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Looking for a new mountain bike ... I'm 6' 5", 230, 36" bike inseam. I'm currently considering Specialized Hardrock or Rockhopper 29ers w/ disc. I just started riding but I'm in good shape, I shed 100+ lbs and have kept it off for 1.5 years by running marathons 4:47 first time out 3:45 on my last one. My knees and heels are complaining though.

I bought a cheap bike at Walmart Mongoose Impasse29. It's not fitted properly so my back hurts a bit, but I generally like the bike aside from the fact I'm tearing it apart, I've shredded the teeth on the rear cassette. Fortunately I have a receipt so they tell me I can return it. I ride hard when I'm alone for fitness average about 15 mph over 45 minute rides with lots of hills, when I ride with my wife I set it in the highest gear and just work harder on the hills to get a good workout. I live in West Virginia on a farm, so everything from roads, rail trails, and singletrack with roots, rocks, etc. I'll eventually enter local races to keep myself motivated, not to win.

So I'm getting paralyzed by the choices. Is the Rockhopper worth the upgrade for me? Should I be looking elsewhere. The choice now is mostly based on availability. But I'm only 3 hours from Freezethaw in State College, PA so I sent them an email asking for other suggestions and expressing my willingness to drive (Vassago,etc).

I saw one comment from a poster in another part of the forum suggest to a big guy that while 29er's are the rage and seem to be good based on size for larger guys, the handling might not be the best for a beginner. I beat the crap out of my shin trying to ride through a 6' bowl this evening so I'm sensitive to that and a little wiser about my skill level.

I could spend up to $1,000, but I'm curious whether the upgrades are worthwhile for me and not really sure at this stage it makes sense. I tend to torque the bike pretty hard (thus the breaking teeth on the cassette I think), I don't want to be looking for a new bike in 2 months or even 2 years.

Thanks,
Lee
 

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Simply stated almost anything you buy at this point will be better than the walmart bike you currently have (unless you buy another walmart bike :p :-D) and if you are willing to go up to that 1000 dollar pricepoint you can do very well for your money. The biggest suggestion I can make is to get something with a air sprung front suspension. Most of the spring and elastomer sprung suspensions peak out in the high 100's or 200 for their heaviest spring.

As for the 29er/26er debate that is mostly preference, go out and ride both from a LBS and see which one feels better to you and more comfortable. Take them both over the same or similiar terrain (bumps, potholes, curbs etc) to get a feel for how each will feel on rougher terrain than a simple flat parking lot. The biggest difference I have noticed is the 29ers handle bumps and roll over things easier but the 26 provides better tight turning and quicker handling. When I was researching to buy my bike (I am 6'3" and 275) I wasnt super impressed with the 29 and stuck with the traditional 26. But as I said to begin with it has alot to do with preference. There are lots of tall/heavy guys riding and rocking 26" bikes as well as 29" bikes. But I also had a rather specific geometry in mind and it was harder to find 29" bikes with longer travel front shocks and the relaxed "all mountain" geometry I was seeking.

In general do your research and get something that fits well and is comfy to ride. My first MTB after a long while I bought in college and DIDNT do the research, I rode it a couple of times and realized it just wasnt going to work. The frame was too big (trek 4500 with a 21.5" frame) and the front shock was too light sprung. I didnt repeat that mistake again, before I bought my current bike last year I did the research and got something I knew I would love.
 

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$800 Trail bike shootout

Mt Bike Action did an $800 trail bike shootout in July 2008 - the results were - Giant Yukon FX, the GT Peach 9R Multi, the Marin Alpine Trail 3X, the Norco Rival, and the Trek 6000 in that order.

I ride a Jamis XC and you can get these for under 1K if you look. I had mine altered / upgraded at the LBS (beefier shock and fork springs for a 250# guy) I am just over 6' 2" and the 19" frame is a great fit for me.

I have kicked around getting a 29er hardtail and have considered a Redline, Marin or Kona. I have been trolling Craig's list for a Redline Monocog 29er - in due time...
 
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