For the people who like to cut to the chase, I'm considering a 29er MTB, possibly one of the 2011 Giant Talons, or a Specialized Hard Rock Sport.
Now some background information that helps inform you about what might work or not work for me:
Okay, so 25 years ago I bought my first "real bike." I looked it up recently,and it was a 1985 Trek 300. I road it a lot in the beginning, but then we started having kids, and I started putting on weight, and after awhile it felt skittish under me. I wound up not riding it for years, and I sold it about 15 years ago. I'm 5'9" (male) and weighed around 155 when I bought it. Within 5 years I was over 200, and just a few months ago I was 270.
I've recently made a new commitment to my personal fitness (something about the being 100 or more pounds overweight,and hitting 50 years old that woke me up). I've dropped 50 pounds and plan to drop at least 50 more, and I want to start biking again.
I'm very active in boy scouts with my boys, and do camp, raft, canoe, hike...
I live in South Florida and have access to decent (but always busy) roads, and some nice trail riding at various parks. Two weeks ago I was thinking "hybrid." And two shops were pushing me towards the Trek 7300, and a third was mentioning the Specialized Crosstrail.
As I've done more research (including reading/lurking in this bike forum and a couple of others, and reading lots of bike reviews) I don't think a hybrid is what will work best for me. I went and visited 4 more local bike shops and got more to think about.
The hybrids just won't work for the trails at the parks around here. There's some really nice off-road trails, and you need a mountain bike. All 4 shops I visited today were unanimous about that. However, I would like it to be an all-purpose bike, where I could ride on paved paths/roads, and possibly do some longer road rides as my son works on the cycling merit badge.
I have a friend that owns a K2 mountain bike from Sports Authority for trail riding, but he realized after putting 23 miles around town he needed another bnike and he bought a K2 hybrid and loves it. On the other extreme, I have a friend who bought a Cannondale Bad Boy hybrid, did a lot of road riding (about 70 miles a week, with 50 milers on weekends) and he recently sold that and bought a more expensive aluminum Cannondale road bike (I think it's the CAAD9 4).
I don't want to buy two cheap bikes, and I can't afford two good ones right now. I have a feeling I might do more trail and recreational riding, with the occasional road ride thrown in. I'm not interested in competing or racing, just having fun riding.
Sorry for being long-winded, but I wanted to give any of you experts, some background information.
One of the salespeople (and a friend of mine, another scouter who is a firefighter, but used to work at a bike shop his dad owned) said that you could get a mountain bike and change the tires for the different ride you're going to do.
So that's how the 29ers came into play. I test rode the Giant Talon2 today, and it felt great under me...in the parking lot. I test rode a Specialized Hard Rock Sport 29, and I don't like the shop. The sales guy just pulled it off the floor and rolled it out the door for me, while the Giant sales guy took it to the back and checked the tire pressure, adjusted the seat height for me, rode it himself once around the parking lot to make sure it was riding right, then gave me a quick inservice on the shifters. While riding the Specialized when I coasted with one leg up and one leg down, my thigh would rub against the seat stay.
I actually liked two of the shops today, (and they both are Giant dealers...coincidence???) They told me I could buy 700c tires, in the 35-45 range and switch them out for road riding. The front suspension locks, and the seat post is quickly adjustable for a trail vs. a road riding position. I would think of adding end bars to offer a little variation in hand position.
Some specs on the Talons: Both have disc brakes, 100mm suspension forks, both have SRAM trigger shifters and rear derailleur. The Talon 1 is about $150 more, and for that, key upgrades include hydraulic rather than mechanical disc brakes, an upgrade on the suspension fork to an SR Raidon 29, a front derailleur upgrade from a Shimano Alivo to a Deore, the trigger shifters and rear derailleurs upgrade to a SRAM x.5, as well as an upgraded hub and wheelset.
First question, Am I out of my mind to try and make this MTB a road worthy bike by simply buying a second set of tires?
Second question, are the upgrades on the Talon 1, worth spending $150 more?
Third question (kind of piggybacking on the first), should I consider just buying a cheaper MTB, and see if a decent used road bike ever becomes available?
If you're still reading this, I thank you, and I look forward to any input.