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Airborne Hobgoblin FS 29″er: First Impressions

Airborne Hobgoblin FS 29″er: First Impressions- by Guitar Ted

It has been awhile now, but I have posted the Out Of The Box on the Hobgoblin here. Now that the trails are finally open, I have a First Impressions post ready to share. First though, some tech to pass on with a few numbers to chew on as well….

Geometry: One of the things I missed last post was the geometry of the Hobgoblin. It is a very different bike than the last full suspension 29″er I tested! That was a long, low chassis with slightly slacker angles than this blue meanie. The Hobgoblin sports a steeper geometry than many newer full suspension 29″ers with a head angle of 71° and a seat tube angle of 73°, (as I measured them static, no rider on board), so a bit different in that regard. The chain stays are a longish 18″. Again- something we were used to seeing only a year or two ago, but this is now on the extreme. The bottom bracket seemed a bit tall to me out of the box, and it is: 13 1/4″ unsagged. I measured the top tube at 24 1/8th”, which seems a bit short for a size Large these days. The bike sports a long tiller to make up for that though, with a 110mm stem stock.

Weighty Matters: As I mentioned in the Out Of The Box, the Hobgoblin seems a bit portly at 31+ pounds, but with a bit of judicious parts swapping, a rider could dump a fair amount of weight right away. Specifically noted here are the wire bead AKA tires, which weigh 940gms each. (Standard TNT folders in the AKA model weigh 730 gms for reference) Tubes weighed 230 gms each, so by going to a lighter tubeless tire model a rider could cut a quick 1.75lbs off the Hobgoglin pretty easily. Maybe even a little more. Suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so heavy when you consider that, but it is on the consumer to make that change, obviously.

Ride Impressions: The Hobgoblin was ridden on some wettish, slippery, rooty trails and a big section of new cut trail with some outings on dry dirt to boot. Upon mounting the bike I felt “on top” of the rig, and not “down in” the bike, as I have on some of the other full suspension rigs tested over the past year or so. Chalk that up to the high bottom bracket and the shortish front center. The Hobgoblin cuts through corners with authority in tight single track. This fully is by far the quickest handling of the lot I’ve tested in over a year or so. The long back end did not seem to hang me up, but it did make lofting the front end a chore. This is compounded by the short front/long stem which pins the front wheel by biasing your weight to the front more. Good for fast cornering, bad for playfulness.

I liked the way the Hobgoblin climbed. It has a planted feel, and with that longer chain stay, it prefers a seated climber and it will steer at slow speed almost too easily due to the long stem/steeper head tube angle that it has. The suspension can be set to be active and it helps dig that rear tire in on the steeps. (More on the suspension set up momentarily.) Going down wasn’t bad either, but you are committed to pinning the front wheel due to the way the Airborne is laid out. It almost is as if you are on an old school XC racer, really. Chassis feel was stiff. Probably on top of the heap when it comes to torsional and lateral rigidity. The Airborne is quite impressive in this regard.

Suspension Set Up: here is where I feel the Hobgoblin falls a little flat. The Monarch dampers, (which have appeared on several of the past full suspension rigs coming through here of late), have been pretty decent dampers. However; the RL version on this Airborne is not a great match for the bike, in my opinion. You have the choice of running the damper “wide open” or locked out, and neither works great, if you set the bike up in the “normal” way. I did find a way to “trick” the damper into doing my bidding though. Instead of setting up the sag in the wide open setting, I set it up in the locked out setting, and then rode the bike in lock out 100% of the time. (Rock Shox “lock out” is not a full on lock, but is somewhat active.) I do not recommend that Hobgoblin owners do this, but I will say that it made the bike handle the bumps in the way I prefer, (slightly stiffer than “plush”), and it still got full travel on the bigger hits. Of course, the wide open setting was unusable in this state, but I really liked the way the bike felt with this set up. I could stomp the pedals and the bike scooted forward, and standing climbing was met with a calm, well mannered feel with very little “bobbing”.

More on the bike coming soon. I am still fiddling with suspension settings and will report back on that and more in my Mid-Term Report.

Note: Airborne sent over the Hobgoblin for test and review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being paid, nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

8 Responses to “Airborne Hobgoblin FS 29″er: First Impressions”

This bike was on top of my FS rig list because of the value for the price and the great reviews i’ve read on MTBR. This is a bit concerning though as it’s got traits i’m afraid of with moving to a 29er (feeling too tall). I’m hoping things improve with time and experience with the suspension.

Is the shock a standard size or would it be tough to find a better replacement?

@Kris: The high BB is a good thing if you are coming from a place where pedal strikes are common with lower slung bikes. I do not foresee the Hobgoblin having that issue! It does make remounting the bike on uneven terrain a chore though, and this is where a dropper post would be handy.

I will measure the eye to eye length of the shock and get back to you here….

GT, so is your first impression of the suspension just that it is “too buttery” for your taste or does it end up sitting too far into its travel on rough terrain?

@Samuel J. Greer: Using my “trick”, it feels solid- not too plush, sits in the sag range right, and doesn’t blow through it’s travel at all. In fact, it is really impressive, which leads me to believe it isn’t the design of the suspension as it is a simple, less featured damper. Given a choice to have a RL-3 or a Fox with CTD, I bet this bike would be just peachy. It would definitely be more tunable!

I’m working on the set up using the damper as intended, but not quite there with how good it was using the shock on lock out with less air in the can.

I thought the RL dampers were meant to be used exactly the way you describe. No?

@Kris: Here is the shock spec as sent to me from Airborne: “The shock eye to eye is 165mm with a 38mm stroke”

Thanks. Funny enough I found it on the MTBR forums today. Good to know it’s a common shock size so if the problem is that big of an issue, an upgrade is possible.

Looking forward to the mid-term review for the HobGoblin.

165mm x 38mm + 6.5″ x 1.5″

That’s a standard size shock that should not be terribly difficult to source a replacement for should you wish to go that route.