I am looking for any advice on the best way to spend $1000 on a mountain bike for me: 5'-11" and 185#, fit 41yo guy with swimming, running, and road cycling as my 3-5 day/week typical exercise regimen. I will mostly be cycling in the Marin Headlands and the Santa Cruz Mountains. I like the fire-road experience more than the super-technical stuff. I am doing this for fitness and as a great way to spend my weekends [off the busy streets of SF, where I usually use my road bike].
I was originally thinking of spending around $2k, but have decided that I probably won't be able to tell the difference, anyway.
I rented a 2003 Gary Fisher Sugar 3+ last weekend, and had a blast on a basic 14-mile loop in the headlands. I don't think I need the full suspension, and suspect would prefer the simplicity of a hard-tail.
To me, the GF Ferrous and Ferrous 29 are almost ideal [though a Niner Sir9 would be my dream bike]. I like steel for the durability and longevity. Looks like the Stumpjumper, although aluminum, would be a good bet in the $1k range, with an upgrade to something nicer in five years, when that frame is shot.