While I have been bike commuting for a couple of years, and take my commuter for bike path jaunts, this summer is my first taste of anthing more complicated than gravel driveways ;-)
A friend and I started biking some green/novice trails (and patches of intermediate trails) at the US National White Water Center using rental bikes (Giant single speed hardtails.) I actually anticipated these trails as just being dirt paths...I wasn't actually expecting roots, rocks, ditches, etc (silly me.... I really thought novice would be very flat.) What suprised me is how much I'm enjoying these rides (I realize these are pretty wussy, but as a noob, better to learn a little at a time.)
I never imagined I'd be interested in getting a mountain bike, but renting is getting costly and I'm having so much fun that I don't want to stop. I don't want to put a large cash outlay out for a bike at this point, so are there bikes that you'd recommend for someone that isn't really looking to become a great mountain biker, who just wants to enjoy easier trails and spend the next couple of years doing occasional rides (couple times a month) on easier trails? At this point, if I keep riding every other weekend, I will spend at least $600 in rentals.
I tried a GT Avalanche, and wasn't comfortable (maybe a fitting issue, I have long legs and short torso, felt really compacted on the bike.) I am heading to a trek store tomorrow. I went to a Giant/Specialized/Redline retailer today, and a Giant Revel was suggested, but they didn't have my size. I think the Trek store will recommend a Skye (based on the recommendations my roommate got.) I have a budget of $600 (but can increase that a bit if it makes good sense.)