Seems like there should be a lot more choices for a quality road bike under $1,000. Nothing from Trek, Raleigh, GT, Cannondale, etc.?
I had wonderful results with an inexpensive Raleigh Sport, 21 speed road bike purchased new at a local bike shop ($450) in 2006. Other than an occasional chain cleaning and lube a couple times per year, and fixing flat, the bike had zero maintenance costs over 8 yrs/10,000 miles. Same chain, same Shimano Sora shifters/brakes, same cassette/sprocket, etc. 100% original except for the tires. Not a single tune up or shop service. I just excercised on it 2-3X per week, 10-15 mile trips. Such a bike is no longer made for anywhere near $500. They now cost around $700+...even for a big old fat, heavy, and base line Raleigh, which has since been bought out by another maker.
I don't feel $750 is "cheap" and certainly not $1,000. Because I couldn't find a new road bike in the $500 range, I went out and bought a used GT4 16 speed for $295. The GT series 4 was $700+ new and was used only a couple times. Very nice feel and response even on the cheaper Shimano Sora stuff, identical to what was on my Raleigh. Much lighter frame/wheels than my old Raleigh. There's nothing in your post about the level of quality for $1,000. I'd want the next level up from "Sora" if I'm spending $800-$1,000. I can't imagine that a $2,000 bike would have given that much more satisfaction or lifetime than my old $450 Raleigh. I'd buy that same bike new today for $450 if anyone sold it.
Looks to me like you're favoring specific brands over others. For the most part the bikes in the $700-$1,000 range are somewhat comparable to amateurs like me. I really like my Raleigh because it had an adjustable/pivoting stem for an extra 2-3" height for less strain on my back. So much comes down to age, weight, use, etc. When I bought my Raleigh at 220 lbs, a lighter bike was meaningless to me.
As long as the bike fits, get basic quality in the price range you can afford. And there's nothing wrong with a nearly new, used bike at half price, even from a bike dealer. My local shop never had any trade-ins when I showed up or called. So I finally went out and just bought one via Craig's List. Plenty of decent bikes to choose from. I have 6 months on my GT series 4 road bike and have learned to really like. Most any bike takes a little while to get used to. I tried my brother's 21 Speed Univega mountain bike for a year (free) and just gave up on it for anything but short trips. Very unstable handle bars and not very comfortable with the 3" longer arm reach vs. a road bike. I guess that's why it's a mountain/dirt bike.
My road bikes had simple plastic/fabric stirrups that you slip into. For recreational biking no need for locking in with clamps/special shoes. And if an amateur sluggo like me got 8 years on a cheapo Raleigh doing zero maintenance, why do you need more? I even tried to rebuild the cassettes/sprockets myself when I found out that between parts and tools I'd be looking at $200. Forget that. I paid $295 for a nearly new bike needing nothing. Not a fan of the carbon front fork even if it is lighter and more responsive. I'd prefer the durability of aluminum. For someone actually doing racing and competitions I could say why "just a bike" wouldn't appeal to them. I'd add the GT series 4 to your list.