Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Munich Germany (formerly Portland OR, Texas)
Bikes: '02 Specialized FSR, '03 RM Slayer, '99 Raleigh R700, '97 Norco hartail, '89 Stumpjumper
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looks like you're in the right direction... l can't recommend anything specific, but i would look for a used quality hardtail at best 1-3 years old - or a new one is you find a good deal.
DO NOT buy a full suspension for less than say $600 -- i personally wouldn't go FullSuspension for less than $1000... cheap FS are heavy and have inefficient pedalling --- unless you're doing special riding (like downhill only) ONLY buy a 4-bar-linkage rear-suspension (like Specialized FSR, Trek Fuel, Giant NRS, etc) -- most others have too much rear "bob"
i personally am a fan of buying a slightly used top-of-the-line bike rather than a cheaper new one...