Marin makes some great entry level mountain bikes, like this Bolinas Ridge 7.1 for 2016. The parts are basic bits from Shimano, including linear pull “V” brakes and a reasonably lightweight machine forged aluminum frame.
The real feature though is geometry that’s surprisingly nimble while still easy to handle. Well, that and the $480 plus taxes price tag, which is hard to beat for this quality.
Below is a bit more info on the bike in video form, but if you really want to learn more about it come down to the shop anytime and check it out in person. We have a small size built up and sitting on the floor ready for a test ride right now.