Your price point starts to open up a lot of good options and most in that range will be of similar quality, made in China, and good solid bikes. Go with the paint job you like the best. Seriously. Nothing wrong with an Allez - it's a great bike. Fit is critical, but with the right size frame, you can get any bike to fit (w/ few exceptions). I think the average test ride is over-rated and not very useful. The bikes are poorly fitted, so a nice bike can feel crappy and vice versa. However, a good shop may take the time to more accurately fit you for a better test ride. I would disagree with buying the most you can afford, especially as a new rider. You can get often get good deals on last-year's-models.