Hello everyone I'm new here, but not new to biking. My current knowledge base on mountain biking is ~ 8 years out of date!
I decided to get back into mountain biking and wandered around the net a bit and found this place.
So here's the scoop I used to bike like crazy when I lived back on the west coast. I lived up in the San Bernardino mountains and wore out no less than 4 bikes on the trails. Probably rode an easy 20 miles on average a week for 8 years straight.
Fast forward to today (10 years later...) and after moving around the country and literally almost doubling my body weight I have finally settled down and the wife and I have decided to get into trail riding. I used to be in tip top shape at around 235 pounds, but after being laid up from surgery a few years back, opening my own restaurant/working 18hrs a day (Yes I was the sole cook), quitting smoking while running the restaurant (Food tasted WONDERFUL once I quit smoking) I ballooned up to my present weight of ~425 pounds. - Yeah I'm huge at 32 years old and really wanting to drop the weight to avoid health problems further on down the road. I am 6' tall and "Wear it well" but these tires have got to go!
At present my job has pushed me into a desk position, not much activity at all. I do live fairly close to work (~ 7 miles) and would like to start riding back and forth instead of driving.
I have a budget of around $1200, and I am seriously looking into the 29'er bikes. Everything I have ridden with the exception of my last bike was a steel frame. All I have ever had were hard-tails/zero suspension, and I would like to keep it that way. My last bike was aluminum and I wasn't keen on its ride.
The 3 bikes I have been looking at are these:
Jamis Dragon Sport:
Motobecane 9Iron Elite:
Now I have been down to my LBS and they basically carry everything in the world - so as long as it is a TREK. No steel there for me. I spoke with them about ordering something/building something, but they pushed Trek...
The Jamis really looks nice. I really like it on paper and from what I can find online. No one around my area has one for me to check out. I would basically have to take a shot in the dark with my stand over #'s and go from there. I would upgrade the seat post (Thompson), and put on some 203mm break rotors.
The Dawes I would probably convert to a multi speed right off of the bat. After the conversion I would upgrade the seat post (Thompson), and the axles (skewers), and put on some 203mm breaks. I probably would forgo front suspension for a while to save $.
The 9 Iron looks good also but I am leery on the adjustable rear dropouts. I am afraid that my lead behind would ruin them in short order. I have looked around and have seen other "Botique" bike builders offering similar rear end setups so maybe my fears are unfounded. Oh yeah ditto on the seat post and break upgrade on this guy also.
So what do you guys think? I would really like to support my LBS(s) but there isn't really what I want available around here (Louisville KY). The Dragon would have come through a brick and mortar LBS for sure.
Any other suggestions would be helpful. I kind of am married to the idea of a steel framed bike. Are there other options out there that i have overlooked that are in my stated price range?