After three years, and nearly two dozen blog posts
detailing their journey, Sheffield-based brand Airdrop has announced the full release of their Slacker Downhill bike. The bike uses 27.5" wheels front and back and may signal something of a departure from what you might expect from a downhill bike in 2023. However, this is for a very specific reason. Most downhill bikes are developed to race, whereas the Slacker is meant for fun and smashing out park laps, and it's not a moment too soon after they announced the arrival of Craig Evans as the first athlete
on their roster last week.
Airdrop Slacker Details
• Wheel size: 27.5"
• Aluminum frame
• Travel: 200mm / 200/190mm fork
• 63° head angle
• Reach adjust headset
• Chainstay length: 435mm
• Sizes: S1, S2, S3
• Price from £3599
At the core of the reasoning behind the Slacker, much like the other bikes in Airdrop's range, is that they are small brand making the bikes that they want to ride. And being a small independent brand is quite important - truthfully I don't imagine they need to sell ten thousand of these things to make it worthwhile (in fact, their first run will be of only 100 frames). They look to be making this bike for a particular niche, and one that they consider themselves a part of - people who are looking for more than a mere plow. Where other brands may proudly boast of World Cup pedigree - Airdrop says this bike is for the New World Disorder generation. Speaking of which, I personally wouldn't be opposed to Mike Levy conducting an extensive test of the bike in the Utah desert wearing boot-cut jeans and a 661 pressure suit.
There are passionate people at any level of the bike industry, but whether it's Neko Mullaly's Frameworks
project, any number of a slew of brands covered by TEBP
, or a brand like Airdrop, it's always great to see smaller brands or individuals going their own way on things. It seems like only yesterday that Pole were ruffling feathers
by their approach to greater reach values on their bikes and that ended up pretty much fundamentally changing bike design, even if it was considered a bit left field at the time.
In the years that this bike was in the works, a lot of things have changed in downhill. Most notably many brands and racers have settled on a mixed-wheeled platform. However, Airdrop were steadfast in the pursuit of their preferred downhill bike setup. This isn't a 27.5" bike itching to be mulleted. This is a bike that is sold with the wheels and geometry that it's meant to be ridden with.
Like other Airdrop frames, this is an alloy bike. The BB and main pivot are a single CNC unit and the lower shock mount is a CNC cradle. It also features a one-piece machined raw rocker link.
Each frame comes with a reach-adjust headset included. It's not uncommon to see bikes, mostly carbon ones, come with some kind of oval headset that doesn't need to be removed and reinstalled like a traditional press-fit headset. Asking James Crossland, the designer at Airdrop to explain the reasoning for this style of easily rotated cups aren't in the Slacker he said that they wanted to build a bike that was not only fun to ride but easy to live with and live with for a long time. He explained that push-fit cups are great but they also require the headset to be preloaded correctly every time, which isn't something everyone knows how to do, and if this isn't done to the right torque it can end up with problems with the headtube or headset. He said that they want to make a bike that's easy to work on, but also expressed that they didn't want to make one that places convenience above long-term reliability. The bike will come with a neutral headset, as well as cups that can off +/- 5 mm of adjustment.
The linkage uses a full complement of oversized hardware to, again, put an emphasis on longevity. However, on these oversized bolts, you won't find large 10 mm Allen key interfaces, and that was deliberate, with Airdrop explaining that it's better to round a bolt and strip the threads from your frame, regardless of how unlikely either eventuality is when bikes are made with decent quality hardware. All bolts are CNC and run through stainless steel oversized bearings. There are no blind bearings or pullers required for this frame, either, and you should have a good line of site to simply punch the bearings out with the tap of a small hammer. The bolts are locktighted from the factory and the frames run a UDH.
As branding slogans go, ‘Sessions Not Seconds’ is one of the catchier ones - and it sums up the brand's approach to its bikes. The Slacker is available in three sizes, S 1, 2 and 3, and the reaches could be considered on the more conservative side compared to other bikes out there. However, it's worth remembering that due to the long travel and raked-out fork, it isn't uncommon for downhill bikes to have slightly shorter reach values compared to the modern enduro bikes, whose geometries most of us are familiar with. That said, with bikes at 430, 455 and 475 mm when in their neutral headset position, these bikes aren't huge in terms of reach either. Through these sizes, Airdrop's sizing chart suggests anyone between 160 and 193cm (5'3" and 6'4") should be able to find a size that works for them.
With a 63-degree head angle, a stack of 633 mm for a large and a rear center across sizes of 435 mm, the geometry chart suggests this will certainly be on the more neutral end of the spectrum when it comes to DH. For instance, a mixed-wheeled V10 in a large has chainstays as long as 456 mm in its extended setting. What shorter stays give up is how they weight the front wheel, which can reap plenty of rewards in terms of stability but at the cost of being able to lift the front as well as how maneuverable the bike can feel in certain situations.
The Slacker has a relatively smooth suspension curve, which is relatively linear in its fashion, albeit whilst offering a moderately high amount of progressivity (28.7%). You tend to find that getting above 30% is moving towards the upper limit of what some shock rebound tunes can cope with.
This high initial leverage rate at the start of the stroke means that the bike should break into its travel easily, and with a rate of 2.85:1 at the 30% mark, it should also be happy to get moving whilst in its travel, too. Airdrop combines this with a slightly rearward axle path that extends 4.5 mm rearward in the first third of the travel. This pairing of path and rate will hope to smooth out small repetitive hits such as small braking bumps.
The uncomplicated and predictive rate of progression means that the bike will be able to handle both coil or air shocks, and you should be able to land on a setup that strikes a balance between a small bump and ramp-up.
The bike also has a relatively consistent rate of anti-rise, which runs between 60 and 40%. Anti-rise is a value to express what the suspension does under braking. A lower value means the bike is more likely to stay active under braking. A higher value is a bike that is happier to go into the stroke and prevent weight transfer into the hands as you get on the anchors.
At around 50%, the Slacker should feel relatively neutral, and be happy to use its travel without packing down too much or the suspension jacking under heavy braking.
Models & Pricing
All orders will ship in March. For more information please visit their website
"While the dish ratio of Super Boost Plus is slightly more even than that of Boost 148, the gains are only marginal. However, it’s still far off the perfect 50/50 ratio of 157 DH hubs."
"As with all hubs, the rim is centered over the hub. However, due to the uneven flange spacing found on a Super Boost Plus hub the rim is not centered between the flanges. This offset is the so-called “dish”.
Compared to Boost 148, SB+ allows for a more even tension ratio between the drive side and non-drive side spokes. Super Boost Plus wheels have a dish ratio of around 60/40, compared to Boost 148, which has a less even dish ratio of 62/38. The less dish is required, the more even the tension ratio and the stronger and stiffer the wheel."
I actually think its a great idea.
If you have noticed, alot of rim manufacturers are offsetting their spoke holes approx 3mm to even further gain an even spoke tension. My reserve wheels use king hubs with a spoke offset in the rim of 3mm. The end result is a wheel built with the same spoke length on both sides, and a near 50/50 spoke angle and tension.
However, Let's remember that the discussion here is about hub spacing and its solitary effect on spoke angle, specifically comparing 148mm to 157mm on DH bikes, not alternative solutions to this issue.
There are many design challenges within the industry that can be solved from many perspectives.
And so is throwing a 29 fork and wheel on a bike designed around 27.5. Especially if you want to go race.
@emptybe-er : I don't think he's advocating unequal spoke length.
And yes folks he is right. ride your damn bike.
I'm here for fun not plush easy riding trying to win races...
There's a huge market for people riding tight techy not racing who want something manouverable and fun
Not long slack big wheel rut eaters
sales figures don't like. 27.5 is dead.
OH! I also built 2 sets of 26's(dj. lol)
Arguably more of a marketing exercise than 29ers
"Why does my car keep flashing up the engine management light?" You buying a car in 2023
anywho, sure, 10sp XTR was amazing. the front derailleur that you originally had....is NOT. so is current XTR. yes it's more finicky because it's two more gears, but if you have a modicum of ability to maintain a bike, it is far better than the older stuff, by way of a much wider ratio(even than 2x), and it shifts under full power and lightning quick.
XX1 axs is pretty sweet, btw. I would go so far as to say it's the best groupset on the market, that has ever existed. I have it on 3 bikes(well, one is the wifes but...) and it's basically been completely flawless aside from breakage that is my fault.
A while ago they addressed pricing on a pinkbike article and said, “we’re not here to take the piss.”
That really stuck with me… 6 months after that article and I will be picking up one of their Edit bikes (very soon). I can’t bloody wait.
I like super short stays tho...
They're world renowned and one of the best there is imo \m/
Shifter, gears and derailleur vs. single cog, and a tensioner
***note***different cranks on the two models.
£100 difference (single speed costing more?????)
That pricing seems..........wrong.
might call it "airdrop smuggler" and pick it up in sheffield. but i really dig the bike.
Take my money
What? Is the last "and" supposed to be "than"?
Also, who _is_ putting 10mm Allen heads on suspension parts?or even 8mm? My last few bikes all use 15-20mm pivot axles/bolts and every bolt head was 6mm, with maybe a few 5mm on like shock mounts. Pretty sure the optimum head size is related to the torque spec and not the size of the hardware it's attaching.
A higher value _forces_ the suspension into the stroke under braking. A lower value isn't just "more likely to stay active" , it actually _is_ more active. Big difference on both sides.
i think other companies do a similar thing
Now I want to hear more from @Mtbdialed he seems to know what everyone needs and isn't afraid to jam it down their throat!
I have found my new favourite brand ＼(°o°)／
and then you have the troll corpus negpropping me all the time when i post an objective analysis of the stuff. if i were any wronger, i wouldn't mind it, but my "armchair engineering" was proven valid recently, something i said 11 years ago.
The only reason I like 27 in the front is the lack of 26 forks, yeah I've tried 26 in a 27 fork but the 27 front wheel just makes the fork handle that little bit better, calmer almost. Not that 26 in a 27 fork is bad
To be honest, I'm more annoyed at the mess of an article that the biggest MTB website in the world published on the actual internet (and it's a frequent thing). Just because we ride bikes, that doesn't make us undeserving of someone actually reading through a journalist's output before putting it out there. It's insulting.
You think I was born yesterday Broheim?
Can't say French capitalization rules are very easy either: www.thoughtco.com/capitalize-french-titles-4086495
If you want simpler capitalization rules, try Dutch. That's probably the only thing simple about it, and nobody speaks it outside of our tiny country, but alas...
@TommyNunchuck: By all means hang on to this archaic academic convention (which it seems happens primarily in the US), but if it serves as a fig leaf for poor-quality copy, one that also renders titles incomprehensible, then it can gtfo.
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