AHHH!!! TOO MANY CHOICES!
I'm a nub that's interested in adventure racing, off road Tri's, and epic type races. I've been looking for a new bike for several months now and I had no idea there were this many choices for bikes, forks, wheels, and everything else imaginable on a bike. I currently have an old Huffy without suspension so anything new is going to be a big improvement. Are Raleighs like the m80 '05 really that bad for a beginner? Are Rock Shox Judys terrible? Is the Kona Blast a good bike for the money? I want to get a hardtail XC bike for sure, there's just so much out there. Thanks for your help.
Aut Vincere Aut Mori
For ARs a midrange hardtail with 80mm up front, with a good set of discs would be the way to go.
I say discs because rim brakes are a bit finicky, and on a 50+ mile ride 20 miles from your next transition area an out of true wheel could really screw your day up running rims, whereas discs isolate your braking power, and to an extent your rolling efficency from the trueness(is that a word?) of your rim.
As for the blast, yeah for 700 bucks it's about as good as you're going to get for anything else within the same price range.