Ok so I am looking at mid level (I think) hardtail MTBs around $800 at my LBS. The three bikes in question are all around that price point (Specialized Rockhopper Comp Disc $770, Cannondale CO2 F5 $799, Giant XTC 2 $870) though I wont be [payign list as I am friends with the GM of my LBS. Choice is limited to these three because I want to buy from my LBS and not online.
So is there a glaring reason to rule out any of these bikes or pick one over the others? I know the Rockhopper is 8 speed but it is also the cheapest of the lot and really 8 or 9 speeds isn' t the biggest issue for me. They are all speced with the Dart 3 fork and all have mechanical discs (RH and F5 have BB5s and the XTC has Hayes MX4) other than that they are all AL frames made in Asia with butted tubes.
Anyhelp on which way to lean would be great...and is it worth another couple hundred bucks to go to the $1100 price point and get hydro discs? That would also mean I would get the headshock on the F4 and a frame made a couple hours south of my home...which may be a reason.
Thanks for any help.