So I've been saving up for my first hardtail MTB for ages, and went down to a bike shop yesterday for some test riding.
First thing I realised... £700 ($1,450USD) is not enough to buy a half decent hardtail. The most my money would stretch to was the entry-level Rockhopper (SLX, Deore, Avid Juicy 3's and RockShox Tora). I still need money for clipless shoes and pedals. In theory, the Rockhopper is an okay bike but I really didn't like the brakes and the fork was so-so, but to be fair I was only riding it on roads.
Second thing I realised - it is freakin' IMPOSSIBLE to find a decent mountain bike shop here in London! All the shops are road-bike oriented, and the shop I went to yesterday only had the Hardrock and Rockhopper for me to try out (and stil not in the ideal size - I need a 21" frame).
Having said that, the Rockhopper was pleasant enough to ride, very smooth. Like I said, I didn't get to try it out as there aren't trails there, so I imagine it would really shine off-road. I'm gonna check out another store in a few days' time.
Questions... would you guys reccomend the Rockhopper as a first hardtail? Do components really matter that much? I am yet to test out other brands such as Giant and Trek and hope to test out as many as possible before coming to a decision. I am really tempted to buy online for more value but know I owe it to myself to try before I buy.
Any answers would be much appreciated.