So on CL I asked if any mountain bike enthusiasts would help me find a bike and I got this reply... Here it is...
I don't have anything to sell you, but I wanted you to know that this is a buyer's market for people who want to purchase well-made, well-designed mountain bikes from the early to mid 90's. For a little over a $100.00, you can find a very good non-suspended, chromoly steel bike that is rock solid and will get you through the most demanding of trails.
I started mountain biking in the early 80's, with my first steed being a Schwinn High Sierra. In just 10 years' time, MTB design really took off. By the early and mid 90's, you had great steel bikes like the following:
Trek 930, 950 and 970
Specialized Rockhopper and Stumpjumper
Novara (REI brand)
I would suggest that you keep your eyes peeled for a used Trek 930 or 950, or a Rockhopper. There's a woman selling a Rockhopper in fine condition for $40.00 in Petaluma. That is a frickin' steal if I ever saw one, and I would jump on it if I didn't have 2 kids and needed to be home all the time.
Don't believe anyone who tells you that you need an aluminum bike, a bike with suspension, a bike with disc brakes, etc. I used to do NORBA races in Big Bear on my Trek 950 (chromoly steel) and I easily placed in the middle of the pack without being in that great shape.
Yes, aluminum is a bit lighter than steel, but a steel frame will last forever, while Aluminum frames tend to get beaten up with chain slap.
If possible, find a bike with thumb shifters, which are bomb proof and almost never break.
Being 5'9", you will probably fit a bike that measures 18" or 19", measured from the center of the bottom bracket spindle to middle of the point where the top tube intersects with the seat tube.
Never buy a cheap department store bike including the following:
Schwinn (department store models)
If you spot a bike and want to know how much it cost when new, log on to www.Bikepedia.com
and pull up the year, then the brand and model. Bikepedia is a great resource when buying used bikes.
Look for bikes with the following Shimano drivetrains, which are reliable:
Alivio (the lowest grade reliable gruppo)
STX entry level, good functioning
LX: great mid-level gruppo that lasts a long time.
DX: even better
XT: best early 90's drivetrain that you likely won't find on bikes around $100.00.
Is this guy crazy? Or just bad ass? Or right?