Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday rant!

Click on over to Dirt Rag and read their, um, I'm not sure what it is... "article" (? advertisement?) about the all-new Airborne bikes.

Now, we all know Dirt Rag has slowly spiraled down the overcommercialized drain on the way to becoming a clone of Mountain Bike Action or Bicycling. That's hard to watch, but on the plus side, there are a lot of better ways to spend your time these days if you're bored and want to read about bikes.

Still, I was pretty astounded by this quote:
"To create their latest models they examined benchmark models from major manufactuers, crafted a similar package and undercut the price by 20-30 percent."

So, let me get this straight: the company admits that they have zero interest in bringing something new or interesting to market. They imply that they've simply skipped any design work and copied other stuff already on the market. And their business plan is simply to be cheap.

I am not surprised by the way the company is being set up - the "just grab some generic $30 Chinese frame and throw parts on" system is standard for a lot of bike companies these days. I am fairly shocked (confused? impressed?) that they can openly say so without any marketing talk about their sweet geometry, awesome materials, whatever.

So, in a way, I'm a fan. I mean, they're not making up a bunch of gibberish to justify what they're doing - they're just saying, "Look, you cheap bastards, we'll tell it to you straight. We don't know or care much about bikes, but we saw an opportunity to make the same old crap, but even cheaper than before."

Brutal, total honesty. It's refreshing, even as what they're actually doing makes me throw up a little bit in the back of my mouth.


joel said...

I just look at the pictures.

Buzz said...

Ah come on Walt!

You wrote:

"I was pretty astounded by this quote:
"To create their latest models they examined benchmark models from major manufacturers, crafted a similar package and undercut the price by 20-30 percent.""

Not sure WHY you would be astounded by that??

Dude! you are a fantastic craftsmen! BUT when I look at your bikes from stand off they look like a thousand other bikes I have seen in my lifetime. Yes much of the *detail* and nuance is definetly inspired and creative. But, as in the 9mmQR vs 15-20mmTA becomes very subjective, or only perceptible by a very tuned and aware human rider. But most times it's a minor detail in the thrill and joy of an epic ride. If the @#$king thing breaks then that's another deal.

The best surfboard I ever had was a stock off the rack production board. Maybe I got lucky? But maybe at that point in my surfing evolution; I was at a physical, mental, emotional and skillful peak? Subjective??

Technical stuff that does something more than make your eyes blur and head a bike or a surfboard has become @#$kin' EXPENSIVE!! Living in the USA has become @#$kin' expensive!

Ti bikes that work with *good* components..$2099!! freaks me out! And my business has been 'effected' by globalism and off-shoring more than you can ever imagine.

Small world...big world..this world??


P.S: I proudly wear my Waltworks t-shirt all the time.

Bikewright said...

Didn't they go out of buisness once? They will do it again!

Walt said...

Buzz -

I think you missed the point. I am astounded that they *openly admitted* to their business model. Most companies would make up some spiel about newfangled geometry that they came up with, or the great materials they're using, or whatever. Not say "we aim to undercut the price".

Not these guys, they tell it to you straight. That's the weird thing.

Joshua Stamper said...

Uh well if you don't have the knowledge or resources to create something new or more awesome then you might as well copy the shit out of whatever works. You are a craftsman that appreciates unique, one off, and personalized creations, and I can see why that might nauseate you.
However, the majority of americans still shop at walmart, and appreciate some sense of "apples to apples value" for what they purchase. If they think that they can get a similar product for 30 percent less, people will purchase it. Mtn bikers represent a decidedly more blue collar side of cycling than any other realm.
Not everyone that rides or races a mtb is a dentist or has $2k to throw down on a frameset.
If I did not have shop support I would not be able to afford the bikes that I have, ans still be able to lead the travel and racing lifestyle. What good is a race bike if you can't afford the entry fees?

Walt said...

Josh -

I am not sure you understood - read my reply to Buzz.

Buzz said...


Yeah I guess I did miss your point.

But isn't that a legitimate tactic in a free market? Most bike shops don't provide much in the way of value for what they add to the price in my estimation AND experience....sort of like the cost of our government...state and federal!

If the Airborne guys can prove quality of product and provide customer service for 30% less then more power to them.

Russian webstore software, a nice cordial and informed girlfriend or wife on the phone, low cost warehouse type overhead and a fluid and solid liaison with a quality Asian manufactuer.

Slam dunk retail biz model of the future.


Walt said...

Buzz -

To the kind of person who reads this blog, the bike shop is totally irrelevant. But to many sort of "enthusiast" level folks, it's important, because they don't have the tools/knowledge to fix their own stuff.

This was the "business model of the future" in about 2001, to be honest. It's not as if you can even buy an American-made production frame in a shop anywhere now.

With 2 employees (and no dealers), I can't imagine customer service will be great. Remind anyone of Iron Horse?

Buzz said...

Oh man this is a fascinating topic!

I can only tell you my purchasing experience from was outstanding.

Fortunatley the weather in Cali is stellar this morning and I am going to go ride the damn thing again.

Peace Walt!


Buzz said...

one more quick thing:

bike repair and service are not necessarily inclusive of "bike" sales.


Matt Surch said...

I take your point Walt. I think Airborne has their customer base pretty well defined: dudes who heard Ti is fly but don't want to spend the bucks Ti bikes typically demand. They don't really care much about the nuances of geometry or butting; "Its Ti! Lets rock!" They'll sell bikes, but will they secure repeat customers? Don't know, as the brand itself is meaningless, given there is nothing distinctive about the bikes beyond the low price. Any similar low priced Ti bike will do, assuming customer support is taken to be equivalent.

Your youtube link led me to this hilarious parody:

Walt said...

Matt -

I'm pretty sure (looking at the photos) that they're aluminum frames now, not ti.

dicky said...

Iron Horse?

Is Airborne gonna sponsor Dave Cullinan?

Not everything in Dirt Rag is MBA'ish. Well, I am writing a piece about how important sleep is for training, and I have an article in the works about cornering with pictures from 1994 featuring guys in styro helmets.

BillyHair said...

Looking at the specs and cost... they're the same as a GT, Trek, Specialized at the same pricepoint, not 20-30% less(?) But I'm not in the bike biz, so I could be mistaken and these could be the next big thing after the Motobecanes. (I'll have to read the reviews on mtbr to know for sure... hahahahahaha)

Matt Surch said...

Haha, yep, they sure are. I must have assumed they were continuing on with the Ti stuff. Foot in mouth.