I don't frequent this side of the forum very often. Just haven't been into MTB as much. The last MTB that I owned was back in high school, so a very long time ago. But I was thinking about possibly getting a bike and using it as a way to mix up my riding/training. I have had the chance to go to the LBS and try a few bikes: Cannondale Flash Alloy 29er 1, Specialized Stumpjumper Comp 29, Trek Superfly AL Elite...etc. My budget is right around the $2500 mark.
After my test rides, I am questioning about whether I want to go with aluminum for a HT MTB. I love aluminum on my road bikes, however there I don't worry about the fatigue of the material as much since I ride on smooth roads and don't do any off roading with them. Also aluminum is fairly comfortable for my road bike with my wheel/tires/saddle setup. But I am concerned about this for a XC bike. I don't want to feel like I am getting beat up all day on the trail. Would like to have a bit more comfort, especially since it is going to be a HT.
So I come to you guys for advice. Out of the bikes I tried, I liked the C-Dalle Flash Alloy the best. However, I didn't find it to be "perfect." A few other bikes I am consider but have not test ridden are the Yeti Bigtop 29, Salsa Mamasita or a Niner (Air 9 or MCR9) or a Voodoo frame?
The other option I have thought, is going with a frame Chinese Titanium 29er (http://www.aliexpress.com/store/705853/ ... -Tube.html
" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;) for roughly $900 for the frame or a Chinese Carbon 29er frame (~$400-500 for frame) and building it up myself with parts I have specifically picked out. Something along the lines of Stans ZTR Arch 29er wheels, Cannondale Lefty 29er fork or Fox 32 Float 29, Avid BB7 brakes, SRAM x9/x7 hybrid mix.
So any thoughts regarding what might be the best route to go from those of you with a lot of experience in this realm? I know many of you have been where I am now and might have advice recommending what you would do if you could do it over again.
If you are racing non-technical courses that don't have many switchbacks then the 29 hard tail should be faster- otherwise, the 26 is more nimble. 29'er full suspension is probably a weight penalty unless you are doing a mix of free ride and XC.