I'm looking for recommendations on a short list of bikes to demo (i.e., this is a what to try thread, not a what to buy thread), realizing that there is a practical limit to what can be test ridden locally.
For background, I'm a mid-40s, 5'7", 200lb rider, last seen on a 1994 era Stumpjumper long since retired. Coming back to the sport after a long break I've noticed the term mountain biking has split into dozens of categories and the gear has all progressed, which makes it that much more challenging to finding a new bike.
Long story short, I'm looking for something to ride around the local trails, mostly singletrack with light technical. If anyone is familiar with Buffalo Creek in Colorado, that would be the most typical ride, with an occasional foray to Fruita and Slickrock when I feel like making the pilgrimage, but that would be as extreme as it would get.
Right now I'm limiting my search to 29" Hardtails, assuming Steel, and have a budget of around $2k.
As best as I can tell, I would be looking in the "Trail" category of bikes according to the gods of Marketing.
Anyway, I am looking for suggestions on what to test ride that would meet these criteria. I've JUST started browsing around and so far have come up with the following for the big brands,
Spec Stumpjumper (not sure whats diff from above)
Hopefully this will be somewhat flame retardant and I greatly appreciate any sincere input on where to start. The choices are a bit overwhelming to an old newcomer.