I am doing a lot of reading and am finding there are LOTS of makes and models out there to choose from, once one has narrowed down the field to a general type of bike one wants. This said, is there some type of MTB frame or complete assembly manufacturer hierarchy to go by as far as quality/durability or is it all just up to personal preference? I am so intrigued by this sport, but the market for it is absolutely complex and intimidating. This forum is great though.
Ok, for Dogonfr, it's Ibex, and he thinks he heard a rumor there were other brands out there, he hasn't been able to confirm that rumour
There are like some big companies that offer lots of different level bikes, and have from entry bikes to some really nice ones (Specialized, Cannondale, Scott, Kona, Trek, Giant), then there are some 'boutique' brands, which are smaller, sell higher quality bikes, but more expensive (Titus, Turner, Santa Cruz, Intense, and some others), and some smaller builders (probably, still nicer bikes, more specialized.
I really don't know where to put Ibex, but theyr'e pretty nice, well build and very affordable. Probably they're one of the best values out there. I wouldn't put them at the level of Titus, Turner or Intense, but they hold their own for medium level.
Well, that's my humble point of view...