I have been looking into getting a full suspension xc/all mountain bike for a couple months. I have it narrowed down to a few bikes. Right now I ride a 2005 Raleigh M80, which is way too heavy and the bottom bracket is screwed. The bikes I am looking at are these: a 2006 Gary Fisher Cake 2 DLX ($1300), a 2005 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 100 Comp Disc ($1400) and a 2007 Cannondale Rush 5 ($1700). I like riding them all a lot, but have had a few issues with each. The Cannondale has Sram shifters, which I am not at all used to and hit whenever I land, causing me to shift down. And it's expensive. The Specialized I really like everything about except I really dislike the fork - Manitou Black Elite. It is quite unresponsive and is either under or over dampened, never right. Also, it only has 100 mm of travel. I really like the Gary Fisher, but the rear shock is hard to adjust, and does not have many good settings. This is my top choice though.
Any input on which one is the best in your opinion? Or any other bikes in the same price range you think I should consider?
Pick the one in the middle. If that's not going to work get the Cannondale. My reasoning is slightly faulty but I am going to stick with it. Of the three complaints, shifters are the cheapest to replace. Forks and shocks are spendy and if your balking at a $400 difference( 1300-1700) I'd imagine you don't want to drop a bigger wad on top of the bike purchase. This is a goofy reason but your question is kinda goofy. Pick the one that rides the best for what you can afford. Assuming all bikes fit in this category, pick the one that you can learn to live with or that can be easily changed. Aaaaaaand, close full circle back to the shifters. Pick one and ride the hell out of it. Enjoy.