Walmart’s pop-up bike brand Viathon turns heads Carlton Reid sits down with brand manager Zack Spinhirne-Martin
iathon is a start-up carbon bike brand with a difference. It’s not the products: a three-frame range of MTBs, and gravel and road bikes. It’s not the frames: they aren’t open-mold no-names, all three shapes were CAD-designed by the legendary Kevin Quan Studios of Toronto, Canada. The difference is being wholly-owned by US hypermarket chain Walmart. Cue the cheap-crap jokes. But the bikes are neither crap nor cheap. Don’t squint at the pictures, the forks face the right way. Dollar-for-dollar there are other carbon-framed high-end bikes out there that undercut the Viathon offerings. There are no whiz-bang spangles – for instance, the MTB is a vanilla hardtail.
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You cannot buy a Viathon bike from one of Walmart’s 4000+ US stores (or from Asda supermarkets in the UK). Sales are via the brand’s website, and this does not feature the Walmart name in the ‘about us’ section. (The Walmart connection can be found only on the site’s copyright line.) The website has no we-canoffer-keenest-prices-because-we’re-Walmart spiel. Viathon is a standalone direct-to-consumer brand that, by rights, shouldn’t exist. Why would pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap Walmart be interested in such a high-end part of the bicycle market when the market-dominating retailer is already America’s biggest seller of keenly priced bicycles? The simple answer is: because it can. And it’s not as though it was even that expensive to create, at least not in Walmart terms.
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