I just bought the 6500, which IIRC is the same frame as the 8500, just not as spec'd out. I think the 6500 is great. It handles very well being able to almost turn on a dime. I found that I could lean the bike over farther than any previous MTB I've owned in a turn. It is very forgiving when the rear wheel begins to drift... as forgiving as my '05 Fuel is in that department, without the benefit of rear suspension
I ride an '08 8500 and love the frame. It was a warranty replacement after I cracked 4 Fisher Ziggurats. It's an xc oriented machine with tight handling and a stiff ride and so far is holding up o the abuse beautifully. It's uber-fast on single track and great for XC style rides of 2-3 hrs. I've done a couple of mini-endurance events of 6-8 hrs and the stiffness becomes a liability after awhile, but this could probably be mitigated by changing positions with riser bars, shorter stem etc... If the '09 comes with the Fox F100 thats a huge bonus. In my opinion its the best fork on the market as its reliable and highly adjustable. The paint does chip fairly easily, but mountain bikes aren't made to be pretty.
Yeah.... 6 series frames are MUCH heavier than 8 series frames... we had an 08 8000 in the shop that scaled 24 even (19.5) .... the 8500 would probably be at least a pound lighter. (if not more) .... I agree with all of submerged's comments.... very tight handling bike.
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