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AIRBORNE GRIFFIN 27.5+ TEST

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-7-14-23-amConsumer-direct brands have pushed their way into the mainstream, and Airborne was one of the first companies to break that barrier. Founded in 1997 with a strong resurgence in 2010, Airborne has kept its line of bikes fairly simple, making it easy for riders to find their next machine. Airborne is heavily focused on the hardtail market, but does offer a downhill frame.

Over the last couple seasons plus-size tires have become more popular, and the Griffin is aimed at riders looking to see how mid-fat tires roll. With a competitive price tag and solid build kit, the Griffin drew the attention of the wrecking crew for a full shakedown.

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WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

A broad range of plus-size bikes are available, including everything from hardtails to enduro rigs. The Griffin is aimed at the entry-to mid-level trail rider with its aluminum frame and 120 millimeters of front suspension. The frame geometry leans more towards cross-country riding, but the parts and versatility will be a draw for aspiring bikepackers and adventure seekers. Riders looking for something fun for their local groomed singletrack will also find plenty of value in the Griffin.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

At first glance the Griffin’s frame looks pretty simple, but Airborne made sure to incorporate plenty of modern concepts. The Griffin uses Boost 148×12 spacing in the rear to allow for clearance of the wider 3-inch tires. The tubing is made from 6061-T6 hydroformed aluminum and has a PF92 bottom bracket shell, along with Boost-specific SRAM GX1 cranks. To complete the frame design, Airborne uses a modern tapered head tube and fairly slack 69-degree head angle. All of the cables are routed externally for easy access and maintenance. The Griffin is only available in 16-, 18- or 20-inch sizes and has a retail price of $1,351.

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WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

Our test bike came equipped with a full SRAM GX1 build kit that gave us consistent shifting performance during our rides. The Sun Ringle MuleFut wheels were stiff and stayed true, giving our testers confidence that they would hold up in the long run. This is the first bike we have ridden with Vee Trax Fatty tires, and our testers were happy with their overall performance and traction.

airborne-4One for the money: The Griffin came stock with a SRAM GX drivetrain that offered consistent shifting during our testing. Our testers would have liked a little faster gear than the stock 30-tooth front ring at times, though.

airborne-5Quite the handful: Hayes brakes have been on the trail for years, and during our testing our testers felt confident with their performance.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Building the bike:

Out of the box we had to install the bars, stem and front brake caliper, but aside from that we didn’t have to do much. The shifting was pretty well dialed in, but we did have to make some adjustments to the cable tension after a few rides. If you aren’t comfortable making minor adjustments, your local shop will be able to take care of it.

airborne-2Keep it soft: Between the plus tires and 120 millimeters of travel, the overall ride quality of the Griffin was smooth. The Manitou fork worked well and handled moderate terrain with ease.

Suspension setup:

Dialing in the suspension on the Griffin was fairly straightforward, especially considering that we didn’t have a shock to worry about. We started our rides with 15-percent sag on the Manitou Magnum fork, but settled on 20 percent for some of the smoother, groomed cross-country trails.

Moving out:

The Griffin’s cockpit has more of a cross-country feel, with 740-millimeter bars and an 80-millimeter-long stem. The setup put our testers in a fairly aggressive position.

airborne-8Something fun for the trail: The Airborne Griffin is an aluminum hardtail with plus- sized tires aimed at cross-country and entry-level trail riders. Our test bike gave us a fun ride and comfortable geometry.

Cornering:

Plus-size tires are known for their amazing traction and ability to be pushed hard in tight corners. The Griffin felt comfortable being leaned over in corners, and the Vee Trax Fatty tires hooked up well in loose sections. Our test bike came with a 3.25-inch-wide front tire that tended to want to stand up in corners a little more than a 2.8-inch tire would. This didn’t hinder the cornering too much, but was more noticeable in tighter corners.

airborne-7So much traction: One of the biggest benefits of plus-sized tires is the larger contact patch. With the low gearing and wide tires, our test riders were able to spin up steep climbs comfortably and with confidence they had the traction to do it.

Climbing:

The cross-country geometry of the Griffin allowed our testers to shift their weight forward and climb with a certain level of efficiency. Between the extra traction and 30-tooth front chainring, the Griffin wasn’t super quick up hills, but with a steady rhythm we motored up singletrack and fire-road climbs. Out of the saddle the frame felt fairly stiff and responsive. With the right tire pressures, we didn’t experience any unwanted spin-outs on steeper sections of trail.

airborne-6A little rowdy: The Airborne has its limitations, but can handle moderately technical sections of trail. The 3-inch-wide tires gave our test riders a little extra confidence on steeper sections of trail.

Descending:

Our test riders had plenty of fun ripping the Griffin down the trail. The mid-fat tires gripped like a raccoon reaching into a butter churn, and the 120-millimeter Manitou fork worked effectively over smooth sections. Over harsher terrain the Griffin had its limitations but handled moderately rocky sections fairly well.

TRICKS, TIPS AND UPGRADES?

The Airborne has a decent spec for the price, but there are a few items we would recommend swapping soon after the purchase. We didn’t have any issues with the traction of the Vee tires, but we would have preferred a matched and narrower 3.0, or even 2.8, for the front and rear. The slightly narrower tires would give the ride a more playful feel without compromising stability. Vee has tire options in both sizes that will suit the abilities of the Griffin.

The Airborne doesn’t have any routing for a dropper post. Riders will be able to use an externally routed post but will have to get creative with the routing. More trail-orientated riders will definitely want to swap out the stock 80-millimeter stem for something shorter.

BUYING ADVICE

Consumer-direct brands such as Airborne have become a competitive option for riders searching for their next rig. The Airborne offers a good all-around build kit and strong frame that will allow riders to see how plus-size tires feel. Whether you’re looking for your first bike, something fun to ride in the winter or even get your feet wet with bikepacking, the Griffin has a versatile-enough frame design to appeal to a wide range of riders.


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