I'm a long-time cyclist ... both road and mountain ... been riding since late 1980's. Up until late last year, I was still riding my trusted Trek 7300 hardtail with "cheap" front Rock Shox fork. I loved the rapid fire XT trigger shifters! I sold it to help payoff a new tandem purchase. On the road, I have a new Cannondale Six13 Teamone ... and it is a truly GREAT bike! I road a 92' Trek 5200 up until last year and still have it.
Okay, ... I have between $1000 and $1200 to spend on a Mountain Bike. I'm a regular on the Road Cycling sub-forum, so no need to re-hash the same thing I and everyone else tells newbies ... "go ride the bikes and get the one that feels the best". I know ... I know. However, there is a bit of a difference here. Mtn bikes can't as easily be test-ridden in the parking lot, nearby roads, or adjoining front-yards and really know what to expect compared to riding out on the trails, etc. So, this is a bit of a dilemma.
My biggest dilemma, besides which brand/model to choose overall, is whether to go HardTail or Full-Suspension. Here's the reason why I'm uncertain:
1. I'm in my upper 30's ... and a hardtail on certain trails with lots of rocks, roots, hard-packed soil, etc. can beat me up and the enjoyment factor will lessen. Or, I may ride fewer miles due to the additional impact on the body. This is truly the MAIN reason I'm even considering a full-suspension.
2. Weight matters -- a hard tail in my price range can be as low as 26lbs! But, a full-suspension in my price range .. seems to be more in the 31 to 33lbs range. Correct? If I can obtain a full-suspension bike around 29 or 30 in my price range ... all else being equal ... I'd most likely jump on it ... why? See #1 above.
3. Component group -- one less shock means the $$ goes toward the next component level up. I'd prefer LX at a minimum with a XT rd. I have NO experience with SRAM - so I can't speak to that. But, I do not want Deore stuff. My last bike had XT all over with XTR rd and it was smooth.
4. Front Fork -- I can only assume, for my price range, if I go hardtail, that means my front fork will be of a better quality (for the most part) given I am not spreading the $$ over two suspensions.
Some of the bikes I'm considering (mainly hardtails so far): Kona Kula's & Dawgs, Mt. Fuji Pro, Gary Fisher Genesis frame, Trek, and Scott Scale 30/40.
I have easy access to Scott, Cannondale, and Fuji at the LBS where I've shopped for nearly 20yrs. And, I can get really good deals on these brands without any fuss. I am not brand loyal per se -- I know all these brands and many more are of high quality.
Hardtail vs. Full-Suspension? Decisions decisions! Any thoughts, insights, suggestions, etc. are appreciated.
Edited to Add: I'll mainly be riding trails ... so something like a XC or All-Mountain would be my best bet I believe.