I'll start by saying I don't have any particular love for Specialized over other bike brands, my favorite shop just happens to carry them. I purchased this bike because I fell in love with 29" wheels while riding my Kona Unit 2-9 and knew I needed a geared 29er. I basically quit riding my Specialized Epic after getting the Kona because of not only the preference for 29" wheels, but also that I could stand up and pedal up steep hills without the fork diving (the Kona is rigid). Upon mounting the bike, the first thing I noticed was that the front wheel was farther out in front of me than on my Epic or my Kona Unit 2-9. The riding position is decisively more "between the wheels" than on either of those bikes, both front to back and up and down. On the trail this translates to more balanced handling (easier to keep on course)and phenomenal traction both while climbing and cornering. Being an Aluminum hardtail, the bike is ultra efficient already, but the bike seems to somehow put me in a better position to get power from my legs to the pedals. I am a much better/faster climber/rider on this bike. I am also able to stand up on short steep hills without bothersome fork dive. I believe this is because (i) my riding position is farther back than on other bikes and (ii) the Fox 80mm fork is a stellar performer. XT cranks, SRAM shifting, DT Swiss Wheels, Fast Trak tires and Phenom Saddle all work perfect for me. Only 2 minor quibbles, the narrow (600mm) handlebar and why do they ship the bike with valve stems, but not the rest of a tubeless conversion kit? I can't believe I have waited this long to get a geared hardtail 29er. I don't know that I will ever need FS again. This bike is so much more "tossable". It feels lighter than 25 lbs.