>Cross Training>mountain bike for first timer
Well....and this might be stating the obvious....but if you work at a Trek store, why don't you start there?
Or Specialized has some good bikes, the Hardrock or Myka HT would leave you enough change for upgrades.
But there are a ton of manufacturers, check out the websites of Giant, GT, Norco, Brodie etc They will all have bikes in your pricerange....good luck
My sponsor's going to fix me up with something sweet like that, but I have to move to ....
You want a better deal than working at a trek dealer?? Actually, try matching the MB specs vs price at Bikesdirect.com. Good luck!
"I can do 440 in 220" Half Fanatic #846 "90% of running is half mental" If I collapse, please pause my Garmin
Another rec for bikesdirect.com (check the Windsor with XT-level components for $499. Hardtail and hard to beat with that level of components.
MTA - actually the 700HT might be the better bike and it's reduced to $449.
I'd go for a hardtail, with discs and get the best group set you can afford, full suspension is not worthwhile unless you go well upmarket.
My latest bike is an Orange P7 Pro.
Old age is when you move from illegal to prescribed drugs.
Giant Flaming Dork
I'm a first timer, too and I started this year with a 1990 Trek 950. (Hard tail, rigid fork) It's a great lugged steel frame, very compliant (but not that stiff...) Great for learning how to pick your lines.
Something like this would give you a much better idea of what you like to do and and what you want when you get your next bike. I bought mine for >$100 and could probably sell it for the same price in a couple years when I buy the "real" mountain bike.
"You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas" Davy Crockett