I have two bikes at present, a Dawes "Mean Street" and a commuter I built around a Chas Roberts custom frame. The former is just an off the peg machine, apart from the normal changes to saddle, pedals and tyres. The latter is a little more unusual. It has a Sachs 7 speed hub gear and brake, and a Sturmey Archer hub brake at the front. I prefer it to the Dawes for all but the hilliest rides (or when I need to take my BOB trailer). Here are some pictures of it:
The above was written some time in 1999. Since then the Roberts bike has evolved towards my ideal commuting machine. I've replaced the front hub brake with a Sachs unit (the Sturmey-Archer was sticking, and filing down the brake shoe edges didn't help), fitted straight bars and a higher stem, adjusted the gear ratios and fitted a chain case. It is remarkable how clean my chain remains now.
The best place to look for answers to cycling questions is Sheldon Brown's extensive website. Some time ago I wrote a small contribution to Andrew Henry's bicycle lights FAQ (about preventing blown bulbs in dynamo systems). It's no longer available from his original site, but you can get it here.