konas slightly pricier Sutra ($1300; konaworld.com) is very similar, but more of a true touring bike. It has a steel frame, for example, which makes for a smooth ride and has the flex to handle big loads better than aluminum frames. Its an excellent bike. Whether its quite right for a commuter is an open question due to the corrosion issue (although that can be dealt with by treating the inside of the tubes with a corrosion inhibitor and keeping the bike clean and dry when not on the road).
Personally, I like cyclocross bikes for the kind of mission you have in mind. One intriguing possibility is the Bianchi Axis ($1,300; bianchiusa.com). It has plenty of room for fenders, an aluminum frame, and an 18-speed SRAM/Shimano drivetrain. Its crank has a double chainring, not a triple as found on the Schwinn and Kona bikes, but its a compact crank so you have plenty of leverage for getting up hills. Giants TCX ($1,200; giant-bicycle.com) offers a very similar frame setup and drivetrain at a really competitive price. Both bikes use V-brakes rather than discs, but they offer good stopping power as well as less weight.
Me, Id probably buy the Bianchi. I like that Celeste Green paint job
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