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Let me throw in my 2 cents…I went through a similar dilemma last year at this time. There is even a thread on this forum where I too solicited advice about which bike I should choose. And the comments and feedback were much appreciated.
The two biggest variables that guided my decision were 1) the trails available to me the would make up 90% of my riding time, and 2) my riding style.
1) I live in Charlotte NC. While there are great technical trails and long descents in Pisgah National Forest and other places in NC, I am not likely to travel very often to ride those. So the trails within a 40 mile radius of my house were most important. And specifically the trails within 15 miles, where I could get out weekly. Those trails were mostly flat, some technical, some flow, small jumps if any. So the majority of my rides did not require long travel nor downhill consideration. Mostly single track, XC trails that are playful and fun.
2) My riding style. I cut my teeth on a 26″ rigid frame that I rode all over the southeast, including the toughest trails in Pisgah and surrounding areas. Then I got a Gary Fisher Sugar, full suspension with 26″ tires. The upgrade from rigid to full suspension was amazing and I loved that bike. I could whip, flick it, bunny hop the crap out of it, jump anything in my way…It was Very Playful. From there I got a hardtail 29’er, Cannondale Flash 29’er. I lost the playful and responsiveness, and the tight cornering. I could roll over anything without fear, but after a year, I realized that was not my style. My style was fast, fun, great handling, maneuverable, playful, try to get air off anything I could hit on trails (not Whistler air, just trail air).
With those considerations, I bought the Cannondale Habit 2. A carbon bike with good components, 120mm travel and 27.5″ tires. The bike is great. IMO, it is perfect for the 90% of the trail time I get. And because I made the decision based on the above, I have risen more this year than ever before, I am in great shape, and I looking to expand my range and even race a little. All of the bikes you and everyone have listed are good. Evaluate what is right for you.
P.S.: I went to Whistler last year, Seattle, Pisgah, TN, and more. All for business but added some riding while there. I demo’d the Evil Insurgent and loved it. It is not right for my 90% of the time riding, but what a great ride it was at a bike park in Seattle. I spent 4.5 hours on it running bigger jumps, race lines, drop offs, and more. I am planning to buy another bike this year so I can ride Bailey Mtn in NC, Windrock in TN, Sugar and Beech Mtn in NC, and possible others. The Evil is high on my list.
I just bought a new Cannondale Habit 2, (2017 model on closeout). Retail: $5,600. Sale Price: $2,600. Bam!
That is a carbon fiber bike with XTR rear derailed, drop post, XT shifter, Lefty front fork, 120mm travel, etc. Great deal.
Incycle in California has huge deals towards the end of Spring and Summer. They still have this deal available today.
After everyone took time to respond, I felt it was appropriate to provide a final update. After much debate and searching for the right deal, I went with the Cannondale Habit 2 (2017 model). Retail was $5,600. I got it brand new for $2,600. That was too good of a deal. And with 120mm travel front and rear, carbon fiber, XTR rear derailer, drop post, and more, I am very happy. I have about 300 miles on it already and it is playful, fast, accelerates like a race car, climbs well, and basically runs the way a great trail bike should run. No regret here at all.
Thank you for the responses and happy riding to everyone.
I rented the Evil Calling in Washington a couple weeks ago while out there on business. I spent 3 hours at the Duthie Man Bike Park running flow trails, the race track, the technicals and jumps and drops. It is definitely a sweet ride. I only wrecked the rental bike once 🙂