Some of you whom are likely to give advice know me and most do not. I want to get into mountain biking and feel that I have now done enough research to understand the advice that you folks can give. I feel I am about half the way I need to be as far as education on buying a bike. I think I have decided on a mountain bike as I do not like riding with ohio drivers where there are narrow lanes and no shoulders with blind dips in the roads.
Here is what I do know. I am 57 years old and not getting any younger. Given I may not have that many years left to MTB I do not want to play the game of slog-along and waste time like I was young. I know from skiing what the big difference newer performance equipment has over used dated equipment. I have not mountain biked very much. I have dabbled into it a bit with my old Montague BiFrame bike. From looking online I believe that I am at least above the beginner status with a damed good handle on how to move with a bike.
Here is more of a bullet point summary
Age: 57 M
Fitness: Lost 50 lbs now 175lb Fit at this time, no injuries. Have some hand problems with Raynaud's and tigger finger. Not getting worse. Have had some back issues in the past. Have hemmerhoids that can flare up. Very coordinated
5'9" tall, inseam 30"
Likely to be a touchy feely biker that appreciates a good feel to a bike as much as I like the ride itself. I will likely not have a lot of fear learning how. I probably won't like a sluggish slow bike and don't like cheap junk.
Riding area will be Northeast Ohio, Western PA/NY, North West MI, Possible Co and Ut. I have liked single track in the past and there are decent trails within 10 miles (probably 50mi total) 150Miles of track within 30 mi. Will also do a little on tight gravel bike paths in local parks between here and work.
i am very mechanically inclined.
Local dealers are Giant, Specialized, Pivot (all next to trail system) Trek, Cannondale
Budget Would like to be near $2000 but tops with reservations at $3,500. Most local shops are at MSRP. At this point I doubt I will take the shops word as gospel. I does seem as if they are inclined to help me with demos to a certain degree. I doubt I am good enough to select solely based on a demo and will lean more towards advice I trust.
I know the difference between a hard tail and a FS system (Hard tail is the result of riding a hard tail MTB. I probably want FS.
I have a good idea of how I will tackle the plan to learn at a fast pace. What I need is your advice on bike models and your overall advice in general.