Bicycle components are absurdly marked up; you get a huge discount when buying a full bike; the problem is the wholesale price for a full groupo is very low, but there's some kind of collusion agreement in the business where nobody will sell you the bits for a reasonable price. You can almost do better by just buying an entire bike at a closeout sale, throwing away the frame and keeping the components.
Bike shop employees are such huge fucking dicks. They treat everyone like a moron and are just generally unhelpful and don't address what you came in asking for, but instead try to steer you to what they have in stock. You fuckers, if you would just be nice to me I would come to you and spend lots of money on components. The other day I was trying to talk to a mechanic about building up my new frame and he said "does it have a fork? do you even know what a fork is?" ; umm, okay, goodbye. You fucking cocks. I guess I'll just buy everything online even though I'd much rather go to a local shop, just because I refuse to give you pricks any of my business.
When people ask me about buying a bike I usually tell them to just go to a good local shop and try some bikes, but I'm rather down on that myself. For one thing they just show me the shitty bikes they happen to carry which is not a very wide selection. For another, I don't think you can actually get any kind of feel for a bike from a short test ride like that. Personally the main thing I feel in a test ride is - this stem isn't the length I like, I would change it, these handlebars aren't the width I'd like, I would change them, these aren't the pedals or seat I like, I'd change them, the seat and bars aren't the height I like, I'd change them. All I can tell is that it's uncomfortable because I haven't adjusted it just the way I want, it doesn't tell you anything about the bike fundamentally. Of course any brand new bike should shift and brake perfectly, if it doesn't it just means the mechanic put it together wrong.
I just bought an old Bridgestone 550. It's a nice steel frame, triple butted Tange CroMoly, but it's not a collector's brand so it's very cheap unlike old Colnagos or something which are just ridiculous. I looked into just buying a new steel frame, but I couldn't find what I wanted. I'll review a few options :
Torelli Corsa Strada is very nice and only about $800. It's not lugged so it's not super sexy, but the big problem for me is it has no down-tube braze-ons. I guess nobody uses downtube shifters any more except that's exactly what I want right now. About $800.
Tommasini Sintesi ; very nice, a bit overly blingy for my taste; more importantly - just absurdly expensive. Almost $2000 for just the frame. For that price you can get a very nice hand-made full custom bike from a framebuilder here in the US. If you buy this you are dumb. (I could say the same for new Colnagos or De Rosa). (there are tons of great US framebuilders, Richard Sachs is just one doing nice work).
SOMA Speedster / Stanyan looks nice, it's pretty, lugged, cheap ($800) - but then you start to look at the geometry - WTF did they do ? It's a weird shape, it's super low, the head tube is tiny. You have to run a very high elevated stem and seatpost; it seems to be designed that way intentionally, WTF. The Smoothie seems like the only decent SOMA bike but they are very ugly IMO.
The Gios Compact Pro is a gorgeous gorgeous lovely Italian frame, not too crazy at $1250, but again like the Speedster once you look into you go "WTF" ? It has a weird "Criterium" geometry with a steeper seat tube and a taller shorter frame. No good. Bikes should be 73/73 only!
Mercian in the UK makes some really lovely new classic-style steel frames. They do everything right, they have the good classic geometry, all the right braze-ons. I think their prices might be reasonable if you're in the UK, but with the conversion to the USD they're too much.
List of things I have to do to my bike :
Remove BB, Fork & Headset Degrease frame Get rear dropouts spread to 130 Overhaul headset, new grease and bearings, replace if too bad See if new cartridge BB will fit Brush off any rust on frame Rust proof frame Touch up frame paint with clear coat Wax frame Put on components