Ah, the legendary Wingman. A strong, sturdy hydroformed 6061 aluminum frame with muscular tubes that make others take notice and sometimes distract them. Integrated headset. Tektro Auriga Comp hydraulic disc brakes for when its time to put on the brakes and head back to home base. The Marzocchi Bomber DJ-3 fork keeps things smooth no matter what the situation is. Kenda's K-Rad tires wrapped around Alex FR-30 double-walled rims keep things rolling when its time to dash. BFC-II tubular 48-splined cranks with a sealed BB and micro gearing can take a beating while still looking good for the next mission. The cockpit: FUNN Fatboy bars, FUNN Lock-On Grips, FUNN stem, post, and saddle.
Strengths: Awesome total package for the price. Shopped around and couldn't find anything else even close for the $.
Weaknesses: It will never matter for me, but for others, they may want a way to retain the brakes and do tail whips. Only one size (fits me perfect, but not sure about folks much bigger or smaller)
Shopped around for a DJ for a while and found the Wingman. The other review lists everything there is to list about it, so I won't repeat the component spec. What I can say is that the geometry of the bike feels great and the build quality is great. Assembly was simple, especially since no gears to deal with.
from Bayfield, colorado, USA
Date Reviewed: January 30, 2012
Strengths: Component spec is unbeatable at this price point.
Weaknesses: Rear brake hose is a tad short
Its been about half a year since the Airborne Wingman arrived at my front door. Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to put it through proper paces in its intended settings; dirt jump – both “rogue” local trails as well as sanctioned bike parks, several different skateparks, and urban environments including Farmington NM, Durango (what little there is) and Albuquerque NM – which is one of the best street/urban locations in the west. The Wingman performed admirably on all fronts. In paragraphs below, I'll break it down from build to ride to conclusion...
The Wingman arrived in the classic, bombproof, Airborne Shellcase bike box. Any bike packed in one of these containers could fall off a truck, train or small train and be no worse for wear. I spent a couple years wrenching in a shop a while back (okay, waaay back) and never came across a company that protected their bikes so well.
That said, it takes a little time to unwrap the bike. Frames are well wrapped in foam padding, bubble wrap and zip ties. There is some assembly required - once unwrapped one finds that the fork/headset/cranks/bb-drivetrain already installed. Same for the Tektro Hydraulic disc brakes – front and rear. UN-like most Airborne bikes, the Wingman comes spec’d with pedals – a nice set of Wellgo black flat pedals with integrated metal studs for gripping your 510s or other favorite flat shoes. You will have to install the pedals yourself.
The Funn Fatboy bars, FUNN Crossfire 50mm, Throne saddle – also by Funn as well as their Crossfire seatpost will be installed by the end-user (you). Same can be said for the wheelset – which is a pair of bolt-on Alex DP17 Double Wall 32h rims laced to KT sealed bearing hubs. The reset of the spec list boils down like this:
Fork – Marzocchi DJ III w/100mm travel (adjustable preload)
Headset - Ahead Sealed Cartridge 1 1/8"
Brakes - Tektro Auriga Comp Hydraulic Disc front AND rear, 160mm rotors – Note that the brakes come already installed on frame, fork and levers are attached to the handlebar with the FUNN Combat Lock-on Grips in place too.
Cranks - BFC-II Cromoly Tubular with 48 spline 19mm spindle 175mm length, 28T Alu Chainwheel, connected to a 12T rear chainwheel by a KMC Z 510 1/8" chain. Note that the rear hub is freewheel/cassette body – and that the cog is secured by a lock ring rather than the old school thread-on freewheel.
[caption id="attachment_388" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Fancy formed head tube, with the crown of the Marz DJ fork and the bottom of the Funn Stem"] [/caption]
Assembling the loose parts is very straightforward so that anyone with even a light mechanical aptitude should be able to handle it. If one feels intimidated upon opening the box, save yourself the trouble and haul it down to the LBS for professional assembly.
*note: Though it is quite unlikely – be sure to contact Airborne immediately if you find any issues while assembling your ride. If a bolt looks stripped, or if things don’t somehow seem “right”. Don’t force anything, try to fit a square peg in to a round hole, etc. Airborne has EXCELLENT customer service, and they are anxious to help you get your ride set up right the first time.
Setup out of the box, the Wingman feels comfortable. Not too long, not too short – the 21.75” top tube keeps the cockpit comfy and helps the bike maneuver easily when airborne (no pun) and keeps leverage close in when bunnyhopping, dodging and diving in urban situations. The 15.5 inch chainstays keep the back wheel tucked in comfortably, so the Wingman accelerates quickly, while manuals and wheelie tricks are a breeze. Compared to other bikes in the category, the Wingman’s geometry is not too aggressive, and not too relaxed – middle of the road, comfortable and capable.
[caption id="attachment_387" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="a 71 degree seat tube angle and 15.5 inch chainstays keep the bike ready to hop, manual and wheelie with ease"] [/caption]
The Dirt on the Dirt
Being the wingman is categorized as a Dirt Jump bike, that’s where I’ll start.
The majority of riding that I do is Downhill, that is my passion. But my roots are freestlyle bmx/dirt jumping. Its been over a decade since I’ve really spent time devoted solely to that genre, but the desire never left, and muscle memory remains… unfortunately, the coordination and timing did not.
The geometry of the Wingman made it easy getting back in to the groove. Not too relaxed of a head angle, not too steep – keeps the bike on track when accelerating towards a lip, allows for midair corrections without coming off balance. The top tube is long enough to give room in the cockpit to maneuver comfortably, but not so long as to make it “front heavy”. Likewise for the chainstays – short enough to manual easily, but neutral enough that the does not get loopy on the ground or in the air.
Another "hit" for the geometry is how it handles on pump tracks. The wheelbase fits in tight transitions almost perfect, and the ability to get one's weight fore/aft in a quick manner really helps out the "pump". Coupled with the 71 degree head angle, hitting tight berms at speed and keeping your line is no problem.
When hitting rhythm sections/multiple jumps, again the wheelbase really helps out the pump between hits, and 21.75" top tube lets the rider keep control of attitude when airborne. Pushing the front down to nose-dive landings, or pulling the bars to the hips for tuck no-handers all made easy. Another wheelbase related plus would be the ability to steer the bike around 180/360 in the air - it's easy to look around and down under your arm as you pass 180 degrees, and it doesn't feel like you have to pull the front end so hard, it follow with the rider easily through the rotation.
The Wingman comes equipped with a quick-release seat collar - which is nice for the urban stuff, definitely long enough to raise up for pedaling comfort, but I kept mine pretty much slammed for all the dirt jumping.
Keeping traction through the berms and off jumps/landings are the Kenda K-Rad tires, in a 2.3 width. They do a fine job holding a fast line on the packed pumptracks I've ridden, and are very nimble in the air, they do not interfere with trajectory or adjustments when you leave the ground, like some heavier tires might.
Almost forgot to mention the Marzocchi DJ III's. They are a solid stiff suspension system designed to absorb harsh impact, rather than keep the wheels glued to the ground like most xc forks. So set up of these is a bit different, and feel is a completely new world to those new to dj bikes. I'm about 5'8" and 180 ready to ride - and I left the forks at the stock settings, which felt unnaturally stiff at first - you expect a suspension fork to lean towards a plush feel - but that's not what these forks are for. When I think of dirt jumping, I think of dudes riding 20 inch bikes, and they have NO front suspension. I remember the days of riding my old S&M Mad Dog, super stiff bars/stem and high pressure tires. It got to a point where it actually hurt to bunnyhop large gaps or land urban drops. The DJ fork is designed to alleviate the forces of these impacts. And it works. I can run 65 lbs in the tires and still land relatively "soft" from big hits, and my wrists knees and elbows don't have to pay any penalty. Nice.
MEET THE STREET
Point a to point b. Always a little more interesting when there's keen curb to hop, a staircase to hop down, a nice bank leading to a wall... even little curbed islands to wheelie or manual over. The Wingman is at home here as well as is on the dirt.
For street use, I opted to throw a higher volume tire on the Wingman. Even though the Wingman comes equipped with the Marz DJ III, I wanted just a little more cushion for the harsh concrete hits I would embark upon in the mean streets and ditches of Albuquerque. I found that Maxxis Holy Rollers in a 2.4 would sit comfortably between the seat and chainstays. They give the bike a bit more a robust feel, but it also instilled confidence for me. The tire change is really just a personal preference, not a suggestion that Airborne do anything differently with their spec.
From ditches to stairs to wallrides, the Wingman holds its own on the street. The short-ish back end makes hopping curbs and ledges easy, the front end lifts quickly and easily over any obstacle you approach. The head angle makes initiating 180 hops a breeze, you don't have to pre-load so much before the hop, and also helps nicely in un-weighting the back end for lipslides or nose wheelies.
[caption id="attachment_429" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Wallrided are a breeze on the Wingman, point and shoot - the Wingman follow"] [/caption]
The Tektro Auriga Comp Hydraulic Disc brakes are nothing short of amazing on a bike at this (or any) price. They performed very good right out of the box, and required little to no "bedding in" period for the pads. They do tend to be a bit "grabbier", but the grab does soften a bit as they wear in. One can approach tricks like blunts and nosepicks with 100% confidence the brake will hold you. For maintaining a manual, or hopping up to ledge to manual - one finger is all that is needed. Almost unreal.
For street/urban, I found that the 28/12 gearing is little harder than I'd prefer, but your milage may vary. On the dirt jumps, its great and provides decent acceleration from a standstill to the lip of a jump, but for pushing through the city for hours, I ended up a little fatigued. But gearing is another fairly subjective category, and short of adding gears/deraileur/cost to the Wingman, you can have one gear that's perfect for everything. And for it's primary intended use - dirt jumps - it's perfect.
[caption id="attachment_383" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="The sexy dropouts on the Wingman allow some adjust for wheelbase by either adding a link to the chain or changing your gearing setup"] [/caption]
[caption id="attachment_391" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Equally at home in the park as it is on the street and dirt, the Wingman flies where you where need to go without hassle"] [/caption]
Seriously, like the rest of Airborne's line up, this bike is spec'd to the hilt for the price range. DJ III fork. K-Rad rubber. Funn cockpit, saddle and post. Tubular cro-mo cranks. Platform pedals. Geometry is spot on, and the price is more than "right". There's not a part on this bike that does not belong.
The chainstay is the only point on the bike where anything gets "tight". The chain does come closer to the chainstay than most people will be used to, and if your chain gets loose, you will experience rattle as it vibrates against the tube. Easily solved by throwing on a chain tensioner and/or just keeping the drivetrain tight. A little loc-tite on the crank bolts is also a good idea - on any bike.
IF I could "change" anything - I wouldn't. I would ADD something though - about 4-5 inches of brake line for the rear brake, allowing for the bars to rotate 360 degrees before binding up. This would make for ease on tricks like barspins and tailwhips. Again, that's more a preference thing than any necessity. This bike is hot and ready to go as is.
After nearly an entire season aboard the Wingman, I have to say I am hooked - both on the bike, and on the prospect of adding in a missing link of my riding. There is literally nothing to fault with the Wingman, originally offered at $799.95 plus shipping, Airborne has actually DROPPED the price for 2012 to $669.95 - unreal for the spec you get which includes front AND rear disc brakes, a Marz DJ III fork, custom hydro-formed frame... There's nothing not to like.
The Wingman is available exclusively via Airborne's website, www.airbornebicycles.com - and the 2012 price stands at $669.95 plus shipping. You can find more info here: Airborne Wingman page
[vimeo width="540" height="400"]http://vimeo.com/35788925[/vimeo]
*I received the Airborne Wingman free of charge from Airborne as a member of the Flight Crew.