Sorry for the long post, but I have a lot to say.
A few months ago the bug hit and I got into mountain biking. Originally it was all about getting into shape, having fun, enjoying the scenery, and possibly meeting new people with similar interests.
The Scalpel 800 is my pride and joy. The bike is simply amazing, and I feel that once I increase my skills on this bike I will be unstoppable. However, I feel I may have selected some components which are not complimenting my riding style or skill level.
I'm only out for fun and excercise. I don't race, and I don't do major drops or jumps, although I do hit the occasional "step" and that is about a 6-12" jump. The trails I ride are easy to moderate techincally speaking, with the usual obstacles; rocks, roots, etc.
Let's start with the pedals. I really like having the clipless pedals (I went with Time ATACS) for better power transfer, and it's nice to stay in the pedals during bumps, jumps, and climbs. But I now fall ONCE on every ride. Usually it's when I hit a bad technical area and the bike stops suddenly on an obstacle. I'm starting to think I should have gone with a freeride-style platform until I mastered the trackstand.
Secondly, the fork. I didn't choose the fork, it's the one that came on the bike. Because the bike is a XC racing bike, the fork is relatively stiff and with short travel (about 80-100 mm). Sometimes I wish I had a fork that was smoother and with more travel, and something with adjustable damping. I've test ridden some bikes in our shop, and I like the feel of the forks on the freeride/dirt jumper bikes.
Finally, let's talk about the bike itself. The Scalpel is a XC bike. It's geometry is different from a FR/DJ bike. The wheelbase is longer, the handlebars are lower, and while the bike is light it is also a slightly stiffer feel. The rear travel is only like two inches, but I know plenty of people that swear by their hardtails for the type of riding I do.
What I'd really like to do is swap out some of the components on the Scalpel to make it feel a little more like a FR/DJ bike. Maybe put some platforms pedals on there, swap out the fork and stem, etc. Or does it make more sense to shop for a quality hardtail with the geometry and components I want?