To take on a challenge as big as this, you have to really want it. So why is Downhill so important to us?
Normally when a brand releases a new bike, you get a load of guff in the press release and that's almost certainly been written by a copy-writer in the marketing department. It's an exercise in saying something and nothing at the same time. Hopefully, the brand has got a few people deep down in the organisation who really care about the bike they've made - the designers, the engineers and testers; the ideas people and the problem-solvers. You rarely get to hear what they have to say, even though that would be far more interesting. For them the bike's a labour of love, but for the business the new bike is just filling a gap in the range, hitting a price-point or targeting a segment in the market.
For a small brand like Airdrop, there is not big-business machine, no marketing department; all three of us live and breathe bikes, each in our own way. We're all going to have to work our asses off to make the Slacker happen, and we all bring something different to the project. Instead of some homogenised marketing-guff, I thought it would be best to just let James and Andy speak for themselves about why Downhill is so important to them. Ultimately, it's our passion and determination that's going to drive The Slacker Project forward.
Downhill to me is the main reason riding bikes have become my life - it’s a lifestyle! It's a feeling you're chasing, not just a race format.
I'm a 90’s kid. Growing up I was obsessed with the iconic Rankin series Earthed; I watched it on repeat. The DH stars of the noughties were my idols. The race coverage was exciting but the sections with riders on home trails just letting loose were my favourites - it was more relatable to the riding we had at home. I spent every second of my spare time pushing heavy bikes up short hills, building trails in the woods and sessioning corners with friends (come to think of it not much has changed). Downhill bikes were cool, trail bikes sucked. For me that era of Downhill was a golden age and it epitomised everything I loved about bikes. It's something I still hold dear; raw talent, getting loose both on and off the bike, rowdy trails, rugged and raw.
Downhill is the reason my A-Level results were less than average, why I never went to University, why I started working in bike shops at 13, why I packed my job in to move to whistler at 20, why I sacked off a career at a bike brand to move to Queenstown and why I work at Airdrop now.
It sounds like a massive cliché and I normally shy away from deep and meaningful statements, but bikes and especially downhill have made me the person I am today. They've given me a different outlook on life. It's my hobby, my passion, my job, my life.
For me Downhill is the reason I've ridden bikes for such a long time, it’s that feeling of letting gravity do most the work leaving you to find the most fun way down a hill.
I started out riding dirt jumps and skateparks which were the most accessible type of riding where I lived. Then in 2004 my family moved to the hills of Scotland and that started my love for Downhill. The whole next decade, the DH bike was the only bike I had. I would watch the Earthed videos on an almost daily basis, then go out into the woods and push this heavy, cumbersome bike up a hill to ride a 1-minute track over and over again until it was too dark.
It’s because of downhill riding I have the friends I have today, I probably wouldn’t have met my girlfriend or spent the last 3 years of my life chasing summers between Canada and New Zealand. Downhill is the reason I now work at Airdrop.
Nowadays, I definitely don’t ride my DH bike as much as I would like to; it’s just easier to get on my Edit and pedal to the trails. Through the summer months I race the SDA series in Scotland; it’s a great excuse to have a chilled weekend riding bikes with all your mates, which doesn’t happen often enough these days! I’m no serious racer - I’m not about straight lining this or ploughing through that - if there’s a good turn to hit or a fun gap to do I’ll do it. With the increasing amount of bike parks and uplift services popping up around the UK now is the time to give a Downhill bike a try and see what the fuss is about!
I'm a bit older than James and Andy so when I was a kid, having suspension on your bike was only for dentists. When I got into riding seriously, it was more about trying to keep up with my big brothers on epic mountain rides in the Lakes. Yes we were doing big descents but you had to be able to carry your bike most of the way up first.
Downhill and the culture around it - particularly the creative work - was what turned me into a fan of the sport. I became obsessed with the tech of the bikes in the Grundig era - back then it seemed like formula one with big money coming into the sport and crazy bikes being developed; everything was moving so fast. Then when Freeride kicked off we started to see elements of style and creativity come into play, not just raw speed. To me that's when the photography and early video work took off; it was a massive inspiration to me as a budding Designer & amateur photographer, and one of my major influences.
When I quit my design career and committed to setting up a company I wasn't clear on what I wanted to do. It was the confluence of those three things: my own riding, the tech of the bikes and the creative work around the scene that pushed me to set up Airdrop Bikes. And Downhill has always been the pinnacle of the sport for me. Just look at our launch video Clayspades (2016) if you want to see what Airdrop is about:
Time To Get On With It
We've dwelled a fair bit on the question of why, and what's at stake. We just wanted to make sure that everyone understands from the outset why we've chosen to go about The Slacker Project in this way. Most big bike brands do a pretty good job of making it look easy, when in reality it's far from that - even when you've got a big team and plenty of cash in the bank. They hide all the hard work away from view, and we only get to see the finished product. We think it'll be far more interesting to share the whole thing with you. So starting in the next chapter, we're getting into the question of how we're going to make it happen.