I plan on getting a Trek in the next few weeks and am having a tough time deciding on what would be best for me. I live in Illinois and the 20 or so mile trail we have is a flat straight gravel trail. Nothing special. I have been looking towards either the Utopia or the 29er Mamba bike. I know people will say why spend so much when I don't need a bike like the Mamba with a flat surface. But I plan on eventually using it on other trails. Especially when my sister moves to Colorado. So without buying a second bike what do you think would be the best option for me to have a bike that will handle a beating on a rocky trail now and then but will be fast and handle good on a flat trail it will be used most on? I've never owned a true mountain bike and don't want to make a mistake. Also must be under $1000. Thanks for any help!
I'm far from an expert on this, but I think you'd be much better served by purchasing a bike that's right for the sort of riding you plan to do 90% of the time and then either rent or borrow a bike for that other 10%. That said, maybe there's a singletrack trail you didn't know about not too far away. I was surprised when I found the one near me, and I hear there are a couple more hidden nearby.
Travelling with a heavy bike from Illinois to Colorado won't be cheap and easy, so that's something to consider too. Also, note that the Mamba has 100mm of travel on the front fork and the Utopia only has 63mm - that's a big difference if you're planning to jump off things onto other things. And since they both have lockouts, you can pretend you have a rigid fork for the normal rides, which would be nice. I'd at least consider a second set of tires, even if you don't want a second bike. IMO, gravel trails do fine w/ smooth tires, maybe w/ a little grip at the edges, but you want knobby for snow and mud and dirt.