Just joined and I’m still learning about my new Spez Epic HT Carbon 29er. I rode my Giant Propel for at least 2 years and counting and now I’ve decided to shift and learn the discipline of Mountain biking. New cleats, new shoes, new stance, no dropbar and all.
I wouldn’t usually recommend an XC hardtail with clip-in pedals as a first mountain bike. That’s sort of like getting a Formula 1 racer as your first car. XC hardtails are intended for really only one thing and that’s winning XC races and are best when piloted by a highly fit and skilled rider. A progressive geometry Trail hardtail like the Spez Fuze 29er with 2.6 tires and flat pedals would be a better beginner Hardtail. The more forgiving geometry, grippier tires, and easy bailout of flat pedals would make for bike that is much easier to ride as a beginner. Even for an experienced rider, the Fuze is a better Trail bike.
However, you could make some changes to the Epic HT to make it more Trail worthy. The first would be to put on some wider grippier tires. Something like a 2.4 Maxxis Rekon on the rear and a 2.4 Maxxis Dissector or 2.6 Maxxis Rekon on the front would improve the performance of the Epic HT compared to the skimpy XC tires that come stock.
You might also want to start with some inexpensive flat pedals. Once you get more experienced, then you could go back to using clip-in pedals. Learning how to mountain bike and learning how to use clip-in pedals at the same time could lead to some painful crashes.
I’d have to agree with bike nerd about jumping into the mtb scene clipped in on a xc racer BUT maybe the trails you’ll be on are much more forgiving then what Im used to. I would say work on your slow technical skills like slow balance, hopping the bike over low obstacles, getting your weight back over the rear wheel on steep desents, if any. Ride different conditions and weather, be prepared to crash it will happen and better ya are at crashing less chance of injury. Tire pressure is a science in itself and can make a easy ride hard or a hard ride easy so read up and experiment. Learn something every time you ride as I never think I’m good at trails I just think I’m always improving my skills. Its a different discipline and much more rewarding. I gravel ride on occasion and the g bike gets me on the road once in a great while just for a short rip from the house is all. Dont be discouraged with fitness change either . I know a roadie will crush me on a 50 but i can still just up and do a 30 mile road or gravel ride however there is a good chance he or she would be discouraged on 1000ft elevation gain in a half mile over rocks and roots on a path no wider than a foot. Enjoy it, if you have trails and take a liking chances are you wont be riding road much more.