First, since I know my wife reads this blog, I am VERY happy with my current bike fleet. I lack for nothing when it comes to nice rides. In fact, I feel pretty bike-blessed to have been able to collect a small sampling of fine specimens (including one from one of America's most respected builders), even when the paycheck/bills balancing act probably didn't justify them. And I am NOT shopping for a new one.
But that never stops me from ogling, I admit. At one extreme, there's pal Steve K's outstanding collection of snaps from this year's North American Handmade Bicycle Show. So much fancy bike goodness, and if I didn't know Steve was an engineer (and not the train-drivin' kind), I'd think he was a professional photographer. Go ahead, lose yourself in there for a while. I'll still be here when you get back.
Done yet? Nope? I understand.
How about now? Couple more minutes? Okay.
Alright, I'm going on without you.
At the other end, I'm fascinated by humble-yet-useful bikes... ones that won't make a bike nerd look twice, but still have some neat mixes of good geometry and smart features at not-incredibly-ridiculous prices. My old Redline 925 (now sold to make space for the retro Raleigh) was like that... it did battle in the now-crowded market of $500 ready-made fixed gears, but did so with lots of tire/fender clearance and the brazeons to support fenders and racks. Sure, it lacked that fakenger "dude, check out my NJS track iron" street cred, but what's that worth in Des Moines, anyway?
Another bike that gets my virtual vote these days (since there are no Kona dealers in the area where I could fondle one in person) is the Kona Dew Drop. I dunno why. It just pushes the right buttons for me. For one thing, the Dew series has always seemed to feature shorter-than-normal top tubes, so I just might be able to reach the bars with my stubby T-rex arms. Aluminum frame (so it could be dinged relentlessly with no fear of rust), trusty steel fork to keep your teeth off the pavement, nice touring/do-it-all geometry, seems to have tire clearance, those discs brakes would be nice on a snowy commute, and it's red, which automatically makes it faster.
Of course, nothing's perfect -- I'd ditch the triple crankset and front derailleur for a single 42-tooth ring (in keeping with my current drivetrain simplicity mania), lose the STI for Tektro aero brake levers, and shift the remaining rear derailler with some kind of thumbshifter. Slap on some luggage, pedals, and a favorite saddle, and you'd really have something.
(And by "something," I mean something that appeals to my bizarre little demographic of one.)