Top Ten 29″er Products of 2011: Airborne Goblin 29: by Guitar Ted

Editors Note: Yeah, yeah…..another year end review! Tis the season! So, here are my favorite things that have passed through the Twenty Nine Inches review process during the past year. I want to point out a few parameters that I used for what I chose here.

1. The product had to be in the review process during the time period of December 2010 through to the end of November 2011. Reviews that are currently in process I did not include and will be eligible for my 2012 Top Ten list.

2. They had to be products or bicycles that I personally used during this period. Nothing any of the other Twenty Nine Inches staff reviewed on their own could be considered for my list. This list doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone but me, Guitar Ted.

3. The reviewed products were provided to Twenty Nine Inches at no charge for review.(Except where indicated) I was not paid or bribed for this review. I will give/gave my honest opinion or thoughts through out.

That said, let’s get on with this……

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Number Three: Airborne Goblin 29: The Airbourne marque returned in 2011 with a range of bikes being sold direct to consumer. One of those bicycles is the Goblin 29, a budget priced aluminum hard tail packed with value. You can see my original posts on the Goblin 29 here, here, here, and here.

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Why It Made The List: The price of entry for 29″ers has traditionally been pretty high, and even those bikes that do crack the under 1200 dollar barrier are compromised in a lot of areas, which may dampen the enthusiasm for big wheels a bit. The Goblin 29 appears at a price point that is highly competitive, (right around 1150 dollars), and does so with performance that belies its price. Not only that, but it packs some pretty impressive spec at that price as well.

My Two Cents: First of all, Airborne sells direct to consumer, so the onus is on you for assembly. The good news here is that the bike comes very well packed with minimal assembly required. Even if you didn’t have a clue as to how to adjust the bike, it would be rideable, but that said, you should have it adjusted right out of the box for best performance. So, the delivery is pretty good considering the bike shop has been by-passed here.

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Out on the trail the Goblin was a fun, agile trail bike with a good balance of stability at speed and technical slow speed handling which wasn’t too heavy or floppy feeling at all. The aluminum chassis is stiff, but not to the point of being a detriment to ride quality. Quite the contrary, actually. It made for a great climbing and accelerating feel at the pedals, while not being a jackhammer on the bum at the saddle. Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a smooth, steel-like feeling, and trail obstacles are certainly going to be felt here, but that old cliched aluminum harshness isn’t there either. Overall, the handling of the Goblin on trails is pleasant, with no glaring faults, and it excels at climbing and accelerating.

The components are really workman-like. They won’t let you down and they all did their job without fanfare. Highlights are the 2X10 SRAM drive train and Rock Shox Reba fork with solid wheels and periphery components that, while being heavy, were absolutely reliable during my testing. One can easily shed some weight on the stock spec with a set of wheels and a few minor component choices. In fact, I tested this theory by swapping out wheels and some other components on the test Goblin. It responded very nicely to the weight loss and shows that a buyer of this bike could do some upgrades which would make the Goblin an even more attractive buy for those unwilling, or not able to, spend the cash it might take to get an upper end ride.

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The bottom line is that the Goblin was an impressive bike from a value driven standpoint that had no glaring faults and handled in a way that wasn’t too far from the middle ground. It strays towards the stable, which as far as I am concerned is a benefit to this bike in this category. Had Airborne tweaked the tire clearance to be a bit more generous, not used the creaky integrated head set, or made a few component choices that would have dropped a bit of weight on the Goblin, I would have been convinced to bump this choice up one higher. As it stands though, I can say that the Goblin is a great deal on a fine performing 29 inch wheeled hard tail. Definitely an impressive first outing for the new Airborne.

Stay tuned for my top two picks for 29″er products from 2011.