February 3, 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.