Or you could opt for my favorite woods weapon.......
Mine has a few aftermarket goodies.
I got my Gary Fisher Cake and my Polaris Outlaw off of Ebay. Both were brand new and were from dealers who were closing down. Saved me thousands and enabled me to upgrade to more machine. The Outlaw just frickin flies.
Coincendently, both dealers were in Maine, so I call the Cake and the Outlaw my " Maine " boys.
I’m esp curious to get feedback from guys like SBR and HPD who have recently bought new bikes and didn’t go with 29s. By the way, full susp is out, I’ll look for a hard-tail model in the well-under-$1000 range ($600 - $700?).
I briefly considered a 29er but in general they seemed a) expensive and b) unproven technology. Still have not ridden one but the current thinking seems to be that bike companies now have the frame geometry figured out, so newer versions are way better than early editions. My recent research tells me that you will get a smoother FS-like ride on a hardtail 29er at the expense of some uphill performance and cornering ability. All that said, I don't think you will find such a bike in your price range.
My bike was a clearout 2008 model, which for some reason was still kicking around the warehouse. For me, it was a quantum leap from my 80s vintage ride and you are in the same boat. A 26" hardtail on sale for $800 - 1000 will be a pretty darn good bike. This is a good time of year to buy. Dealers are changing seasons and want to move bikes out the door so we can all shop for skis.
HUGE tires=heavy rotating mass=hard to pedal/accelerate. Tire weight has a big effect on acceleration.
Example from the ATV world, 2 or so pounds per tire can really slow down a quad. It doesn't take much extra tire weight to have a very noticable effect on your quad's acceleration.
If the tires on that Surly are as heavy as they look, it will be a turd to pedal.
That Surly is not meant to go fast. It is meant for riding on snow, mud, beach, bog, quicksand, untracked forest and other such substrates that would sink a normal bike. Low pressure tires, guys are riding at 5 lbs or less. Unreal.
Real men pedal harder. It's all exercise and training for skiing anyways, right?
So, it's a toss-up between the Surly and the Outlaw.
Seriously, thanks for the input. I'll read through those links SBR. I really like the idea of a 29er, but I am a little concerned about high center of gravity, loss of some maneuverability, slightly slower acceleration. I will try to demo a couple models.
Hehehe. You don't have to buy one, I'll let you ride mine. Once.
I wonder how much a 29er does raise the center of gravity. My Cake has 5 inches of travel and the center bar is a tad high. I noticed that in following years, manufacturers in general, have lowered the center bar to more like a girl's bike, so to speak, to avoid this issue.
Does anyone know if 29ers have a higher center of gravity? Or is an adjustment made to the frame?
I was recently in a similar bike search and ended up with a used full suspension. It's a Norco Fluid 2.0 and I paid $900 for it. Used is the way to go if you want the most for your money. Check out archived spec sheets, inspect the bike in person, and give it a good test ride. Here's my argument for 26" full suspension:
All cross country mountain biking has two components: uphill and downhill. Stiff tails are great for the uphill, but are no fun on the downhill. Sure, you will become a better rider faster, but you will work harder, scrub more speed, tire out quicker, etc. Rear suspension has saved me from some pretty nasty falls. Everything about a FS bike feels smoother to me, and I think anyone who has become used to one would agree.
Look for a rear suspension setup with a lockout. Climbing problem solved.
My bike is showing signs of its age, and I’m considering replacing it this fall. I’m considering a 29er, and know the advantages of the bigger wheels, but is there any disadvantage (besides cost) to a 29er? I think Matt pointed out the bigger wheels take a little more muscle to get moving. I’m esp curious to get feedback from guys like SBR and HPD who have recently bought new bikes and didn’t go with 29s. By the way, full susp is out, I’ll look for a hard-tail model in the well-under-$1000 range ($600 - $700?).
If I was buying a hardtail, I would most definitely go with a 29er. Just the ability to roll over everything is worth it. The hardtail 26er is a dying breed. Read this thread for a good discussion about acceleration, climbing ability, etc. of 29ers vs. 26.
In the $1000 range I would look at this:
Really, in Saratoga, I'd just go to Blue Sky or Elevate and see what they've got. Now is a good time of year to buy a bike because a lot of places are trying to get rid of their 2011 stuff to make room for 2012 stuff.