Thursday, February 03, 2011

Airborne responds!

I am loathe to provide people with free advertising, but to be fair, I started this when I ranted about an article in Dirt Rag.

Rick Vosper of Airborne took exception to my comments, and asked if he could write a rebuttal. Ever chivalrous, I agreed. So here you go. The piece has been left as written by Rick.

Hi Walt (& readers), Rick Vosper here, director of Airborne Bikes. Thanks for your interest in our little company.
Some background: the current incarnation of Airborne has no relation to the previous titanium vendor except the name. Our frames are all 6000 series Al that perform well against other quality production builders in terms of weight, appearance, stiffness, and strength (we know this because we test ‘em).
I agree that Dirt Rag’s use of the phrase “undercutting” is unfortunate, because we’re about value, not price. And that difference is critical. Our goal as a brand is to offer best performance per dollar, not cheapest bike per category. It’s an important difference, I think. For sure we don’t make one-of-a-kind hand-crafted works of art like Waltworks does, and we don’t expect to sell Airborne bikes to your customers, with two important exceptions:
First, we want to be the bike that customers like yours—guys who’ve been riding for years and really know their stuff—would recommend to a friend or family member who is interested in getting into the sport and understands that discount bikes tend to fall apart if subjected to the rigors of real offroad or CX abuse.
Second, we want to be the brand people like your customers go to when they’re interested in an entry-level bike to add to their own quiver. Maybe it’s a gravity guy who wants to try ‘cross because it looks like fun, or an XC rider who just wants to mess around on a pump track with a dirt jumper. Point is, these folks already own state-of-the-craft bikes and want equipment that will work well for its intended purpose…without investing thousands of dollars up front right away. If they try the discipline on an Airborne and like it, heck, they’ll be buying a Waltworks or other fine handbuilt bike soon enough. And we’re OK with that.
Which brings us to benchmarking. We start by looking at a category (a hardtail 29er, for instance) and finding the existing model or models (we usually end up with 3 or 4) that we’d recommend to the friend or family member referenced above. (In the case of the 29er, we chose Fisher/Trek’s excellent X-Callibur, a bike we’ve admired for years). Then we set out to make a bike with comparable performance at the best value we can. Typically it ends up between 20-30% less than the comparable Trek, Scott, GT, or whatever.
Do we succeed? Well, yes, we hit the value premium we’re aiming for. Do the bikes really compete with the benchmarks? Spec-for-spec, yes (our new website will be up later this month and you can see for yourself, including the feature-by-feature comparisons). Do Airbornes ride as well as the benchmarks? That’s for riders (and magazine editors, like the folks at Dirt Rag) to decide. But as for us, we’re betting the company on it.


Anonymous said...

Well that is weird that CX is used as an example but there is no CX bike on their website?? Good response otherwise..

Anonymous said...

The Delta CX bike is 2011 product along with the other bikes shown in the Dirt Rag article. The Airborne website is in the midst of an overhaul and will be done at the end of February with the new product featured on the site.

Dan O said...

Ah - touchy and interesting topic for sure. I just read your previous post on Airborne as well.

I've been riding mountain and road bikes, as an alleged adult, since 1984. I've owned my share of nice bikes: Fat Chance, Ibis, Ellsworth, (old school) Raleigh, Bridgestone, Cannondale, etc.

I also did a few year stint wrenching in a bike shop, have read a few zillion magazines over the years, ride, race occasionally, and commute a lot. Just throwing all that out there to show I've been around the block a few times.

Waltworks bikes - and similar small production handmade frames - ooze bike culture or soul if you will. I totally dig, support, drool over, and envy what you guys make - plus here in the good ol' USA. Full on all around cool.

As we all know, for production bikes, things have totally changed over the last 20 years or so. Trek, Specialized, Kona, Ibis, Cannondale - few, if any of their frames are made in the USA - it's all off shore now - and most likely in the same few factories.

Sure, you need a great design so it handles well. Some of that design knowledge is going to be transfered and/or copied by the folks actually manufacturing the frames. That's part of the price you pay by farming stuff out.

And face it, when it comes to hardtails - there's not all that much difference in geometry - stuff has been ridden forever now. Suspension bikes are a different story - much design, patents and other aspects involved. You want something known to work well.


Dan O said...


Sounds sacrilegious, but for low to middle priced production bikes, in many respects - you appear to paying for paint and stickers. I may be overstating a bit, but there is some truth to that. And if you don't require bike shop assistance, buying online to save money can be a viable option. There is the argument someone buying that type of bike, probably needs shop assistance - true.

My days of buying big bucks bikes are on hold for a few years - being one pay check family of four. A few months ago, I bought a Sette Razzo 29er from PricePoint. RockShox Reba SL fork, SRAM X9/X7, decent wheels, 26 pounds total. Delivered to my door for under $1200. I thought if the frame sucked, I'd replace it and still be ahead money wise. No need to. It rides and handles great. No complaints at all - with the performance or contact with PricePoint. I had 30 days to return it and the frame has a 5 year warranty. A friend of mine, ex road and mountain bike racer, recently bought a Motobecane 29er from BikesDirect. Same experience - all good.

I also recently built up a Performance Access frame for my 11 year old son. Frame was $99 - crazy cheap. With some old XTR, Fox fork, and light wheels I had in the garage - built up into a sweet little mountain bike - for low dough. He's ridden and raced it - including a local 'cross series this past fall.

I mention these stories, since in the past I assumed these "off brand" frames were total crap. Instead, they've changed my view on what you really need to spend to have fun riding and racing. BikesDirect, PricePoint, Neuvation, Airborne, etc - offer some interesting alternatives on how to purchase a bike.

If these online folk ever get their marketing act fully together, look out. Most of their websites are very much on the lame side.

Is buying a bike online for everyone? No. Does it cut into a local shop sales? Sure. But, a smart shop will repair the mail order bike - make some dough, perhaps sell some accessories. Sticking your head in the sand won't make it go away.

I think there's room for all. Brick and mortar bike shops will always be around and remain an important aspect of cycling. High end, hand made frames will always have customers - even more so as production frames become more of a commodity. Online sales will increase, but will never take over the entire bike world - just a slice of the pie.

Eventually, when I have the dough once again, I'll order something like a Waltworks, Steelman, IF, or EWR. Why? Because I believe in what they do and what it adds to the bike world.

In the meantime, we'll continue riding and racing our budget bikes - amazed how well they work. Otherwise, the family may not be riding or racing bikes at all. And in the end, is it about bikes or bicycling?

Anonymous said...

Hassan prefers Unicorn's. And anchovies. And homemade rye.

Especially compared to t-shirt companies that sell bikes with their names stickered on at funny angles.

steve-o said...

i find it funny that a bike that they've admired for years they can't spell right. Waltwerks 4 life!

steve-o said...

i find it funny that a bike that they've admired for years they can't spell right. Waltwerks 4 life!

Dan O said...


I was in a rambling typing frenzy, under the influence of a large burrito (burp). The bike industry marketing and branding schtick, what's considered hip and what's not, I find fascinating. I'm sick that way.

I have honestly admired the bikes and work on this site - that would true. Even with my alleged typos.

Anonymous said...

So not only do they just copy frame specs they can't even come up with an original name.

Cody said...

"we don’t make one-of-a-kind hand-crafted works of art like Waltworks does"

See Walt, you *do* care about style, there's proof of it right there. Next think you know you'll be bending tubing into swoopy shapes. ;)