MiVT: Bag Riders

Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:29 PM EDT
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WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Some people use cars as a way to get from point A to point B. But for others, it’s more of a passion.

“Kind of an artistic outlet but also just a lot of fun,” explained John Hall, the CTO and CEO of Bag Riders.

Hall says part of that passion is modifying your vehicle to be exactly what you want.

“You can take a car that you see hundreds of and you can really make it your own,” he said. “Whether it’s different wheels, or in our case, suspension.”

Bag Riders in Williston is helping car enthusiasts do just that. The so-called One Stop Drop Shop has been at it since 2009.

“We specialize in aftermarket air suspension components, really for lowering vehicles like all the cars you see around me right now,” Hall said, motioning to a number of modified BMW and Audi sedans parked nearby.

It all began when four friends at Champlain College-- John, Kevin, Will and Alex-- were looking to lower their personal cars using air suspension kits.

“When we sought to put it on our own vehicles, we went out to the internet, and this was in 2009 or so, and could not find neither a place to buy everything nor a place to find really trustworthy information,” explained Hall.

Identifying the market gap, the four friends decided they would fill it themselves. Bag Riders initially began out of a condo while they worked through the logistics.

Eventually, they figured out a way to help customers get all of the components they need to lift their cars into one kit. The star of the show is the air spring, also known as the air bag. As you might assume, this part is different than the safety airbags inside cars. “Air bag” is slang common in the car community when referring to mechanisms that raise and lower cars.

“So you might say like, ‘I’m on bags, you’re on bags, are you bagged?’ And that’s really where the term bags comes from... and hence, Bag Riders,” explained Hall.

Some people may wonder why someone would want to lower their car. Hall says there’s a logical answer.

“For one, it looks cool,” he laughed.

Hall says it helps drivers achieve the sporty, racecar look and comes with a number of performance benefits.

At car shows, the car can be dropped to a level so low that you couldn’t drive it that way. When it’s time to drive, it can be raised up to get to driving height, while still being pretty low to the ground. And when you need the car to go over speed bumps, rocky terrain or up a steep driveway, the car can go up even farther to help clear the obstacle. All of this can be done with the touch of a button, either in the car or on a smartphone.

Even with several thousand dollar price tags, these kits are remarkably popular with car enthusiasts. Their growth in recent years initially moved them out of the condo and into an industrial space on Ethan Allen Drive in Burlington. They’ve since moved into a massive warehouse space in Williston on Shunpike Road, and have a satellite office outside of Denver.

In Williston, the team of 30+ Bag Riders employees does research and development testing on cars of all types.

“When we’re developing a suspension kit, we’ll buy the vehicle like you see behind me here, and then we’ll design. We’ll usually scan the suspension components that are on the car, and we’ll design the bracketry that’s specific to that car to mate our air springs to it,” explained Hall.

The kits are make and model specific. So far, the Bag Riders team has about 30-or-so kits developed for all types of cars.

This talented team says they’re planning to keep engineering and expanding.

“We really have committed ourselves to this and growing our business, and just being a bigger part of the automotive community as a whole,” Hall said.