recommend a sub-$300 26-29"er

I’m a great fan of the Nimbus 26x3 - I don’t do big drops, but my usual routes are pretty rocky and I’ve had no problems at all with the hub in three years and a few thousand miles. If you want to ride rolling (rather than hopping/dropping) xc that’s too rough for a 29er, I think you’ll be very happy with the Nimbus 26.

If you’re thinking of bigger drops than a foot or so or you do a lot of hopping then perhaps look at something with a splined hub.

I weigh about 12 stone by the way (168lbs).