I'm a total newb and there are very modest trails where I live so I thought cycling would be a great way to try and get back into shape. I picked up the bike today and am definitely happy so far. Here's my quick story...
So I shopped around for a few weeks, originally looking to go the super cheap route and spend a few hundred dollars (Canadian) but quickly realized that I wasn't going to find anything decent in that price range unless I waited for something used to show up. For the first time in a while I wasn't hard up for cash so I decided to double my budget and cap it about $550-600 WITH tax - I definitely wasn't prepared to spend real money (800-1000 range). I grabbed the '09 Hardrock Sport 21" for just under $600 out the door after Ontario's lovely new harmonized-sales tax (13%, the bike was 529.99 on the rack).
I considered buying bikes online but by the time I paid the HST, SH&H and duty, it was just as easy to go to a bike shop and find a salesman I liked. In my neighbourhood there are 3 good bike shops all within 10minutes from each other so I rounded up these options ($CAD):
I also test rode some low-mid level GT bikes and didn't really care for them. The Cannondale was really nice though, super light, comfortable, awesome paint job, but the components were just a big better on the Hardrock and cost less because it was the 2009 model.
The Hardrock Sport I got has Sram BB5 discs and an X4 derailleur which both seemed a lot more sturdy than some of the shimano parts on other bikes I looked at. I also like the shifter 'paddles' on this bike, they're very cleverly positioned and require minimal finger movement while shifting very smoothly.
The fork is a Suntour something or other - it has preload and lock-out. It's probably still a lower end fork but with the lockout I can use it to commute to trails and even to-from work.
So far I'm still hung up on the bike's appearance - I'm hoping it grows on me but I'm not crazy about the look of the frame and the paint job. It's a silver matte finish with red and black lettering and designs. I would have loved if the shop had another color but I wasn't going to spend more money on a different bike just because it looked better. The saddle is pretty hard and the grips feel a bit flimsy, some say the brake levers on this bike need upgrading too. The pedals are alloy so I should be fine with them for now.
All in all I'm really excited, hopefully I didn't get ripped off, enough typing I'm gonna try and get a ride in between thunder showers. Thanks for reading.