With over 300 miles on the Airborne Goblin that I’m riding for the season the bike has been tested. I’ve ridden the bike to the limits and pushed it, then pushed it a bit more. Now it is time for a good and fair review for all of you holding your breath wondering if you should purchase one! During the 300 miles the Goblin has seen a little bit of everything, from commuting, local single track and a 24 hour race on its shoulders. I haven beaten and abused the bike to the best of my ability thus far and this is my review based on those elements.
The Gloves Thrown Off – Airborne Goblin Review
You should know going into this a small disclaimer. I do ride this bike for free as part of the Airborne Flight Crew ambassador program. With that you should know I probably will be more critical of the bike due to this reason. The folks at Airborne Bicycles are good friends of mine and I hope them to high standards, which means I’ll hold their bikes to high standards to me.
If you aren’t familiar with the Airborne Goblin you can read my initial intro over yonder. The Goblin is a well accessorized budget priced 29er at $1,200. I say the word budget hesitantly as $1,200 for a mountain bike is out of some folks idea of budget friendly. The bike is very well spec’d and gives you a lot of high quality parts for $1,200.
Initially I changed some things pretty quickly on the bike. There were some parts on the Goblin that were never ridden, the handlebar, grips and saddle. The handlebar went to the Answer ProTaper XC I had in for review, then switched to my trusty Truvativ Noir carbon bar, the grips are my go to Ergon GC2 grips with barend and the saddle is the sexy Fi’z:ik Vesta. These changes knocked off about 2 lbs quickly.
After three rides and one long commute, I switched the wheels to a set of Bontrager Rhythm Elite’s. This took off another lb. Currently, depending on tires, the bike with all my stuff (cages, pedals and seatpack) is at 26 lbs.
Ride Quality of the Airborne Goblin
Out of the box, with the stock wheels, the bike felt well distributed and tracked well. I needed to tweak things like bar and stem length, grip position and such. Most of my first true miles was through commuting, knocking 28 miles out one way with the pumped up Kenda Small Block 8‘s. Once I found the right bar and stem combo, the bike started really digging off road. Instantly finding the center of the bike, throwing around corners. This easily was the fastest mountain bike I became accustomed to. Even with the heavier build at 27-28lbs, the bike climbed well. The tubing is shaped, and the rear end is designed well enough to really have a give for the level of aluminum that the bike is built with. (Yes, I’m normally a steel or titanium hardtail fan.)
Bolted to the Airborne Goblin is mostly SRAM company parts. $1200 buys you SRAM 2×10 parts at the X-7 level. Yes the new 2×10 drivetrain which seems to be MADE for 29ers. Avid Elixir R brakes, Rock Shox Reba RL (rebound and lockout) fork. From there is when the budget steps in. Airborne branded stem, handlebar and seatpost. All ride well, and stiff but do have some weight to them. WTB Trail rims laced to KT hubs, which are durable but heavy!
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
To me the Goblin is designed for a few people. First there are the cyclist, or maybe already mountain bikers, that want a new bike or want to try a 29er without sacrificing their wallet or their taste of quality parts. Second are the group of individuals that spend way too much time online researching parts, worrying about levels of parts, maybe are huge bargain shoppers and like to “get the deal.” Finally, you have someone like me. I have a family, I have other things that my money needs to go to but I ride too much to ride cheap parts or things will break/wear out quickly. My budget doesn’t allow for a $2k+ bike every season, and I need something I can believe in (tried and tested) and that is backed by a warranty.
With that being said the only thing I would change if I was the brand manager on this bike is the tires. Something more “forgiving” than the Kenda Small Block 8, maybe a tire from the WTB line or a Maxxis Ignitor. To me the Small Block 8 is a very specific tire, and not for the beginner or someone trying to learn how to ride a 29er.
That’s it, that’s my only complaint. Tire selection. The bike rides beautifully. I can guarantee you will not find anything in this price range that rides or is designed well. I can also guarantee you that I don’t give away these compliments to bikes often. If I had to give my bike back after this review, it would be the bike I purchase. I don’t have the cash to plunk down on a bike this well spec’d from any other company, and the geometry of the bike fits me. If you are looking at something a bit more expensive, look at this bike as well. With the cash you save buy a nice set of wheels that wouldn’t come on that other bike.
Finally, if you are in the South East or Mid Atlantic let me know and I would be happy to let you ride my 18″. We have Flight Crew members across the country, so if you can’t ride mine you may be able to ride someone elses!