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Airborne Zeppelin: pros/cons(27 posts)

Airborne Zeppelin: pros/consochsen
Apr 1, 2002 5:16 PM
O.K., I've read the magazine reviews, I've read other people's reviews, I've read older posts concerning this bike, and I hardly see any negative comments from it's owners about this bike. (Hey, it's been a while since you guys had this discussion anyway, hopefully I can get more helpful info w/ what I bring to the mix.)

I am considering buying this bike and I like to hear a little feedback as to why it would be a bad idea for me to do so, so far it's a good idea.
-What about it's comparison to other bikes in that price range?
-What about it's comparison to other ti bikes in terms of ride quality? O.K., I realize it's not a Litespeed or Seven or Merlin or whatever and the welds aren't as ground or polished (I don't know...). Some of the things that interest me in Airborne are features such as price, freedom to choose components and titanium's ride qualities. I guess I'm not sure of what I'm asking on this one, don't worry, I won't think I'm a big deal because I'd have a ti frame. The folks who spend the big money on their bikes deserve too I guess.

I have ridden a ti frame so I do have a little bit of experience as to what I should be looking for. It was a Merlin Aegilis, I think it's on the low-end of Merlin's scale.

It will be my first roadbike, as I am currently using my mtb w/ slicks and that's not too comfortable on the long rides. I do a lot of road riding, so the expense is well worth it and I know buying a roadbike is a good decision.

I'm considering racing as well, and sure, I'd like to know how that would be viewed (new guy, $2,500+ bike, may very well be the last guy in the pack most of the time, poseur?)

The bike shops where I live don't stock too many, if any, higher end bikes for me to test ride. If I wanted one, they all are happy to order one for me. That doesn't do too much for me if I don't want it. Airborne has a pretty good return policy so that if that I didn't like it or if it doesn't fit, I can send it back or get new size stems or frame etc. Oh, I will also be ordering this through a shop, it's the same price as me getting on my own, the shop will help fit me, they'll take delivery of it and if I don't want it, they send it back.

That's all I can think of now, thanks in advance.

Oh, a couple of things: I realize it's made in China, and there are people who have strong political views against China. I'm not looking for that type of discussion. I've read previous comments about it and it's unlikely that I will respond to that type of discussion in any way. I also realize that Airborne gets a bad rap because it's budget ti. If anyone who feels negatively towards Airborne, good, tell me why other than "it sucks", or "don't buy it". You get the picture.

Sorry if this is too long, I just kept thinking of other things to write.

Thanks again,
Apr 1, 2002 5:46 PM
>I'm considering racing as well, and sure, I'd like to know how that would be viewed (new guy, $2,500+ bike, may very well be the last guy in the pack most of the time, poseur?)<

Don't bother with what other people think. just ride. and get better, and kick their asses.
there was a guy on a Colnago in the collegiate Cat C crit I was in two weeks ago. he crashed. he also got dropped in the previous crit ... but hey, at least he rides.
Not to steer you away from Ti or Airborne...Lone Gunman
Apr 1, 2002 5:48 PM
I can't help steering you towards to take a look at his steel offerings plus you can select components to a degree and GH can put you on a frame that will get you what you want and you should have a good deal of money left over. Just because a frame is made of ti does not make it better than all the others.

One thing I always remember/reminded of when speaking about frames; Most all bikes try to emulate the ride of steel, it is the gold standard.
kit prices seem highgtx
Apr 1, 2002 6:05 PM
seems like you could get a built up Dean for about the same price or a Macalu from Excel for less. Just my $.02.
Apr 1, 2002 6:54 PM
Seems like I'm one of the few on one--a Dean that is. I've also spoken with Gary (considered a Landshark before going Dean), and I've emailed with Carl at Strong. Bottom line...there are many fine frames and reasonably priced/fairly competitive kits out there to be had for those willing to do some research.

As for me, the Dean Culebra is terrific, and I've heard equally good things about their ti, which is their own now, as opposed to the TNT stuff they used to label as their own, kinda like CC does with the Fusion Ti. Shop around--there are deals to be had, both on line and from LBSs.
kit prices are high!sodade
Apr 2, 2002 4:09 AM
I was in the same boat as you, but when you start comparing prices, the Douglas at CC and the Macalu at Excel are actually cheaper when you compare full spec. Both retailers are highly respectable. Airborne is also pretty limited in spec choices. I'm not saying that either are better than the Airborne, but I'd doubt that they are not as good. I personally think that they both look better, but that is just MHO. I also haven't bought into that whole sloping top tube thing either.

With all that said, I ended up trolling ebay and scored an awesome Merlin Cyrene with full DA, an Ouzo Pro, and Velomax Orions for 2500 shipped from a real bikestore. Of course this was a lot of luck (and patientce), but low end Lightspeeds can be had for the same or less. The same spec on a Zepplin would be $2960 with Circuit Comps instead of Orions!
Apr 2, 2002 7:39 AM
Never rode a mile on an Airborne so I cannot criticize the ride, which is the most important thing. But I did notice, in playing around on their web site, that the kit prices are no bargain, and the individual substitutions they allow are also on the high side. As an extreme example, I tried to spec a Record equipped Zepplin as close as I could to my own bike. In the end, the Zepplin was more expensive than my Colnago CT-1. Again, I'm not trying to say that the Airborne frame is not a good one--I just don't know. And for all I know they have very accomodating and capable service. Again, I don't know. But it seems to me that they have lots of competitors at price, especially if you shop around, and especially if you don't want the most basic parts package they offer. For 2500 bucks you can get Litespeed, Dean, Merlin (look at some of last year's frames on sale), Colnago, Sampson,etc., etc. Throw steel into the mix and there's tons more out there. Shop around, and ride what you can. How did you like the Merlin?
re: Airborne Zeppelin: pros/conspmf1
Apr 2, 2002 5:43 AM
If you read the reviews here, every bike is the greatest, best value around. I place very little faith in the reviews since most of them are probably written by people who have owned few road bikes. Either that, or every bike truly is equally great.

Regarding the poser thing .... if a bike makes you happy, and you can afford it, then who cares what others think? There's a hell of a lot worse things you can blow your money on. And since you sound like you're already someone who likes to ride, why buy a low end bike? Its not like there's some rul that you must toil and suffer for five years on a Huffy before you are allowed to buy a Colnago.

My biggest question is why are you fixated on titanium? You don't give any reasons why you seem to prefer it to steel, carbon or aluminium --- all of which you can land for $2500. There are a lot of really nice bikes in the $2500 range. I saw a Litespeed advertisement in Velonews for a Ultegra equipped bike for $2200. You could also get a Kestrel 200 Sci or Trek 5200 in that price range. And there are tons of great steel bikes out there.

What about used? A friend of mine just bought a Lemond steel bike with Ultegra here in the classifieds for $1200. Looks like its barely been used.

I'd suggest you do more research. Airborne has always struck me as someone with a mediocre product and a great marketing strategy. Reviews rave as much about the great web sales as they do about the bike itself. I've never ridden one, so it may in fact be a great bike. Given the choice, I'd take an American made ti bike over an Airborne any day of the week.
re: Airborne = HuffyAndante
Apr 2, 2002 11:12 AM
Since Huffy own Airborne, can I suffer on one of those for 5 years beofre getting a Colnago?
re: Airborne = HuffyAndante
Apr 2, 2002 1:50 PM
Since Huffy own Airborne, can I suffer on one of those for 5 years beofre getting a Colnago?
go to before you buy.aet
Apr 2, 2002 6:03 AM
there was a thread on theses bikes a while back and when i have saved up enough shekels for a new ride, i'm going to this guy. you can get a dura ace silverton for 2599 or and ultegra z7 for 2499. the bikes got high praose from those that knew about them.
re: Airborne Zeppelin: pros/consNilesFerrier
Apr 2, 2002 7:35 AM
Litespeed has a sale on the Arenberg, comes with Spinergy SR-3's and Ultegra group. for $2295.

I just bought one.
As an owner...MalandMo
Apr 2, 2002 8:16 AM
I really like the Zeppelin. It has an incredible ride, and Airborne offers the best customer service around. It is truly a great bike. That said, they have gone through several price increases over the last year and so the bike is not so much a bargain from other bikes. I guarantee you will love the bike. It is a great piece of equipment. I would still put it in the mix with any bike I've ever ridden, but if you are talking about $2500 then your search can be a bit broader with several brands. I got mine at substantially less money than they go for now. Hope that helps.
Apr 2, 2002 10:35 AM
How can you guarantee that he will like the bike? I rode one, I did not like it (and I wanted to like the thing because of the price) - surely does not mean that he will agree with either you or me.
With so many other options out there and bikes in shops you can actually ride it is well worth taking a few hours to drive around outside of your immediate area to test ride something you will be spending hundreds of hours on.
There is probably nothing wrong with Airborne. Like someone said above they seem to do a great job of marketing an otherwise very average product.
As others have said with Ti bikes like Litespeed, Samson, Dean, etc., it is really hard to justify getting the Airborne. If you are just looking to get a Ti bike for the sake of owning a Ti bike check out Habanero (another Chinese made Ti bike) or TST (they make or have made bikes for Mongoose, Yeti, etc.) - both are cheaper and probably the same quality wise. You can also get a custom steel bike from places like Steelman or Landshark in the same price range.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you get a Litespeed or Dean, etc frame and sell it in a few years it will fetch a reasonable return. The Airborne (judging from recent prices on eBay) won't.
I'll helpSteveS
Apr 2, 2002 11:39 AM
What the buyer would have from Airborne is the guarantee that if he didn't like the bike for any reason, he can return it at Airborne's cost and get his money refunded. Which of Samson, Dean, Litespeed or TST offer the same? The answer is: None of the above. So, the buyer gets a guarantee that he is not stuck with a disappointment. Remember, I offered the same deal to a Litespeed seller here on this forum but they couldn't step up to the plate.

Your average product concept is your opinion, one not shared by a rather large number of professional reviews or owner reviews.

Resale? I have sold two Airborne frames (and bought 2 others). The sales took less than a week and I did quite well on sale price. Of course, my experience is based on reality.

Maybe the buyer should take a look at the Classified section of this website under frames. I found 7 Litespeed or Merlin frames at a quick glance on just the first page. Page two probably offers even more. Good luck on getting a reasonable return on their retail price. More likely a fraction of their closeout prices.
Agree, Airborne not as good a value now. . .js5280
Apr 2, 2002 11:54 AM
I bought my Zep a little over a year ago. Ultegra w/ some upgrades; Open Pros, Thomson Seatpost, SI Max Trans Am Seat. Paid around $1800-1900 total. Now an Ultegra bike starts at $2320. That's a siginificant jump and other Ti bikes start to become competitive at that price point including Sampson, Macalu, Dean (from what I hear), and even discount Litespeeds. You can get a lot of bike in steel or Al with that same money. So, if your heart is set on Ti because of it's low maintaince and smooth ride reputation, then look at Zepp, Sampson, Macalu, Dean, etc. I'm sure they are all great bikes as far as quality and the differences are pretty subjective (geometery preference, forgivenss/stiffness, etc.) and probably not very descernable to a new cyclist. The Zepp was my first road bike and I bought it because I liked the idea and mythic qualities of Ti; forgiving, easy to maintain, it's "Ti" {angels singing here} and at the time it was a very good value for a Ti bike. All other Ti were $300-400 more at least and I was at the top of my budget at the time. I liked the fact you picked out your own components (steered me away from a Zurich cause I wanted a triple), the great reviews for both quality and fitting over the phone that I read from Zepplin owners. So great bike, just not quite the value it was so it has more competition that when I was purchasing. Good luck!
Airborne is not a bargainliu02bhs
Apr 2, 2002 4:23 PM
People get a misconception that Airbone is a bargain. That's probably because the Zeppelin frame used to cost $699 back in like 2000, probably even lower if you go back. So most of the people who are saying it's a bargain probably bought it back than. As for the quality, my friend bought one. He leaned it on the wall while changing handlebar, it accidentally fell and hit a baseball. The drama created a dint in the downtube.
baseballs are pretty hard...(nm)collinsc
Apr 2, 2002 5:15 PM
Apr 2, 2002 6:50 PM
Wow, a lot of replies since I posted last night. I'll answer what I can in this post:

Steel: This actually was my starting point, and it's likely I'll test some more just to satisfy myself. I tested the Zurich, and it fit pretty good, it felt a little more rigid than I thought it would. No more Zurich's in stock at that shop, but I think I can test a decent steel ride elsewhere. The reason steel isn't at the top of my list is that it has a couple of drawbacks (although maybe I'm misguided). Weight, and it does wear a bit, especially in the bottom bracket area. I'm sure you'd have to put heavy miles to wear it out, but when you consider Ti (low-end or not), you don't need to worry about it.

Ti fixation: Well, I wouldn't say I'm fixated on Ti for the sake of Ti. I'd rather it didn't have that chi-chi factor so my lack of skills wouldn't be judged so much by people who are really skilled. It makes good frame material, it just happens to be very expensive. High-end wouldn't make me feel ultra-cool, it would probably make me too self conscious. Airborne doesn't have the same stigma as Litespeed, Merlin, Seven, etc., that's why I would consider it.

The Merlin I rode was awesome. Actually this is probably the main reason I wanted the Airborne: thinking Airborne can make a bike like this more affordable and I can spec what I want. The bike shop offered $3,000 for the Merlin, but I don't know. I would like the skills to back up the nice bike, but I'm not there yet. Plus, imagine my first race rolling up on that thing and getting dropped in a second. I gotta to be upfront w/ myself now, it'll bother me later.

Custom: Custom makes great sense if you know enough about your riding qualities and fit to dictate what consideration is put into building your frame. This is my first roadbike and maybe I will go that way once I have a starting point. I just don't know enough yet.

Buying online in general: Well, Airborne is on-line but I can return if I don't like it. Plus, I'm still dealing w/ the bike shop. I'll admit, I haven't given this too much consideration for other on-line companies. It really does seem like a hassle/more risk.

Aluminum: I've considered this also. The more I test, the more I'm noticing differences between certain aluminum frames. Some ride a little smoother than others for sure.

Carbon: I haven't considered it, and I really don't know why. Maybe because there are some many other bikes to consider w/ aluminum, steel and now ti.

The bottom line is I'd like a great bike to start out on, light, smooth and sure I'd like a bargain. I know, I know, I'm the only one that can ultimately determine that. I just want a bike I can be happy w/. I really am a wishy-washy consumer.

Thanks for the input
Apr 2, 2002 7:17 PM
"Weight, and it does wear a bit, especially in the bottom bracket area."

Haven't noticed any wear on my 13 year steel frame with 50,000 miles on it. And the weight of many of today's steel frames is about the same as ti. Steelman and IF come it at about 3.5 pounds for 56cm c-c frames--that's .23 pounds more than what Airborne claims for their 56cm c-t frame.

Anyway, if you plan to ride a lot, don't sell yourself short, and enjoy your new bike!

BTW, if you want a bargain on ti, buy a frame from TST and send it to GVH for him to build up.
Apr 3, 2002 8:16 PM
Man, you have had quite of bit riding in that frame. I know whatever I do get I will ride it a lot, I just have to figure it out.

It can get overwhelming as to which one to choose. How's the saying go--the universe offers so much variety precisely so we don't have to choose. The answer to which one is all of them.

I guess that means they're all out there for me to check out.

O.K., now I REALLY have to finish my work so I can go to bed.

Thanks again
Apr 3, 2002 8:23 PM
I know this thread is long since done, but I think I omitted an important part: the universe offers so much variety precisely so we don't have to choose **which one is best.** the answer to which one I should pick is all of them.

There's an important distinction there. Now when I rest tonight, I'll rest easy ; )
I'm impressed with you honest self-evaluation.Len J
Apr 3, 2002 5:30 AM
First of all let me say that I know nothing personally about Airborne, so you might want to go to the next post.........

Some observations about your post as well as some experiences that might help you.

First of all, It is going to seem like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth but bear with me. You make the comment that "The bike shop offered $3,000 for the Merlin, but I don't know. I would like the skills to back up the nice bike, but I'm not there yet. Plus, imagine my first race rolling up on that thing and getting dropped in a second. I gotta to be upfront w/ myself now, it'll bother me later." If you have that money to spend, I wouldn't worry so much about what others think, Merlin is a good bike, and if you stay with it, your skills will improve. In fact, this very feeling may be a positive motivation for you to train more, in order to get stronger, so you won't be dropped. I used to sail, & my uncle would comment "There is always a nicer boat than the one you have." The same is true of riding, There will always be someone better/stronger than you. Are you going to wait until you are a cat 3 to buy a nice bike? When will you be ready. Yes there are cyclist who will judge you a poser/ however, my experience is that the vast majority are just glad that there is someone else riding (Now they may be jealous of your bike that's different! :-))

Now all that being said, being a newbie, you don't know what you don't know. If you stick with the sport, you will be amazed at how much knowledge about your own riding style, about what you like & don't like and about what you want in a bike you will have in a year from now. If I were starting over, here is what I would do. First, I would learn as much as I could about fit. I would then figure out what size bike I needed (With whatever professional help I trusted). I would then scan the classifieds, talk to other bikers & buy a decent used frame with decent components. I would then ride the hell out of it, switching out components to adjust size & fit until the bike fit me like a glove. I would spend my money on great shoes & pedals, find a great seat, tools and other accessories. At the end of next season, I would put myself in a position where I knew exactly what I wanted in a bike and then I would buy it in Oct or Nov when shops are clearing out end of year stuff & I would get the Bike I knew was right for me.

But that's me. I know more advice than you wanted because you have the itch to buy now, been there/done that wasted money doin it.

Good luck.

I'm impressed with you honest self-evaluation.ochsen
Apr 3, 2002 7:59 PM
Thanks for the advice, it's all very good. I'll be rereading your post and the above posts as well. This thread has given me quite a bit to think about. I will say it hasn't turned me off of Airborne, I don't think any more or less of the company before I posted this and I don't think I was looking to. I think I will give other bikes a lot more consideration though. Looking in the classifieds doesn't seem like a bad approach, a lot of work for sure, but I'll consider that as well.

I've been thinking of nothing but a road bike for quite a while now, the season's here and I do want one now. But, I still need to put more time in research and test riding.

If anyone is still reading this thread, thanks for the replies. High end, low end, steel/aluminum/carbon ti, I don't know right now--too much thinking. I just put in a pretty solid 13 hour day, and I still have a couple more hours to do before bed. The life of the self-employed: feast or famine.
Apr 3, 2002 9:25 PM
You rode the Merlin, thought it was awesome, and decided that therefore you should NOT get it?

A couple of thoughts:

1) Ultimately, you've got to be comfortable with your decision, financially and otherwise. But if you get your butt kicked in your first race will it really matter what bike it was on? It's not like people are gonna point and laugh and say "ha, ha, dropped and on a Merlin no less." And I'm pretty sure if you go Airborne you're not going to get pats on the back accompanied by "hey, nice, appropriate bike there for somebody of your so very nascent skills." Not gonna happen. Frankly, I don't know who "deserves" a pro bike other than a person who comes by it honestly. I mean, does the third best Cat 2 racer in your district "deserve" the same bike as Lance or Ullrich? Kloden? Why or why not? And who cares? Listen, if only the pros got pro bikes then ...well, then even the pros wouldn't get pro bikes (Trek, Pinarello, Colnago, etc., etc. pump money into sponsorship and development as mareketing tools right? They want other folks--lots of everyday folks--to buy those bikes too. No other folks, no trendsetters.) Make yourself happy.

2) Steel need not be all that heavy--in fact some steel frames are lighter than the Zepplin you are considering. And I wouldn't think you'd need to worry about wearing one out.
Apr 4, 2002 8:57 PM
Huh, that's a pretty good point about the sponsors. They give the pro teams bikes, but for what? To get other people (non-pros) to buy them. The pros represent such a small cross-section of cyclists anyway, even if they did pay for the bike, the companies wouldn't make any money. (O.K., I just repeated what you said).

I guess it should've seemed obvious but I was missing it. Thanks for the input.
cons mostlyWoof the dog
Apr 2, 2002 9:06 PM
Airborne are cheap ti and you may take some sh!t for riding Chinese bikes. In making a frame, they take shortcuts like straight gauge tubing and cnc-machined bottom bracket shells out of low-grade ti. Do not expect it to be light. I'd expect the frame to be heavier than your average steel frame.

Geometry is of course one of the most important things. The last time I looked into these frames, I gathered that it was more of a frame for people with long torso and shorter legs. One of the bigger concerns is who is this frame for? Airborne is not desirable as a performance frame due to slack headtube (and also maybe seattube) angle. It is harder to fix that with a different fork rake and stem length, I'd say, i wouldn't mess with that. After all, it is the frame for newbies who are scared of criteriums but ride 100+ mile rides where comfort is of value. Yes, give this frame to Armstrong and he will kick ass, but there are reasons why everyone needs the correct frame geometry for their particular purpose. Airborne ain't a racing frame, it is more of a leisure type fun machine to screw around at 15 miles per hour on saturday mornings.

Should I bleach my hair?

Woof the blondog.