My local bike shop's owner/mechanic, who I have a lot of respect for, says if between sizes buy the smaller bike; easier to adjust for size from there.
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I want a bike that can be ridden in group rides at a moderate pace without being dropped.The Cannondale Touring 1 is going to weigh in at around 30lbs or more. Hard to see you keeping up with a group of riders on lightweight road bikes.
I don't recall suggesting anyone use 11 speed cassettes on a loaded touring bike. Did you suggest this?
Looks very similar to Trek 520, Surly Long Haul, REI Randonee. Steel frame, fork, bar end shifters, triple crank, derailleurs, braze ons, etc. Priced about the same at $1600. Odd that Salsa chose 9 speed instead of 10 speed. Don't see any good reason to go into the past for parts. 10 speed has been the normal for road and mountain bikes for a decade or more. And 11 is the new norm now days. Why intentionally choose parts that are 10-15 years past their prime?
The only way you can bike across the Hudson into NYC is via the GW Bridge.
Another suggestion for getting from Albany to NYC is to go down 9W and across the George Washington Bridge. This puts you right near the north end of the Hudson River Bikepath. When I lived in Hoboken 9W was my favorite get-out-of-town ride. 9W is lightly trafficked as all the traffic is on the freeway. On much of it you are just riding through the trees. I admit this was almost 40 years ago but things probably haven't changed much. US9, across the river, is much more congested.