After careful deliberation, I've finally decided on a new ride. Already having a good road bike and not really able to afford more variety of bikes in the stable at this time, I picked a 29er as the most versatile option. The larger, easier rolling wheel size makes for lots of options. A spare wheel set with a tire like the Kenda Karma or Small Block 8, makes for a great gravel rig, an aggressive tread, like the Schwalbe Rocket Ron turns it into a great trail bike, while the Ritchie Speedmax would work for 'cross riding. A set of studded winter tires would add even more versatility. I can wait to Tuesday when it gets here on the UPS truck.
What I'm really fired-up about is the spec: Shimano's new 30 speed Dyna-Sys group. Mine will have the XT rear derailleur, SLX front and shifters. From all the reviews, this is a great set up. The fork is a Rock Shok w/ a remote lock out, Avid Elixir brakes, WTB wheels and tires (Nano 2.1), all on a very light aluminum frame. I comes with a WTB Rocket V saddle, which I've never ridden on. If it doesn't work for me, I will go with a Fizik Gobi. Fizik saddles seem to fit me right.
Like I said, I can't wait for Tuesday!