As I guess you can see from the above definitely try out a 29er - I got a one year old RIP9 demo bike for around $2K. I love that bike. 29er wheels do change the game to some degree - its not magic, but for aggressive AM riding, they are great. That said I know a few people who have tried them and didn't like them. I definitely see more and more of them on the trails though. I don't have data, but I think its getting close to 50% of the bikes I see on the trails are 29ers at this point.