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I wear these when it’s below 40F :
They aren’t designed for MTB but they work really well. Super comfortable and stretchy enough to not notice when riding. If it’s below freezing, I’ll wear a base layer under them and stay very comfortable. I haven’t had any issues with them getting caught in my 1x drivetrain. On 2x or 3x drivetrains, I just use a safety pin to tighten the cuff.
Can you expand on the lower cost full-sus bikes, particularly the stance, not handling the beating of everyday riding? I haven’t been riding for very long but even the lower cost bikes I’ve owned/ridden and that friends ride (including low end hardtails) hold up to regular abuse just fine.
I agree with stumpyfsr. Hardtails are great but full squish is where it’s at. The Giant Stance 2 is a little over your budget at $1365, but this time of year you should be able to find one at a discount due to new model year bikes coming out. My local shop has them for right around $1200 right now. A few friends of mine have them and they’ve been great. If you can scrape together a couple extra hundo, I think you’d be really happy with it.
Norco’s website shows the Charger 7.2 for about the same price as the Rockhopper Expert and the Fathom 2. Again, if I was racing and/or using it for paved riding as well, I would go with the Rockhopper. If you’re wanting the most fun, especially when descending, the Fathom 2 is probably your best bet. Geometry wise, the Charger falls sort of in between the other two. Whichever one you choose, you’re gonna have a great bike that you’re going to have a lot of fun on. I’m like you in that when I’m spending that much money I want the exact/perfect one. If it was me, I would go with the Fathom.
As azdb said, the number of options is almost limitless. To help narrow it down, consider if you want to buy from a shop or not. I had a specific shop that I wanted to buy from because they have a lifetime maintenance deal for bikes bought from them. Anytime I bring my bikes in for service I pay nothing for labor and they are generally very quick. Also, if you have any warranty claims the shop will take care of them for you. Having a good relationship with this shop is more valuable to me than a few hundred dollar savings on a bike.
Wheel size depends on what you want to do/type of riding. The 29 inch wheels will roll faster and roll over objects better. The 27.5 inch wheels will be more nimble and turn tighter. If you are going to be racing you’re probably going to want 29. If you’re just looking to go out and have fun you may want the 27.5 wheels. For example, when I bought my Rockhopper I knew I wanted a 29er because I would also be riding paved/gravel trails with my wife and I wanted something that rolled faster. After riding a few 27.5 bikes I found them more fun on the trails so when I bought a new bike I went with 27.5. I kept the Rockhopper so I can still use it to ride with my wife and it serves as a backup bike as well.
Another thing to consider is what frame size you need for the x-caliber. How tall are you? The x-caliber has 27.5 wheels if you get the small frame and 29 if you get medium or larger. This is something that Trek does that annoys me. Let me choose the wheel size I want.
That Fathom seems like an excellent deal. If I was near the $1000 range, that’s what I would go with. I started about a year ago with a Rockhopper sport. It was a great bike but I got obsessed pretty quick and decided to upgrade to full suspension instead of upgrade the Rockhopper. I picked up a Stumpjumper Comp about a month ago and couldn’t be happier. If I had started with something like the Fathom 2, I may have stuck with it for a while longer because it has a lot of the features I was looking for in an upgrade.