Can I keep this thread alive, even if it's slightly off-topic? I've been riding a Gary Fisher Joshua Z-1 for 13-14 years after riding a Scott without suspension. The Fisher is a full-supension Y-bike and started at 24.5 lbs, but may be more due to heavier tires and other parts being replaced over time. The rear Rock Shox lost it's fluid so it's been only a coil spring for a while and now the bushing at one end has gotten worn and is not as stable as it used to be. Since it is hard to find parts or somebody to rebuild a nearly 15 year old shock, I'm looking for a replacement bike.
I'd like to keep my budget about the same as philplug's. I'm somewhat undecided between 29 inch hard tail and 26 inch full suspension and rode one of each the last two days. Yesterday, I rode a Felt 29 inch Nine Elite Carbon, but was in the middle of the city and could only test it by jumping off curbs and riding over some overpasses. I was very impressed by how fast and smooth it. Today I rode a Trek Fuel EX 9 (this is the part that relates to OP) and was able to ride some of the steep fireroads I often ride. While it was comfortable, I thought it felt somewhat sluggish, even with both ends locked out and did not seem any better on climbs than my almost 15 year-old Fisher that has bobbed for a while (and now weaves at the bottom of downhills). It was great on the downhills with super powerful brakes, especially front. I almost crashed when I took a singe-track off-shoot of the fire road and saw deep ruts where I re-joined the road and a lady walking uphill on my side of the road who was not looking up. I twisted out of one pedal and after deciding I wasn't going to crash on a demo ride made it, but got whacked in the calf by the pedal.
I can buy either of these bikes for the same $2,200 plus tax. The Felt was a special order at my friend's store that did not get picked up and the price includes a friend's discount. The Trek is a very lightly used demo that may have seen it's first dirt today. I would have to beat out others when the store opens tomorrow as there is only one 18 and 19 inch. There are some higher end models, but they start at $3,000. At the shop with the Trek, they give you unlimited tune-ups and adjustment for lift. At 55 and semi-fit, but almost 6 feet and 200 pounds, I am more of a fire road and cross country rider than a technical single-track rider. I am not above using shuttles and set up my own at Soquel Demostration Forest twice last summer and at Wilder Ranch this summer (both near Santa Cruz). Some of my favorite regular rides are at So. Tahoe and include Red Corral, where uphill is on pavement, and downhill used to include fast, slightly sandy, banked turns and the smooth, hard-packed sandy forest found around Coldstream Canyon. I do end up riding on pavement a lot as I do not have a road bike. Does anyone have any ideas, suggestions or questions?