unfortunately my bike was stolen recently, so i am looking to replace it. i still consider myself a beginner, and my main goal is to use it for exercise. rides rarely go over 30 miles. i want to get a good bike, but not overspend on a bike i would never fully utilize.
my previous bike was a GT series 3 with tiagra components. rode pretty well, shifting was good, but not perfect. in fact i think it may have had sora derailleur up front. saved a ton buying online.
my main questions is this: do i buy a cheaper (see chinese) made bike (GT, Fuji, etc) with better components or go with a more reputable brand (see american made) like specialized and trek. my budget is about $1000, but could go up a couple hundo if needed.
right now a GT series 3 or 2 can be had for just under $700 and $900 with tiagra or tiagra/105 componentry, respectively. fuji roubaix is similar in pricing, and a full 105 outfit on the bike is at an even $1k online. hell a full carbon kestrel is $1250 with tiagra/105 on it. compare that to my LBS who outfits specialized and trek bikes, with a $930 specialized allez sport with sora components (to get tiagra the elite model is $1100) while similar trek models 1.2 (sora) and 1.5 (tiagra) are the same price.
i know buying local is always preferred, but to be honest, with a good online guide why cant i measure myself and fit my bike based off my measurements myself and save some dough to put towards pedals, computer, etc.
also, is it better to get higher quality components or a higher quality frame/manufactured bike?
does the tiagra make that much difference over the sora, and by the same token, the 105 over the tiagra?
i appreciate any input you could lend me!