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Thanks in advance for any replies. Before I get into which bike recommendations, let me give a little background. I'm 35 years old 6'1" 180 lbs. with long arms. I recently moved to an area with several mountain bike trails within 1/2 mile of my house and that's pushed my desire to get into mountain biking. That and my kids (9 and 11) are really enjoying riding so I'd like to do it more with them and the junker Haro I've been riding is both too small and falling apart. I currently trail run for exercise and the plan is to replace or at least add some variety to those runs with some mountain biking. I get around pretty well on a mountain bike but I wouldn't say I'm super experienced. Plan on doing mostly trail riding with some climbing and descent but no serious downhill stuff at the moment. I have zero interest in racing but would like a playful bike.

With my budget I'm looking at buying a decent hardtail rather than a cheap FS. I want a bike that will last and I can ride regularly for years to come (I know, probably a pipe dream) but I'd like to get it right the first time. That said, the more I've researched the more my price keeps creeping up. I was originally hoping to keep it around $1,100-1,200 and was pretty set on a Diamondback Mason 2 but then they went out of stock in my size. In trying to find other options my price point keeps jumping. I like the idea of a 27.5 Plus bike with 120-140mm of travel on the front fork, 1x12 drivetrain and a dropper post.

I can get a 2018 Scott Scale 710 Plus for around $1,800 which has pretty much everything I want but might be ever so slightly on the small side for me. I also saw where someone pointed out a Kona Ti Explosif (2015 frame with newer component build and 2.6" tires) from Jenson Bike for $2,700. That's much higher than I wanted to spend but it's a titanium frame that would last me for years and that is appealing. I hate that it doesn't come with a dropper post and would cost me extra to add but it's a heck of a deal on a Ti frame with good components. No boost on the rear since it's an older frame but I think I can live with that.

What would you do and why?

I can technically afford either bike but wasn't wanting to spend over $2k. Honestly either bike is probably more than I really need but I'm hoping to grow into it and have it last.

Other options I've considered:

Salsa Timberjack
Trek Roscoe 8
Diamondback Syncr (I can get for my original budget even after adding a dropper post)
Specialized Fuse Comp 6Fattie
 

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If I was going to get a Hardtail it would be the Commencal Meta HT. In your price range I would go for the essential edition. All it’s lacking is a dropper and you can pick up a X fusion manic for $100 used or 200 new. If not this then I highly recommend something with similar numbers. I’m 39 and I’ve never felt more confident on my bike in part because of the newer geometry with slacker head angles and longer reach numbers. A bike like this should take you from novice to expert without complaint. Plus it’s a good company that makes reliable frames and has great customer service.
 
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