Viathon Bicycles made waves at its launch earlier this 12 months as a premium bike model incubated below an unlikely supply. We examined the model’s top-end M.1 Mountain Bike for six weeks to realize an understanding and a few first-person perspective on singletrack trails.
It’s the center of the summer time. I’m in GearJunkie’s Minneapolis workplace, a small blade in hand, able to unbox a motorbike. A gaggle of staff gathers round, pecking in to see the “Walmart bike” that’s arrived with measurable anticipation.
Experiences of a top-end race construct with a $6,000 price ticket forged a cognitive dissonance throughout the workplace. Why was one of many world’s most budget-driven corporations specializing in the higher echelon of the bike world?
Viathon was created to shift shoppers’ considering. That’s based on model supervisor Zach Spinhirne-Martin, who wrote a white paper and a enterprise case in 2017 to convey Viathon to life.
“I pitched the thought to my administration as a method to extra shortly enter the market and alter our notion,” he mentioned.
On the GearJunkie workplace, we reduce zip ties and packing tape. I lifted the bike from its field, the employees leaning in for a primary look.
Overview: Viathon M.1 Mountain Bike Overview
Two days later, I’m pedaling steep singletrack above Lake Superior. It’s midday on Michigan’s Higher Peninsula, the place I got here to journey Copper Harbor and the IMBA-ordained community in and close to Marquette.
The Viathon M.1, a carbon hardtail with 29-inch wheels, chatters over roots then sluices by means of a berm. The terrain varies from flowy cross-country path to downhill-inspired gravity tracks. I journey over ladder bridges and into dense timber.
Going uphill, the shifting is buttery clean. That is courtesy of the SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain and its golden chain. A RockShox 120mm fork and speedy Continental tires respectively soak up and grip the bottom. Inner cable routing retains the body clear and streamlined.
From its smooth body on up, the M.1 cuts few corners: Stan’s Crest CB7 carbon wheels, FSA carbon cockpit, Fizik saddle, Ergon grips, and a RockShox dropper publish.
I weighed the M.1 later with a handheld scale. Purple digits displaying 22.7 kilos blinked alive, quantifying the size-large bike as bona fide feathery for its class.
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Viathon Mountain Bike Take a look at
Copper Harbor grants large descents on rocky hills. In Marquette, a path community overlays the infrastructure of a mining city, with large pipes and brick partitions crumbling within the timber.
I hit small drops and jumps on a number of runs. A well-known path, “Eh Line,” swooped on grime banks and over gaps.
Although a cross-country bike, the Viathon gave confidence and management by means of nearly each session on the U.P. It’s marketed as “one of many lightest, quickest mountain race machines that cash should buy,” and that declare appeared onerous to dispute by the tip of my first week.
Viathon takes pleasure that “each mannequin — certainly, each completed bicycle — is on the prime of its class for weight, know-how, and high quality.” The M.1 is amongst a small 2019 line that features street and gravel fashions, in addition to two extra high-end mountain bike builds specced decrease and with costs beginning at $1,998.
High-end componentry makes the M.1 a smooth, quick journey
For the M.1 XX1 Eagle, Viathon dropped its authentic $6,000 worth lately to $four,998. Add up the element prices, body, and construct, and budgeting that type of cash may make sense for the dedicated rider.
Model supervisor Spinhirne-Martin mentioned a search of comparable Trek, Specialised, or Canyon bikes will internet a conclusion that “they’re all considerably costlier for a equally specced product.”
Spinhirne-Martin got here to Walmart after 10 years working within the trade at Aggressive Bike owner. He famous, “I’ve ridden and owned mainly every part they promote over that point: Yeti, Santa Cruz, Ibis, Ventana, Pivot, Open, Pinarello, Wilier, Cervelo, Ridley.”
For a lot of shoppers, funds issues are solely a part of the equation. When spending upwards of $5,000 on a motorbike, a choice matrix consists of variables from aesthetics to model affinity. Efficiency, consolation, velocity, agility, and different traits require in-person analysis, which is hard to show for a model like Viathon, which is on the market solely on-line.
I puzzled, who’s the target market for Viathon bikes? Racers? Rich fanatics? “For the M.1, it’s the generalist MTB fanatic,” Spinhirne-Martin mentioned. “It’s for somebody who needs to journey the entire mountain, up, down, and every part in between.”
The brand new face of a Walmart bike? ‘We’re not specializing in the [Walmart] connection however not hiding it both,’ Spinhirne-Martin mentioned.
Spinhirne-Martin mentioned he got here up with this bike whereas dwelling in Park Metropolis, Utah, between 2011 and 2017: “The bench-cut trails with tons of climbing lent themselves to a light-weight, environment friendly climber with a bit extra up entrance to clean out the quick downhills.”
Why a 29er?
A number of the editors at GearJunkie puzzled why Viathon launched with a 29er hardtail as its flagship mountain bike. Hardtail race XC bikes appear to be going away in favor of short-travel, full-suspension choices.
The corporate cited trade knowledge. Hardtail mountain bikes with entrance suspension, Viathon notes, are the second-largest class, based on NPD. They’re an in depth second to full-suspension by way of , however hardtail mountain bikes make for a considerably bigger share by way of items bought.
Additional, a hardtail is a superb entry level for a brand new rider in search of high-quality efficiency, Spinhirne-Martin mentioned. He defined, “It has much less setup and upkeep than a downhill bike, and as an entry level into the trade, this makes a really perfect begin for us to develop on.”
New Type of Walmart Bike
For bikes, Walmart has traditionally been an “opening worth level mass vendor,” as Spinhirne-Martin put it. In different phrases, it was within the enterprise of constructing cheap bikes made for the mass market. Efficiency or race-ready bikes aren’t part of the inventory in most Walmart shops or on-line.
However the firm has connections to the trade, together with the help of path networks — notably, the community round Bentonville, Arkansas, close to Walmart headquarters. Brothers Tom and Steuart Walton are passionate cyclists, and the Walton Household Basis has helped construct the Bentonville space right into a world-class vacation spot for mountain biking.
Viathon is wholly owned by Walmart. It’s a personal model being managed throughout the e-commerce merchandising crew primarily based in San Bruno, California. “We’re not specializing in the connection however not hiding it both,” Spinhirne-Martin mentioned.
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At its inception, Kevin Quan Studios assisted in designing frames. The Viathon achievement middle is in Carlsbad, California. Advertising and marketing technique comes out of Solar Valley, Idaho, with the CrankTank agency.
I requested the way it was all going and what number of bikes have been bought. However the firm wouldn’t launch gross sales knowledge. I requested in regards to the response to the model launch from clients and the bike trade. Viathon responded, “Actually optimistic! All of our evaluations present the standard of our bikes, together with body design, manufacturing, and specs.”
Having spent a while within the saddle, I’ve to agree. Viathon builds a high quality bicycle at a aggressive worth. With a feathery weight, efficient geometry, and componentry to rival the perfect bikes in the marketplace, the M.1 is a related consideration for critical riders with a cross-country bent.