I'm too exhausted in my post-accident state of recuperation to string together an elegant reply so this will have to be some kind of stream of consciousness... I do not trust BOS to be able to support me with spares in a timely fashion when the inevitable happens, so they're out of the running! Orange. KS Link is appealing, Rune seems OTT, Banshee V2 looks good. Mud/tyre clearance?
A tiny part of me worries about 650b idiocy but it's only tyres that could be a problem and I don't see everyone making good tyres scrapping their moulds for a very very long time. Try before you buy is a funny one because every FS feels weirdly squishy to me - I wouldn't buy any of them without having one for days or weeks to get me used to it. Orange. Meta AM also looks nice but that shock position worries me with the amount of mud we get round here. Four bar is definitely the topology to avoid for my preferences.
I've always believed in getting better rather than spending money on gear - that's why my bass guitar is a huge awesome sounding monster which is not that easy to play and my bass rig shows up all your imperfections as well as your moments of brilliance. Orange. But I think I need to be pragmatic - I don't have all the time in the world to train, I have a wife and baby daughter and my own rapidly growing small business. And I don't think I'm a brave enough rider to progress as well as I'd like whilst sticking exclusively with hardtails. That rear suspension travel should encourage me to shift my weight more and also get me to carry more speed into jumps and drops knowing that I won't have such a skittery beast to contain on landing.
So this bike is to help develop and enhance my riding ability and thus enjoyment (whilst staying reasonably safe!) Something that allows me to attack trails which I don't know, either on enduro races or whilst riding out of my home territory, without having to feel 'on it' 100% of the time. Orange. My Float 32 140s don't have the damping control to cope well when I'm really pushing on, nor are they stiff enough. I've been thinking about stiffer and better damped forks for a little while. I could drop them to 120 on the Soul - maybe I'll try that when I get them apart to put a heavier weight oil in to add some compression damping and bring the rebound damping into a more useful range.
Part of me wonders if on a FS I'd have been less beaten up after a day of bumps, carried more speed over the roots and been happy to land rear wheel heavy on the drop? Who knows, I got away with it this time but still feel incredibly weak, can barely pick my daughter up. Orange. I'll be doing more bodyweight/weight training once I'm fixed because I think being reasonably strong might have saved my ribs from cracking, even if it was just luck that saved my neck. Seeing my mate in agony from a dislocation after an innocuous fall makes me want to make sure my shoulders are as stable as possible even if it doesn't make me any quicker uphill (care?)
If I'm carrying suspension around and I want a stiff slack frame then I might as well carry a decent amount of travel around. A 4X bike might be fun but again it comes back to how hardcore I am. Am I? Not enough. I think it needs to be enough of a step up from the way my Soul is built (basically BFe style) to justify itself. The Soul can then wear mud tyres when it get really soggy.
So, Rocket, yes? Yes. Orange, yes? Yes. What colour forks? These new Pikes have black stanchions. White/black/white/orange/white or black/black/black/orange/white. White?