January 29, 2021
They say that 50% of new businesses fail within the first 5 years. When I launched Airdrop at the start of 2016, I’d already invested a year and a half and my entire life savings into it, so I didn’t want to hear that. It had already been so hard just getting to the start line never mind looking at a five-year slog to get properly established. I was determined to make it work, but looking back now there was so much I didn’t know. Maybe if I’d known more, I might never have started in the first place… I had been looking for a challenge and that’s certainly what I got.
I’ve learned since then that every day you get a chance to stuff things up completely, and that in some ways it would be pretty easy for Airdrop to become one of those failures; a couple of bad decisions here and there and it’s game over. Get greedy and you’re done. Get lazy and you’re done. Take your eye of the ball and… You get the idea. But I’m not as frightened by that prospect as I was, because now I know that if you stick to your principles and work your ass off, you’ll find a way. Even when it’s Christmas Eve, you need to find £8000 and you’ve got pneumonia (don't ask). Or you've got a shipment of frames arriving, you're on the other side of the planet and your only member of staff is in A&E (good times!).
Around the launch I did an interview with Dirt Magazine and they asked me when I’ll know that Airdrop is a success, as if it’s a point we might one day get to. But to me, Airdrop’s been a success every day since then, because we’re still here. Of course it’s not always (in fact very rarely) the champagne-popping kind of success, but there’s a lot to be said for the quiet satisfaction of beating the odds.
This past few months has been a challenge for all of us, and we’re no different. It’s been hard work and we’ve had to put a lot of things in life on hold. What with the twin challenges of Covid and Brexit, it’s a tough time to be running a small business. But if anything that’s even more reason to celebrate the fact that we’re 5 years in and still going strong. We’ve managed to get the Edit v4 launched, the Fade’s top of the list in Redbull’s best DJ bikes and The Slacker Project is moving forwards, bit by bit.
More important than all of that is the fact that I can say that Airdrop is something I'm proud of. If you boil it all right down, the reason I wanted to set up my own company was to spend my life doing something I'm actually proud of. And in this day and age that's a rare privilege.
A few months back we decided to do something to mark the occasion. We can't all go down the pub or take a trip to the Alps. So if we're going to be stuck in the workshop building bikes, why not see if we could build the best bike possible?
Enter the Edit v4 5th Anniversary Ltd Edition frame. You might remember a few months back, James had hand-polished one of the Edit v4 raw prototype frames. We'd kept that under wraps until the v4 was launched, but it generated a bit of hype, as we hoped. What we didn't say at the time was that it had been an experiment to see how a polished frame would look. The result was that we went to our finishing shop in Taiwan and challenged them to come up with a production version and this beauty is the result. It's raw alloy, polished to a high mirror shine, and then sealed with a clear gloss powder-coat.
Only 5 of these will be made. It comes with an EXT Storia Lok v3 shock with a custom tune developed with Chris Porter at Mojo Rising, two springs, a CNC seat clamp and axle for £1899.
Of course, with a frame as tasty as this, we had to build a bike. It would be rude not to...
This is the Edit v4 5th Anniversary Ltd Edition bike. There's a lot we could say about it but let's just start with the fact that it's pretty much the best bike we could possibly build right now. Built around the polished Edit v4 frame, it has SRAM XX1/X01 AXS wireless shifting, a Reverb AXS dropper post, EXT shock, Lyrik Ultimate forks, Code RSC brakes, carbon cranks, carbon bars, hand built wheels with Industry 9 Hydra hubs and DT EX511 rims... you get the picture. It's not a boutique showroom bike. It's a genuine Edit v4 build you can rag around the woods all day, just taken to a whole new level.
Only 5 of these will be made. Naturally, it costs £5555.
Honestly, we're just hanging on at the moment. Aren't we all? Demand for bikes has never been higher but supply has never been harder. Just getting anything to sell is like pulling teeth. Sending them to our friends in Europe is like getting kicked in the nuts. Not that we're complaining; things could be much worse. We're grateful to be able to say Airdrop is still here and so are we. And this 5th anniversary is a reason to reflect and in spite of all the doom and gloom, a reason to be grateful. Airdrop could so easily have not made it this far.
We have plans for the future; there's more cool stuff to come. More riding bikes, new ideas to try out and stuff to test. New challenges to meet - shall we do a 29er? What about an ebike? Is the Bitmap coming back and will The Slacker ever make it into production?
Who knows. But it'll be fun finding out. Thanks for the support these 5 years, and here's to 5 more.
Ed is the owner of Airdrop Bikes. A former web and graphic designer, he sacked off his job one day and decided to start up a bike brand.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
We're always working on stuff behind the scenes, and we'd like to share some of those stories with you. Some things work out, some things don't - but it's always interesting.
Sign up to get the inside line.