@mckenziethompson Of those 3 options, I'd probably second the DRT 2.1, mainly because of the air fork. After my own entry experience into MTB, having an air fork over cheaper coils is something I wish I would've spent a little more $ on the outset for. Dropper posts are also 👌 it seems like a silly little thing at first, but the ability to get the saddle out of the way for descents and gnar then raise it up for climbing without having to pause your ride to dismount... absolutely worth it (though any bike without a dropper can always have one added later). The current 15% off with the Anniversary Sale also makes this attractive right now.
That said I think the Cannondale is a close contender, it just seems to have slightly lower spec components like the gears and such. On the plus side, that paint job with the yellow striping looks pretty rad! 😎 Both of those bikes look to have a good base to build off for future upgrades if you want to change anything down the line.
As for a full squish? I'd say if you can, test ride one on trails you know well. At least around my trails, local shops will often have demo days where they bring a trailer full of bikes to the trailhead. By being familiar with how the trail feels on what you've been riding, it gives you a great sense of the difference much better than circling around a store's parking lot. From my experience, full suspension can be extremely confidence inspiring and total fun even if the terrain isn't super aggressive, but also isn't required by any means. Hardtails can be particularly good at pumping over rollers to maintain speed. Many riders actually keep both and full-sus and a hardtail around.
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