One of the problems you have when starting cycling- is what type of bike to get. The choice is immense and with all the grades of components fitted it can be a bit hit and miss as to whether you get the right bike for you. When it comes to the replacement bike for that first bike- it is a lot easier. You know what you want in a bike-the grade of the components and more important- a better idea on fit.
A few years ago I had a friend that wanted to upgrade from his mountain bike to something that would do the occasional long road ride- be suitable for his daily commute in fine weather of 20 miles but still keep the upright position of his MTB. Managed to get him into my LBS who did him a good deal on a Giant FCR3. That bike suited him down to the ground but it was stolen earlier this year. So replacement bike time but a bit sooner than he wanted.
That FCR suited him completely. Components were at a level that suited him- the fit was there although he did feel that he could do with a larger frame and the ride suited him down to the ground. Problem is that the FCR is no longer made and the price of the replacement (The Rapid) has gone up a bit in price. He looked on the equivalent of your Craigs List and was looking for an FCR in good condition or possibly an older TCR. They did not come up.
Then he asked me about a Giant CRS. Never heard of it and as it came in the "Lifestyle" section of the Giant range- I did not recommend it. Well today he came into work with it. Despite my suggestion that he forgets the bike- He bought it.
It is a pretty good bike. The version he got is 3 years old and not a mark on it. Going by the wear on the rims- I would say it has been run round the block a few times and that is it. It is the Alliance frame which is aluminium with top tube and seat stays in C.F. Appearance is that it is one of the post 97 OCR or FCR frames with only a few changes to make it "Old Git" friendly. 28T granny ring linked to a 9 speed 12/28 cassette- 35mm tyres and they are the only downgrades I could see from the FCR Alliance.
The 35mm tyres will be going as soon as they wear out but that 28/28 gearing has already been made use of. Previous crankset was 50/39/30 and this is 52/42/28 and he has already found out that the 52 only gets used on downslopes. And that wide Comfort saddle has to go.
To be honest- My mate does not need or want a performance bike. He does need a bike that works and is going to be reliable and he had that in the FCR. It may have been a little low spec but with this new bike- he has upgraded the ride no end. He has gone from a $600 bike to one that cost's double that amount and you can see and feel the difference in the value of the two bikes. All he has to do now is wear out those wide tyres and put the 23's on and get rid of that saddle- Pulling the 52/12 can come later.