Some folks in my office have formed a MTB team and I have been invited to join the group. I have not ride a bike in more than 20 years (I'm 43 by the way). I really want to get into Mountain Biking because of the opportunity this brings me to do some exercise and also because it looks like a great way to release stress while having fun. Having said that, I have started the process of searching for a MT bike. I have visited 4 bike shops (the only ones accesible to me) and they all carry different brands. I have the potential to purchase a bike from the following brands:
The challenge that I have is the following. All 4 bike shops carry a limited amount of stock in store, and the models that I have given serious consideration will have to be ordered because the shops dont have them in stock. I have done research on the internet on these bikes and brands, but have no clue as to which brands are better in terms of components and overall quality. I have a budget that I have established for this purchase, so perhaps knowing which brands are better would help me narrow down my decision. It seems that Trek and Cannondale are good brands, but the Specialized brand seems to be very popular. I dont know how Storck and Jamis fare against the other 3.
Perhaps Im asking something very difficult, and if that is the case, please forgive my ignorance on the subject. Im just looking to make the most informed decision before handing over my hard earned money. Thanks in advance for your help with my question.