Bikes. Parts. Chaos.

If Common Knowledge and Common Sense Were Actually Common Think of How Much Less Room We’d All Have In Our Brains

There are things about Surly: deep, dark things. Things most folks don’t know about us.  Things that we keep big fat secrets.

That last bit is sort of a big lie, cuz we do actually tell folks all of these things, but it’s far from common knowledge (which in my experience is just about as common as common sense, which I don’t find to be common at all).  Having a recent conversation with an asshole who accused me (and by proxy Surly) of trying to hide the fact that we are owned by a larger company inspired me to write a few things down about us that we feel like everyone knows, but we still have to deal with no one knowing all the time.

  1. Surly is now, and always has been, owned by a bike parts distribution company called Quality Bicycle Products or QBP for short (some say Big Q)(others say less flattering things).  In fact Surly isn't just owned by QBP, it's part of QBP. QBP has over 600 employees.  19 of those folks are dedicated Surly employees.  Many of those employees who are not dedicated to Surly, still are very much part of what we do, and we couldn’t do what we do without them doing what they do.  We share the Quality Control department, of course there are folks in the warehouse who get our products ready to ship to dealers, there is a legal team (whom we provide weekly if not daily headaches for), there is a sales force, customer service folks, custodial staff, a returns department, the folks who take care of our demo fleet, a modest (in size that is) group of marketing persons, a safety and compliance group, and many many more that my hung-over brain can’t shake loose from the grit and dried vomit veneer that coats the inside of the trashcan that I use for a skull. This also means that QBP keeps their parental eyes on us, and even likes to stick their fingers in the uncooked Surly batter and have a taste before we put it in the oven.  We’re given a wide birth, but it remains clear where our paychecks come from.
  2. We make our bikes out of our own branded 4130 steel called “’Natch”.  We don’t have our bikes made from old sewer pipes as some might say, though that would be pretty fucking cool.  For more about our steel you can check out this spew.
  3. We work hard at what we do, and we’re proud of it.  We sit at desks and type away at computers, we pull our hair out, and stay up all night working on bikes, or blogs or whatever, we argue with each other about what is best for Surly, we yell and scream, we stamp our feet and we take our bikes (though pretty much nothing else) incredibly seriously and we go to meetings (lots and lots and lots of meetings).  Some are meetings with other folks from QBP, some are meeting within the factions of Surly (Product, Sales, Marketing), and some are meetings with the whole brand.  Whether it’s just a few of us, or all 19 when we meet it’s usually pretty heated.  You get a bunch of know-it-all, self-righteous bike nerds in one room and try to get a consensus out of that group, good luck to you.  We question each other, and push each other, we tell each other we “hate” the work they do, we use the phrase, “You’re wrong” a lot, we put our fingers in each others faces and we retreat to a corner and cross our arms and get huffy when no one can see our point. It get’s personal, but that’s because to us it’s beyond business; it is personal.  We give a great big, huge, stinky shit about what we do.  We also laugh a lot, and leave home enema kits on each other’s desks, and have fun.
  4. There is no secret plan.  Oh that we had the time to make one.  That could be really fun.
  5. We build the things that we want to ride, or that we want to put on our bikes or bodies.  That may sound odd in a world of product market research, but it’s still how we operate.  We spend a lot of time on our bikes, and none of us are ever satisfied with anything (it’s our husbands and wives that I feel the most sorry for in that arena), and we’re always looking for that perfect bike, always tweaking and always trying to improve.
  6. Surly isn’t just a name like “Starbucks” it’s a descriptor as well.  This is true.  We are surly.  All of us.  We’re a pain in the ass to deal with, we have “smart-mouths”, we laugh at the self-inflicted pain of others, we believe in individuality over all else, we laugh at the us-inflicted pain of others, and we’re pretty much giant pricks who like to have a good laugh and have (what has been described to us as) extreme, dark, disturbing, tactless or otherwise tasteless senses of humor. None of us act like that because we’re part of the brand Surly, all of us act like that and therefore have ended up as part of the brand Surly.
  7. We invented the following: Touring, 11 speed drivetrains, cycling, the bicycle, calling the bicycle a bike, calling people who ride bikes cyclists, tires, mountain biking, 10 speed drivetrains, trigger shifters, bar-end shifters, downtube shifters, 9 speed drivetrains, lock on grips, beer, sunshine, drinking under bridges, 29ers, disc brakes, drum brakes, direct pull brakes, fatbikes, thumb holes in the ends of sleeves, religion, 7 and 8 speed drivetrains, atheism and (of course) the wheel.  Who could forget the wheel?