I am posting this for the benefit of Keryn as she asked about this and also because I am at a loss for content these days. However, I've got to get this in before nap time is over so it is completely off the cuff...
I highly recommend the Giant OCR2 as a first road bike. I have a 2004 model which normally retailed for $1,000-$1,100 I am told. I bought it new from All-Star Bikes in March 2005 for $719. I will admit, the sales girl who quoted me the price didn't have it in stock and sent me to another location where the manager refused to believe they were selling it for that price. So, it took more than a few phone calls to get it locked in at that price. Anyway, enough sqawking about my negotiating skills...
I heard that the only difference between the 2005 and 2004 models is the price and the color. Apparently, the 2005 model is retailing around here at $750, hence the reason I got the 2004 for $719 since the 2005's weren't in yet.
So, if that is true, here's why you should get the Giant OCR2 as your first road bike.
2) Components. Supposedly the bottom line components (deraillers) of any decent bike is Shimano 105's. The OCR2 has rear Tiagra (one below 105 in terms of quality) and front 105. The cheapest bikes with similar components would be a Felt and Fuji I believe. Neither have even 105's and the Fuji retails for over $1,000.
3) Pedals. As a first time road biker, I can tell you the biggest difference is clip-on pedals. You will be markedly faster with clip-ons than regular pedals or even the strap pedals. Neither Felt nor Fuji come equipped with these pedals. You'll have to spend like $100 extra to get them which puts the Felt (as well as the Fuji) well out of Giants price range. Of course, you could save money and go without the pedals and use your regular shoes, but then you'll lose the biggest benefit of riding a road bike in the first place.
4) Tires. Okay, I know nothing about tires except that the smaller they are the faster you go, but less control you have. In terms of comparable bikes, the Giant OCR2 tires aren't the smallest, but they have the least spokes. Supposedly less spokes mean less wind resistances or something, but I'm not sure I believe it. The real difference the spokes made for me, and this is HUGE... I mean HUGE!!!! The real difference is that it makes the bike look like a real racing bike. Why is that huge? Well, because when I saw it, I said, I can't ride this in the neighborhood anymore. Country roads... I've got to get out on the real road.
So, in a nutshell, the spokes made the bike look too fast for my neighborhood and jogging paths, in my opinion, which in turn, gave me the confidence to get out and ride on real roads where you don't have to slow down or stop for cross traffic, joggers, turtles (though I sometimes still do!), stop signs, etc. And that's what will make you faster with the least amount of work. Faster, with less work than it would take you to get faster running! FASTER WITH THE LEAST AMOUNT OF WORK!!! Don't pass that up.
Also, don't just shop for the bike, shop for the shop. I picked the shop with the biggest "butt hole cycle nazis" (I believe that was my initial reaction to them), because seriously, I didn't want a wimp giving me riding advice. It took several trips and discussions before they loosened up, but the advice has been priceless. On top of that, eBay doesn't give free maintenance for one year on bikes. If I didn't have the free maintenance (and advice!) I would have destroyed my bike like I did my first mountain bike (sorry Mongoose! I'll fix you one of these days!)