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New rider here. I've test ridden a number of bikes from different manufacturers, and I've narrowed it down to a couple of Kona's (Blast, Fire Mountain) and Specialized (Hardrock, Rockhopper). My price range is $500-600 and I'm 5'11" and 170lbs. I'm strongly considering this Blast (a bit higher than my range at $630), and I wanted to get opinions on the components and setup.



Frame tubing Kona 7005 Butted Aluminum
Fork Marzocchi MZ Comp 100mm
Headset Aheadset STS
Crankarms TruVativ FiveD
Chainrings 44/32/22
B/B TruVativ Square LE
Pedals Wellgo LU-A9 with clips & straps
Chain Shimano CN-HG53 (9sp)
Freewheel Shimano Deore 11-32 9 speed
F/D Shimano Deore
R/D Shimano Deore
Shifters Shimano Deore
Handlebar Kona Aluminum Riser
Stem Kona Control
Grips Kona Mooseknuckle
Brakes Shimano Mechanical Disc (BR-M465)
Brake Levers Avid Disc brake lever FR-5
Front hub KK Disc
Rear hub Shimano Disc FH-M475 disc
Spokes 14G Stainless
Tires Tioga Terra Firma 26 x 1.95
Rims Sun Black Eye
Saddle WTB Pure V Sport
Seatpost Kona Thumb
Seat clamp Kona QR
 

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SS Rider
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Have you checked out the Gary Fisher Tassajara? I know that when I was looking last year I looked at the same bikes and ended up with the Tass seemed like the best bang for the buck and road real nice in comparison. Otherwise I like the Specialized I had a rock hopper for a long time and it was a decent bike for the money.
 

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The Kona Blast

The Blast has a 7005 Aluminum frame as opposed to the Specialized which I believe is 6061 aluminum, Their A1 code name. A bit better and more expensive material on the Kona frame and their frames are considerd very tough. There are several Rockhoppers. Are you looking at a Comp Disk? This would be a more true apples comparison and the list on that bike is 9 big ones. I would definately get disk brakes. You can Always upgrade a derailleur cheap enough. It's hard to give you a true components comparison because you haven't stated exactly which Rockhopper, though if you can get a Blast for 630 it's a real solid bike with a decent fork and a good brand name disk brake. My son has an 04 Fire mountain. Real nice bike and I got it for 289 as a leftover! I would put it up against a Rockhopper any day. It was a major step up from a Hardrock as well. They seemed pretty heavy. Again better and lighter weight frame and decent components throughout. I really looked close at Specialized for my son AND me. Kona had the better overall packages for the buck on both bikes.
 
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