Keepin it Wheel
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: San Diego
Bikes: Surly CrossCheck, Moto Fantom29 ProSL hardtail
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$1500 is an ample budget. Another standard choice that would fit your desires would be a Surly Long Haul Trucker. They come in a 26" wheel style.
But you might do well to not blow your whole wad really quickly. Look on your local craigslist for an older, rigid mountain bike. That will give you a sturdy steel frame, 26" wheels, and it will have no problem with the weight. Just 'roadify' it with some slick(er) wheels (my faves
), and it should do well for you while you take time to research, shop, test-ride, etc. Also, you may well find that the frame/fork can be the basis of your build, so you could swap on components as possible.
I missed your previous thread; what are you riding now, and how are you finding it insufficient? Why particularly are you interested in building instead of buying whole? Are you wanting/planning to do the build yourself?