It is time to set down my final thoughts on the Airborne Goblin 29″er. This bike, primarily sold direct to consumer on-line, (although some chain sporting goods stores seem to be selling these as well in some parts of the U.S.), is touted as a value oriented, XC/Trail hard tail with 29 inch wheels. For some of my previous thoughts on the Goblin, please check out my posts here, here, and here.

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The Airborne Goblin in a different, lighter guise.

What If… When I last left you off with the Goblin, I made mention that I was going to check out what upgrade parts might do to the bike and how it might affect performance. Why? Well, the Goblin doesn’t necessarily need “tweaking” out of the box, because it has a very nice spec as is, but ….. Mountain bikers being what they are, I figured that it might prove to be a fun experiment to pull off a few “standard” upgrades.

What I had in mind was some of the obvious places upgrades would be focused on with the Goblin: Wheels, bars, stem, seat post, saddle, and tires. So, with that in mind, here is what I swapped out…..

Wheels & Tires: I went with a modest set of DT Swiss/Specialized hubbed and DT Swiss rimmed wheels, (From our Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon Expert test mule), set up tubeless with some meatier tires. The Captain front and rear tires promised to give much better grip than the stock Smallblock 8’s over varied conditions. Weight saved = 1.95lbs/ 884.51 grams

Seat Post and Saddle The stock white seat post and Selle San Marco saddle were great performers, but a bit on the heavy side. I replaced them with a Bontrager Inform RL saddle with titanium rails, (which fit me better 🙂 ), and a rather “average” Salsa “Shaft” seat post. Weight saved = 90 grams

Stem & Handle Bar: Okay, okay! Maybe I went a bit overboard here! I had a TruVativ Noir carbon bar and a nice Bontrager Race Lite stem just waiting to be used. Weight saved = 250 grams

Total Weight Saved: 1224.51 grams/2.70lbs Most of this was rotational weight, right where you want it to be. This dropped the weight of our Goblin tester to 26.30lbs, ready to ride. Obviously, I could have really gone nuts with the upgrades and easily dropped more, but these were “smart”, reasonable upgrades, well within most rider’s budgets, (sans the Noir bar, perhaps!)

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The Results: Shaving weight off a bike can be a debate that sways from “it makes a difference” to “just lose some of that spare tire, pal!” We can always work on “The Motor” and make it better, but this is about “The Chassis”, so I’m focusing on that! 🙂 On the Goblin, the swap outs were well worth it. The bike scooted forward with even more authority. Climbing feel was enhanced. The tires were a huge improvement in terms of all around performance. As for the bars and stem, they did help with climbing, since the Noir bar is sooo stiff, and the Bonty stem was not at all flexy. The seat post and saddle were parts well known to me and I felt more comfort from the better fitting saddle. A more comfortable rider is going to be faster, so it makes sense to get the contact points right.

So, the Goblin, although a great value out of the box, does respond well to thoughtful upgrades, and it can enhance the overall performance of the bike. Maybe Airborne could think about offering a “Goblin Plus”? 😉

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Conclusions: The Airborne Goblin 29 was a hoot to “go fast” on, but was also not a “Nervous Nelly”, so slow speed, technical riding didn’t suffer. Yes- it is an aluminum framed bike. It is a bit stiffer feeling than your steel bikes, but as an XC/Trail oriented bike, meant to cover ground quickly, I don’t take issue with that. It isn’t terribly harsh, not at all, just what I would term as “typically aluminum” as far as ride feel goes. Definitely this affects climbing to the positive side, and the Goblin climbs well.

The “short”, (for the new decade), 80mm travel fork felt fine most of the time. Only on a few really rough, fast descents did I wish for “longer legs” up front. Those living where trails are typically quite rough may not go for the short fork, but also, they probably won’t be looking at this aluminum hard tail either. 😉 Overall, the Rock Shox Reba was up for most of what an XC/Trail rider would tackle on this bike, and as always, it was trouble free throughout the testing. Airborne gets bonus points for fitting the Goblin with this fork at the asking price they have on the bike.

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The other components on the Goblin were also fine performers. The Elixir Brakes were good stoppers and amazingly quiet. The SRAM drive train was flawless after tuning up for initial break in. The stock components I swapped out were great, and I didn’t have to change them except for the testing purposes I had. The only nits with the frame were a bit tight rear tire clearances and a creaky headset interface, which was due to some paint over-spray.

In the end, anyone looking at the Goblin is going to probably be buying this bike on faith. (Since most will be buying direct from Airborne on-line) Airborne has packed the Goblin with a few highlight components, and what isn’t a marquee name is still decent, workmanlike stuff that will get you down the trail without issue. The Goblin owner can be assured that this will be a big reason to trust the bike on trail. As for handling, Airborne has dialed in a “middle of the road” feel to the bike which should please most riders. For me, I would term it as a “classic 29″er feeling bike”. It has a more stable feel than some of the early 29″ers that used steep head angles to achieve a more “26”er-like” feel. But it isn’t a tank-ish feeling rig like some bikes that totally missed the mark on handling either. I really like the way this bike handles most trail situations, and I think most riders looking for a capable XC/trail bike will agree.

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Is it all roses then? No, it isn’t. Airborne should perhaps look at shortening the chain stays a hair, or opening up the rear tire clearances a bit, and preferably both. (Although that is a tall order when you are trying to keep the price of entry low.) In this day and age, looking at a bike that doesn’t support tubeless compatibility is a bit of a downer. The Goblin owner would surely benefit from tubeless tire technology. While I didn’t mind the 80mm travel fork, it would probably be wise for Airborne to think about putting a 100mm fork on this bike in the future to make it a bit more capable for rougher trails.

Otherwise the Goblin is a good handling bike with a very nice component spec for the money. Looking at other bikes in its price range, the Goblin comes out looking very good. It rides very well to boot, which shows that Airborne put some thought into the way this bike was designed. With a few choice upgrades, this bike has even more potential. If an aluminum hard tail XC/Trail bike in the $1200-$1500 range is on your radar, the Goblin should be near the bulls eye.

Airborne Bicycles sent this bicycle for test and review at no charge. We are not being bribed, nor paid for this review. We will strive to give our honest opinions and thoughts throughout.