I am not sure if you understand this, but when I was shopping for an FS 29er, I wanted to purchase a great dance partner. I say that because on some level, a really good bike compliments the rider, lets them lead without much argument, and then simply moves to the music. Dancing, indeed.
This past month I have been able to throw a leg over most of the latest and greatest 29er FS bikes. It has been interesting to see how the new crowd of wunderbikes compares to my old gal, the Lenz Leviathan. From the rocky trails of Bootleg Cyn to most recently a few hours spent comparing a Jet-9 to a RIP-9 for twentynineinches.com, I have a pretty good idea how they compare, at least for an old weekend warrior like me.
I won't repeat my findings at Bootleg, you can go read that here , and the RIP vs. JET is posted here to read as well, but I will sum up a bit as thoughts come to me. I don't think the Lev 3.0 that I own is better at any one particular thing than any other bike I rode. There is no 'best' bike. But so far, nothing other than the Big Mama from Salsa (and my time on that was limited) has impressed me in its ability to do nearly everything very well and some things really well, and the Levs are lighter than pretty much all the others in that genre. Is light weight everything? Nope. But it does not hurt the final result to start a build with a lighter frame.
I would not hesitate to take the Lev on a multi hour ride with tons of climbing, race it in the endurance environment, etc, and yet I rode it from Hazzard down to Porc Rim and while more travel would have been welcome, it never felt anything but competent and steady. Remarkable, really.
I do find myself thinking about more travel both front and rear. There are bikes that fill that notch really well now, the RIP, the Big Mama, the Sultan, and more. I am tempted to cheat on the Lenz folks (well, Devin, really...just one guy building them critters), but I would sure miss that Lev's all around goodness.
Maybe I need to start looking for a 4" Lev and a 120mm fork. Maybe THAT would be the killer app. Meanwhile, despite a lot of winks and whispers from other babes out there, I am still taking the same ol' gal back home from the dance.