Would appreciate some advice...
Planning to get a bike - one of the following:
Giant Anthem X (Medium or Large)
Giant Trance X (Medium or Large)
Specialized Epic (Medium or Large)
Specialized Stumpjumper (Medium or Large)
... and I think that fit is probably more critical than other factors (eg 4 or 5 inches of suspension) assuming the above four models (8 if accounting for sizing) are all good bikes
I am 182.5cm (a smidge under 6'0 - Giant sizing chart say Medium is compatible to rider heights up to 6'1 and the Large size range begins at 6'0)
My inseam is 87cm (ie there is a fair amount of seatpost on bikes I ride)
It seem that I am in a bit of a no man's land when it comes to the frame sizing charts, almost like I should be riding a Giant size Medium-Large, but they don't make that size for mountain bikes (unlike road bikes).
Having test ridden most of the above combinations (sic), the two that feel best in terms of body position on the bike are the Giant Anthem X (Medium) and the Specialized Stumpjumper (Large). The Large Stumpjumper feels better (more comfortable) than the Medium Anthem X (which has a hint of upper back strain), but both feel reasonable (although the grips on the handlebars are about 4-5cm below my seat height on the Medium Anthem X), and I probably prefer the concept of the Anthem X.
I am also more partial to Giant's Maestro floating pivot point suspension than I am to Specialized FSR Brain system. It seems to me that the Brain was invoked to deal with a suboptimal initial system as there seems to be a better pedal platform on the Giant (at least with the Brain thing turned off - and I'm not that into having a million things to adjust on the trail). The other reason I am more partial to 4 inches is that I am more inclined to off-road 'touring' (long and comfortable but not very hardcore trail rides) than I am to dropping, jumping or hanging out in rock gardens. So I would expect the bike to be comfortable over 3 to 6 hour rides.
By comparison to the above two bikes, the Large Anthem X and Large Epic feel quite stretched out, as does the Large Trance X. The first two seem to create a hint of upper back strain as well. All three of these large size bikes also seem to have compromised handling - not enough weight on the front wheel - with me on them. The handling of the Large Stumpjumper is reasonable (with me on it) and the Anthem X is knife-like in its surety and precision.
It's a pity that these companies don't produce the same choices of mountain bike frame sizes as they do road bike frames (for which a Giant Defy Advanced Medium-Large fits me perfectly, as does a Large Giant CRX for that matter).
Any suggestions on which frame size (from the above mountain bike models) I should be dealing with, compromising with? I definitely don't want to plough thousands on a bike that gives me back strain of any sort. It's hard to tell whether the awareness of mild back strain is a result of adjusting to a new bike and that the sensations might go away over time, or indeed if the problem may worsen into something that causes me serious buyer's regret...
Should I lobby the bike companies to make more sizes? :(