Been riding fixed for over 12 years, 2 conversions, 1 Bianchi Pista and a Redline 925 (currently). Looking to get a geared bike for longer, hilly rides. Am a big fan of steel but open to other materials. However have never ridden an aluminum bike that wasn't harsh (owned a early 90s Cannondale Criterium and recently rode an aluminum KHS Flite 700 with carbon stays from a few years back). I'm sure aluminum frames that don't beat you up exist, but I haven't ridden one.
Where do I start looking for a geared bike? New or used? Build or buy? Steel or Carbon? Would want something that has modern parts and riding position rather than that perfect classic frame where you are hunting around for the right vintage stuff to put on it. Aesthetically would love something that doesn't adhere to the current roadie world of big logos on every inch of the bike. On a fixed gear you can get away with relatively low end components because the drive train inherently feels nice and direct but on a geared bike I definitely notice better components (smoother shifting, more direct feel). Would around $1500 be a reasonable budget?
Judging by the geared bike thread, I think you guys probably know a bit about geared bikes and have the fixed perspective of good ride, no bs and the type of feeling I'm looking for.