Bcar wrote:Start them on a hardtail. If they can ride that, they'll ride anything. Like learning how to drive a stick shift first.
I completely agree with this. I started riding in an area where there is a definite benefit to using a FS, and some of my friends even had FS 29er. However, I started with a $400 HT and learned some valuable skills that transferred over to being a better FS rider. I'm of the school of thought that starting with FS will allow a rider to avoid developing good habits thus becoming sloppy.
With all of that said, I still ride a FS 26er MTB even now that I live in the Detroit Area. I also occasionally borrow my friend's hardtail 29er and I even take my cyclocross bike on the trails. My bike and my friend's bike feel different in such a way that there is really no fair comparison, although we certainly have our preferences. Sure, one is going to be better than the other on different terrain depending on what you are going for, but everyone has different needs and wants.
In the end, I think a HT 26er will force better skill development. After some more experience, then the rider can make a more informed decision about what is best for him or her.