Friday, May 6, 2011

Airborne Goblin 29er: Thoughts from my First Ride

It was so satisfying to see the Airborne Goblin in real life and in its completed form. The Goblin is the first bike that the Flight Crew has had a hand in designing. We all gave our input on what we thought would be good for this bike, and what we didn’t want to see. Some people were more influential than others, but we all got to be a part of the design process… it was truly a unique opportunity!

Not only did I get to take a look at it while out at Sea Otter, but I got to take it out for a nice long ride on some beautiful California singletrack. Here is my “first impressions review,” but I will post another, more detailed, review once I have spent a few months riding mine (which should arrive this week).

The first thing I noticed is that the Goblin climbs like a beast! Coming from a heavy dual suspension bike with over 5 inches of travel, I felt like a rocket flying straight up all of the climbs on this light hardtail! The lockout on the fork is definitely a great touch for those long gravel road (or paved) climbs, and I definitely made use of it.

Even on the steep, dusty singletrack climbs, I didn’t feel like I suffered from the reduced traction that I have heard some 29er riders complain about.

This is a hardtail, so the descents were all much harsher than I’m used to. But with a little acclimation, I was shredding the descents at nearly the speed I would on a FS. The trails at Fort Ord are largely smooth and fast, so there weren’t really any technical areas to worry about. In short, these trails were perfect for a hardtail 29er. A better assessment of the Goblin's descending prowess will have to wait for some gnarly East Coast singletrack, but based upon my initial assessment I am confident that it will perform with excellence when compared to other hardtails.

If I rode these gorgeous trails everyday, a hardtail would definitely be my go-to bike!
One of the other things I was curious about is how the big wheels would perform in the corners. I could definitely feel the size of the wheels as I navigated the trail, but I never felt seriously hindered in the sharp switchbacks or even in some of the big bermed turns. Again, the tight, twisty trails of my local Appalachian forest will be a much harsher test environment for these big wheels.

The component spec on the Goblin is stunning for the $1199 price point. I’ll delve into the individual components and such in much more detail after I’ve put more use on my own rig, but for now be sure to check out my review of the SRAM X7 2x10 drivetrain. The rest of the components include Avid Elixir R brakes, a Rock Shox Reba fork (with lockout), a Selle San Marco SPID saddle, WTB Trail 29 wheel set, and Kenda Small Block 8 tires. The white Airborne branded bars and seatpost are also a great touch, rounding out the Airborne image and helping to draw the white component color scheme across the whole bike.


As I mentioned above, the trails at Fort Ord are definitely 29er hardtail territory. I am very interested to see how the Goblin performs on my home terrain. There are many, many more rocks, roots, and drops, and we have an abundance of sharp terrain changes and tight trails that require precision handling. After I have been able to put a few hundred miles on this steed, I will report back with my final verdict!

But for now, it is all thumbs up!


Matt May 6, 2011 at 9:00 AM  
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Matt May 6, 2011 at 9:05 AM  

I've never heard anyone complain about decreased traction on a 29er. If anything, it is the other way around. A longer contact patch means more rubber on the dirt which equals increased traction. However I can see how one could complain about the increased rolling resistance owing to the longer contact patch and the heavier wheels. Give it a few weeks and you'll never want to go back to a 26 inch wheeled bike. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, if there are any!

Greg Heil May 6, 2011 at 9:15 AM  

Hey Matt, thanks for the comment! I'll have to see if I feel any additional rolling resistance, but since the tires on the Goblin are so low-profile compared to what I'm running right now, I think it'll probably be a moot point.

The comments I have heard in regards to increased traction on the climbs are supposedly due to the increased length of the chainstays. Some people seem to think that on 29ers this puts the contact patch too far back, out from under your body weight enough to reduce the traction. Again, that's just what I've heard!

I've definitely been digging the big wheels, but I think the thing I will miss the most is my squishy suspension! But when Airborne does an FS 29er.....

rich May 6, 2011 at 2:53 PM  

That's a good looking bike and a pretty nice spec for the price!

longboarderj May 6, 2011 at 8:31 PM  

The Goblin looks like a fun xc bike, great specs, great price, and it looks sweet too. I am still going to get the Marauder in a couple weeks, then hopefully a Taka by the end of summer.

Greg Heil May 6, 2011 at 10:35 PM  

@oldnslo, I agree!

@Longboarderj, Yeah it's definitely a totally different style than my Taka, but I'm really looking forward to it! I hope you enjoy your Marauder!

bfos,  May 9, 2011 at 5:33 PM  

What is the story with Airborne? Their website doesn't have an about us section etc.? My google search didn't come up with much. I think this Goblin looks great, fantastic spec for the price, geometry looks pretty spot on compared to other XC type bikes, but I'm wary of buying one without knowing much about the company, will they be around etc? Also, it looks like they are only selling via their online store, no chance to test ride?

justin May 10, 2011 at 1:16 AM  

Nice spec for the price!

bfos - the old Airborne was brought back to life again by the Huffy guys with the same DTC biz model. The usual tradeoffs consumer direct apply - you gain with lower prices for similar specs, but you lose things like the ability to ride ahead of time or have a local support system.

Greg Heil May 10, 2011 at 10:24 AM  

Hey Justin, Thanks for the assessment, that seems about right.

Also, I would like to add that Airborne's overall mission statement is to provide serious value on bicycles that also provide serious performance. All of Airborne's bikes can go heads-up against the competition spec-wise, but still beat them out in the price category.

bfos,  May 10, 2011 at 10:26 AM  

So Airborne is essentially a subsidiary of Huffy? Not sure I like the sounds of that...

Greg Heil May 10, 2011 at 10:33 AM  

Lots of modern day bike companies are owned by mega corporations. Take Cannondale and GT, for instance.

Huffy owns Airborne, but Airborne functions as it's own entity. Huffy also owns a couple of other brands, including a legitimate BMX company.

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