I have completed my second trail ride on my fairly new trek 3700. I did not buy this bike thinking I would be getting into serious mtn biking and I am now seeing just how inadequite (sp) it is for what I have been doing.

My coworker has a Giant Iguana 2004 model and I of course can see how much more travel a "better" bike has as well as how different the cassette is, with its nicely spaced gears, all nicely progressively larger.

I know there are many different mtn bikes out there but I am just too overloaded with mtn bike specs to know what would be good for something from rail-trail/bike path riding to medium level forest trail riding (rocks,mud,plenty-o-roots).

Can anyone tell me:

Hard tail or full suspension? ( I am thinking full....the banging and rattling around I am feeling while on my 3700 is annoying .....)

LBS around here sell:
Trek
Klein
Kona
Jamis
Giant
Scott Marin
K2
Raleigh
Rocky mtn
yeti

I am hoping for under $1000 or (darn close to it).

I just don't know where to start......what company gives you the most bang for the buck concerning components,frame,wheels that won't have me wearing a barrel.