Asked Jim Burton, new owner of Tommy’s Bikes in Torrington CT how mcuh you have to spend for a decent road bike. His prices match on line prices, he says. His suggestion, at the lower end is his GIANT OCR 1 for $650. For that you get a light bike (20 pounds or so) with an aluminum frame (conveys a lot of bumps to your butt) and one carbon fork (helps ease the bumps some), with Shimano "Sora" …Shimano’s fourth level gearing. I didn’t ride it but it looks good and any Shimano gearing is going to be okay if not great. The cost of the next three GIANT OCR’s goes up as you add better gearing. No surprise. And, for the GIANT all-carbon-fiber bike with Ultegra gearing, expect to pay about $2k. Worth it if you have it but you can start lower. Obviously.
On the question of real entry-level bikes, he sells far more hybrids (half way between a road bike and a mountain bike) than anything else. Far more. If you are a rank beginner, that may make sense. A hybrid is a soft ride, easy to balance and has upright handle bars. Hope you graduate after a while, but not a terrible idea for beginners. Let me know any thinoughts.