I have been narrowing down my decision for a good entry level bike under or at $1000 new. I have looked at TreK, Cannondale, AccESS, GT, Specialized, Scott, Giant, etc.. I went out today to all of the local shops to examine and ride some of these and to figure out what size and what brand im going to blow my load of $ on.
Armed with my collective knowledge and advice over the past months... and my personal mechanical inspection/quality check, I have come to the conclusion that I will most likely be buying the 2012 Specialized Rockhopper29, 19". Not because of customer service and Not by anyone's persuasion...but only because I feel like the bike + the company is pretty solid.
As we were talking about in this thread, TREK uses 6000 series AL, but I have come to find that 6000 series is basically the industry standard under $1500, and has proven its strength over quite a few years. As for the ACCESS bike.......I have found that Performance Bicycle is kind of an outlet for B-grade bikes. Interesting because they do carry some nice bikes... but the reputation is vague. I had looked into an ACCESS bike because for the money the components were pretty sweet and they listed their frame as a "7075" Aluminum. Check their website specs......clearly says 7075.....I go to the store and the TAG on the rack holding an access raptor says exactly this: "6061 Aluminum Frame".........I get to looking over the bike and the sticker on THE FRAME says this: "7005 aluminum series"..................Which is it? ACCESSS seems to be a blip on the frame radar. People say they are good and etc... but without a company name and reputation behind it...who the F* is access other than a chinese tyrant company making people tig these frames with no ventalation?
In conclusion, If you ride any of these bikes...they will carry you.. All of these bikes will carry you just fine to a certain extent. The Rockhopper I have pretty much decided on...it does have a lower quality crank, drivetrain, fork, and shifters.... But I do believe it has the best made frame out of the 900$ range. One of the things that sold me on this frame was the fact that specialized adds a connecting member across the rear tubes on the left side to form an extra triangle near the caliper mount. I feel like Specialized understands the forming and the engineering of angular strength a bit better. I like to see things overbuilt and I feel like this frame dominates the others in its price range. Maybe not the other vital parts, but they are cheaply upgradeable minus the cost of the tools I am going to have to buy.