Dave Gray. Where do I start?
Dave Gray was one of the first faces I saw when I first set foot in the door for my interview at QBP. His desk was the one next to mine from day one and we worked together every day on everything that came across our computer screens for the better part of five years.
Dave was one of the people that trained me into this world of bicycle design, for better or worse. Dave was a few years older than me, but grew up in a rival town of my hometown and so we shared stomping grounds. He was raised by a very similar parenting and character building style as me and although we had refined our level of argument amongst ourselves to an art, a lot went unspoken. Suffice it to say that Dave liked to go for it, so to speak, and the experience he gained from that mentality gave him a great sense of humor and understanding that went a long way towards us getting along. He gave me shit every day for everything he could think of, and I worked pretty hard to return the favor.
Dave Gray seemed to have a reputation of a hardass, but I never experienced anything beyond good natured ribbing from him. Dave was independent, spoke his mind freely, and cared very little about what anyone thought of him, and those traits can be polarizing, especially when combined. Dave loved to challenge people, but he was always prepared to help out and was usually in extremely good spirits. Dave did always have a unique trait in that the worse the conditions generally were, the higher his spirits were. Man that dude loved to suffer.
Photo Cred: Brad Quartuccio
Dave loved to me tease me about being lazy and driving my van places and I loved to make fun of his old man riding style and stubbornness. I know that Dave was secretly jealous that I could wheelie a bike and he couldn’t. We fought constantly but I never got angry with him. OK, maybe that one time. I always thought we worked well together and he is still to this day one of my favorite people I know.
Dave gave a shit and was a good designer. We had about as different styles in designing as riding, but of the things I have designed, I am most proud of ones Dave and I worked on together. I always looked up to him for his work ethic, patience, dedication, and attitude.
Dave sent me this photo a long time ago. I have no idea who took it.
Most of all, Dave knew how to enjoy himself in challenging terrain which made him an excellent teacher of all sorts of things. Feeling stupid is a very beautiful thing and can be rare depending on the people that you are surrounded by. Dave was one of those people that made me feel stupid a lot, and for that I am in his debt.
Dave has moved on from Surly. I remember the day he left because he kept it a secret from me until the very last minute. It was May 25th 2016. I stole a demo Krampus and we rode to the bottle shop, hit the river bottoms, got drunk, talked about the future, and Dave rolled home. I held back and threw a fit like a little baby for a while. I took this picture so I could remember it:
Even though I still miss working with Dave every day, I know he's better off because the dude is a top level predator and cats like that work best with a little room. With Dave I always got the feeling like I was one of those zoo workers feeding the lion on exhibit - I mean, yeah he was usually pretty cool, but I often got the feeling that if cornered that fucker could snap and take a souvenir limb at any point. I've come to the point in my life where I can miss somebody and be happy for them at the same time, and so besides all the rambling, it all makes sense to me.
Like most people that know him, I have an awful lot of good memories of time spent with Dave. To meet Dave is to know that he casts a big shadow. I often think about how much he has done for the bike world and whether I could ever leave a mark as big as he has. We all know that nobody could be Dave's successor, but I can tell you this: In addition to the good fortune of working with Dave, I have also had the good fortune of meeting a few other hardy souls whose very existence forged Surly into the speeding train it was was when decided to jump aboard. And if you know any of them you'll know that every one of these irreplacable people shoveled as much coal as they could before jumping off in their own smokey explosions of fire and soot. And Surly has somehow continued to move forward without each of them, fueled by the common ideals that have caused us all to jump aboard in whatever capacity and duration we could, feeding the fire in our own way. Surly won't be the same without Dave, but it will keep being Surly and of that I have no doubt.
Dave will always have a million ideas in the hopper and he is not done designing and making stuff. Keep your ear to the ground. By the time you hear him it might be too late