My first mountain bike was in 1992, and it was a Gary Fisher SuperCaliber I built up with every last penny I earned. My next bike purchase was a Marin Juniper Trail in 1997, and for less than half the cost I felt the bike performed pretty much as well. Now it's 2004 (I think, I lose track), and I just started looking at mountain bikes again. They seem to have changed more in the stretch from 97-04 than they did from 92-97.
Is it just me, or:
1) mountain bikes have gotten heavier and "heavy duty"?
2) the tires are bigger and fatter (extending more outwardly from the rim)?
3) they overall resemble motorcycles more now than they did before?
I don't want to turn this into a "what mountain bike should I buy" post, as those are probably too abundant here as they are in the Road forum. However, from a conceptual point of view, it looks like I'd get much better performance from $650 worth of Specialized (ala Rockhopper) than I would have from a $2000+ Fisher in '93 or so. Is that true? Or will I still run into the same old price-point issues, like poor shifting from lower-line components?
Long, broad question, answer however you like...