So I sold my old 04 Trek 820 to a friend and I'm in the market for a brand new MTB, preferably a hardtail in the $300-$550 range. I want something entry level with a decent front suspension. However I have a Lemond road bike so I need something that at least shifts well and feels somewhat light or it will probably collect dust. Disc brakes don't really matter to me. I test rode a few bikes today:

1) Gary Fisher Wahoo
2) Gary Fisher Marlin
3) Trek 4500
4) Specialized Hardrock XC
5) Kona Fire Mountail

I rode the Specialized first. It had the grip shifts and I wasn't into it. The bike felt decent, but not all that "special" to me for some reason. The Kona felt better, but for some reason I wasn't real comfortable on that bike either.

Next up I go to one of the local Trek stores. They also sell Gary Fisher bikes (which are basically Treks). Anyways, I ride the Marlin first. I fell in love with that bike almost instantly. However, the bike salesman told me he thought when I was riding it I looked a little too upright. It was a 17.5". He suggested I try a 19" so I got on a Wahoo. It felt a little different, but good. The biggest thing I noticed was the shifting system was quite poor in comparison. =( Other than that I thought the bike rode great.

Next up I rode the Trek 4500 in 18" (Gary Fishers come in 17.5" and 19" and Treks come in 18" and 19.5"). It's a really screwy deal. The Trek felt great, but I found it to be similar to the Marlin. Unfortunately the shop didn't have any 19" Marlins in stock.

The salesman told me I was kind of between sizes and it would probably be personal preference. Since I'm new to MTB-ing he said that I could go with the smaller frame if I wanted to "throw the bike around" but it was whatever felt comfortable. I'll probably stop by a couple more shops tomorrow and try to find a Marlin in 19". I'm in no hurry to buy since winter is on its way. If I can get a good deal on a leftover 07 I'll go for it. Keep in mind all my test rides were done on pavement, but I did go off a couple curbs to feel the front suspension.

Also is there anything else you guys would recommend I try out?