Hey there, posted a couple weeks ago in search of my first (real) bike, but was set on a hybrid. Fortunately, forum posters and my LBS talked me right out of that, and I am now in search of a mountain bike! My budget has jumped up to ~$700-800, fairly set on Specialized or Trek (somewhat looked into Giant, but their models in my price range don't strike me as well as Specialized and Treks) with 29" wheels, but beyond that I need help!
I was in and tried out a higher level Hardrock disc last week, when the guy mentioned the 2015 models should be arriving soon! He also mentioned the Hardrock's are going down to 26", and the higher level Hardrock / lower level Rockhopper are essentially merging into a new Rockhopper with Shimano Altus / Acera components whereas the 2014 model for $100-200 more had Acera / Alivia. Is this difference something I'd ever notice, as a beginner? Also, I can't seem to find any differences between the 2015 Rockhopper, and Rockhopper Sport models, aside from $100 and an extra gear.. Is that all it is?
Rockhopper Sport 29
As far as Trek goes, I've been looking at the X-Caliber 8 currently on sale for $850 with much higher level components than either the 2014 or 2015 Rockhopper. Again going back to the question, are the components what I should be focused on, or the feel / appearance (also I've read lots of people prefer the look of SRAM mechanics to Shimano, but I can't spot a difference in pics online. Is it really that noticeable)?
But they also have the Marlin and 3 Series, starting out closer to my initial price range. Should I be considering these options, or are the 2015 models likely to be popping up for Trek, as well?
Thanks for any tips / advice!