In my, oh, 6-week hunt for a bike for mostly commuting purposes (12.5 miles each way, suburban/urban roads), I've ridden several bikes and browsed countless of bikeforums.net posts. Here's my extremely brief impressions of each test tide. I was looking for either a cyclocross or touring bike for maximum flexibility.
Giant OCR3: The first bike I've ridden in 17 years (can you guess my age?). Jittery ride, I was counting my fillings afterwards. 30 seconds into this test ride and I wanted off, although I stuck it out for 10 minutes.
Fuji Cross Pro: Out of my price range, but a very nice ride indeed. Very smooth and comfortable. Ultegra components shift so nicely.
Trek XO-1: This seemed very, well, vanilla. No real impression, good or bad. The particular bike I rode had very sloppy welds with gobs of aluminum sticking out everywhere.
Lemond Poprad: Now we're talking. Also too much $, but this was the 1st bike I test-rode that made me want to just keep on riding. My favorite of all the bikes I rode. Since the immediate future looks grim for Lemond bikes, I may look into a similar quality frame like the Soma Double Cross in the somewhat distant future.
Bianchi Volpe: The frame size I rode was a size too big since that was all that was on hand at the LBS. It seemed a bit twitchy, but I can't say much since it didn't fit too well.
Surly Cross Check: Except for the bar-end shifters, I loved this bike.
Masi Speciale CX: Unfortunately, the LBS didn't get this in stock before I found the bike I bought. Looks really nice in the pictures though.
Finally, the winner: A 1995 Trek 520 from a local LBS (completely tuned up), complete with fenders, the Trek rack, a pump, 2 water bottle cages, 700x35 Bontrager slicks, a cycle computer, underseat bag, steel tire levers, Tiagra STI-style shifters, and a very comfy Avocet saddle. $500, how could I go wrong? I added bar-top brakes for $75. All I need to do is touch up a quarter-sized spot of surface rust on the top tube and maybe get a computer that'll display cadence. Oh, and exchange the Giro Atlas II helmet for a Bell Triton to better fit my pumpkin head. The 520 definitely doesn't have the same sports-car feel of the Fuji or Lemond, but it will be a sturdy and reliable steed. And this price was tough to beat!
In addition I picked up a bright yellow wicking fabric shirt from the New Balance factory outlet ($13 - 20% off sale!), a pair of lightweight gloves, and a basic cable lock. I plan on lunchtime bike rides to build up my endurance and re-learn some cycling skills (like dealing with cars) for a few weeks before buying a pannier or two and moving up to a bike commute or three per week. Ideally I'll be up to 5 days sometime in September, which will see me DIY-ing a light system.