So I am ready to get back into Mountain Biking. In my younger days I hit the trails often when mountain biking was just getting started. So I am looking to get a mountain bike in the $400.00 range. I don't want to spend more for a starter bike. The Motobecane 600HT looks like a good deal and comes with disc brakes. But would I be better off to go with a better quality bike with less "equipment" like a Trek 4300 or Fisher Advance. Or are their better choices in the $400.00 range. Thanks for the feedback and if you know any good trails in the Suwanee, GA area let me know.
At $400 I don't know what "quality" you'll find in a frame. As long as you purchase a non-xmart bike (Motobecane, Trek, Fisher are all non-xmart) you'll get a frame that'll take abuse and parts that'll do their job. But I don't think you'll find huge differences in quality between brands at that price. I think fit is more important as every bike will have slightly different geometry and fit is a personal thing.
If you have the opportunity to test-ride the Motobecane then I'd consider it along with the others. But without a test-ride you'll gamble a little on the "fit" thing in exchange for slightly better parts. I'm not sure whether cheap disks or cheap V's would be better. V's will stop a bike just fine, as will disks. It's a matter of feel, modulation, etc and I'm not sure how cheap brakes in either category would compare to eachother.
I recommend a visit to your friendly local bike store and see what they suggest for your riding style, local geography, etc. They'll even fit the bike for you for free (something you won't get via mail order).
I have got two bikes from Bikedirect and I am a very satisfied customer. I typically always say when in doubt go with an LBS. That is usually always the safest best.
as a side note, I did get my first every bike from BikesDirect - a $1500 road bike. Fitting is not rocket science. In fact, it is not 3rd grade science. Most places fit you to a frame size as you walk in the door. Tweaks like stem length and crank arm length can make a difference but many places will charge for that anyway. On top of that, I just cannot see many LBS' taking the time to swap out stems, handlebar widths, saddles, etc on a $400 bike.
With your budget I might suggest trying to find used. That amount is just at the very basement of anything quality. I think you can find a good used MTB that was like $600-800 new for less than $400.
I went and rode a Trek 4300 that retails for $419.00. It was a pretty nice basic mountain bike. I can get a Iron Horse Warrior 3.0 with disc brakes and nicer compnets for $459.00. Think I will go and check one out this weekend. Thanks for the suggestion.