December 25, 2019
The Slacker is a Downhill bike.
Or more accurately, the Slacker will be a Downhill bike, when we succeed. If we succeed. And that's what The Slacker Project is all about; we're setting out to develop a proper Downhill bike from scratch, and it's going to be a challenge. We might fail. We'll definitely make mistakes. But if we succeed, it might just be the best thing we ever do. And we'd like you to join us on that journey.
Every step of the development process will be documented on this blog.
So the cat's out of the bag... There's no going back now! We're developing a DH bike and we're calling it the Slacker. It's a project borne out of a passion for all things Downhill; a no-compromise big rig for smashing uplifts, days in the woods with shovels, clowning around with friends and the occasional race. Commercially it's probably a terrible idea but to hell with that - Airdrop was never meant to be about making boring bikes in big numbers. Airdrop is about making bikes we want to ride, enjoying the ride, and hopefully you will too.
At this point we've been planning it for well over a year, so it's time to deal you in.
OK, we know you know what a Downhill bike is. But it is kind of a broad term, covering everything from high-pivot, wagon-wheeled world cup race bikes to 26" wheeled huck-your-meat freeride rigs. And if we're going to set out our stall to develop a Downhill bike, we'd better be clear about what we mean by that.
The Slacker is none of the above - not exactly. The plan is to build the Downhill bike that we want to ride; a bike that loves cutting loose and slapping turns. It should be an absolute riot to ride, perfect for pounding out laps in the bike park, uplift days, a summer holiday in the mountains and just messing around in the woods.
The people's Downhill bike.
Normally we'd do what every other bike brand does; develop a bike in secret, keep it under wraps until it's good and ready, then... BOOM! It's a bike and you can buy it. It's the best thing since sliced bread and it's perfect; better than all the other bikes. Until the next, even better one. But you know very little about it apart from the odd spy shot (and we all know how contrived they are).
Bike brands don't want you to see the false-starts and the fuck-ups, the long days and late-nights, arguments, tough calls and sacrifices. Even though that's a natural and perhaps even an essential part of doing anything that you really believe in, and maybe also the most interesting bit.
The normal approach isn't going to work for the Slacker. If we approached it like that, it would never happen. Why? Because it makes no logical sense for us to develop a downhill bike. There are more reasons not to do it than there are reasons to do it. We'll get into the whys and why-nots more in the next chapter, but for now it's just important to emphasise that going about this in the normal way wouldn't work. And this way's both more interesting and exciting.
The Slacker Project is going to be different. It goes against the grain. For us - still just a three-man brand - it'll be a massive undertaking. There will be curve-balls, many failures, and hopefully a few successes too. We're going to do this whole thing open-book and you've got front row seats.
The end goal is to deliver a production-ready Downhill bike that one day, you might be able to buy. And with any luck we'll drum up enough support as we go along to actually put it into production. But whether or not the Slacker ever makes it that far, it should be a cool journey and we'll learn a tonne of stuff. You guys should get a unique insight into the development process; what we're thinking, where we're going and what makes us tick. If all else fails, we'll have some cool samples to ride. Nothing to lose... right?
So now that it's out in the open, we should probably tell you where the Slacker is at today. We've been working on it for over a year, and the design has developed to the point where it exists on paper and in software. So here it is:
It might just look like a pretty picture but to arrive at this design we've already done a lot of work, and made some big calls on layout, kinematics, geometry, clearances and engineering solutions. From this point onwards we'll be producing regular, detailed blogs to get under the skin of The Slacker Project and how we approached each of those challenges. Then when the samples are produced, you can follow the project as it progresses into testing and development.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below. There will be opinions that's for sure, and questions. There are many things to discuss. The armchair-engineers and keyboard warriors will have much to say and no doubt, the follies and pitfalls of what we're attempting will be pointed out to us more than once. But if we listened to all of that, we would never have started up Airdrop in the first place and we certainly wouldn't have got this far. If you follow The Slacker Project with us, we'll try to address everything as we go along.
In the next chapter we'll be talking more about why on earth we would choose to do this when there are so many easier (and more profitable) things to do...
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.
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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.
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