Bikes. Parts. Chaos.

Your website sucks! You confuse potential buyers and then let them know you are a bunch of assholes simply by the stupid shit you write in your FAQ. Are you trying to alienate people that want to give you money? IDIOTS!

I wanted to buy one of your bikes but your website has turned me off to you and your products. That’s OK there are plenty of bike makers....

(Name withheld)

It IS ok. You’re right.

I love that people want to buy Surly products. We are deeply honored by the fact that you have many options for bicycles, frames, accessories, and equipment, and in the face of all that, lots of you ride a Surly. It blows my mind. Thank you for allowing us to do the stuff we do.

Still, I feel like I need to say it: Surly is not for everyone. I don't mean that it’s an exclusive club requiring a special handshake to enter. It’s just that not everything we produce or do is going to please everyone.

The band of misfit yahoos that make up Surly has changed some over the years, but one of the overarching themes that we’ve managed to keep alive is that we try to be honest. We are who we are. We like bikes. And we generally believe that the hyperbole surrounding bicycle parts and the sales thereof is both silly and weird.

With that in mind, we design the kinds of things we want to ride, and we present ourselves in as honest a way as we know, complete with gaffes, fart jokes, and “bad” words. If you look at our website or read our catalog I think you’ll see that. Call it irreverence. We think of it as mostly unfiltered honesty. If you know us, you’ll know that what you see in our marketing is a pretty accurate representation of us, or at least what we think is funny or awesome. 

With THAT in mind, sometimes those things are not going to be the same things you find funny or awesome. We totally get that. Not everyone likes barfy clowns on their t-shirts, or bedbugs marching across a website, or 8-bit depictions of bird poop. The beauty of this situation is that you don’t have to agree with us to ride a Surly. We believe most people understand that it’s not a requirement to wear our t-shirts or look at those bedbugs to enjoy their personal bicycling experience. I suppose you can buy a Surly because of something you’ve seen us write or a picture one of us has made (but maybe that’s weird too). Some people buy a Surly in spite of those things. You can also not buy a Surly at all because we’re not the kind of people you’d invite over for dinner. Some people make that decision, and frankly that’s o.k. with us.

I bring all this up because we periodically hear from people who live in this last category. They are in that group because of something we’ve written or displayed, or because of something they’ve heard about us. Sometimes those people are angry with us because we don’t see the world as they do. Often, they will e-mail or call us and tell us what has upset them. Many times, I think, they do this to help us see the error of our ways and because they like their Surly and they want to continue liking their Surly.

Lots of times, however, these messages come to us with anger or indignation attached. “Are you aware that the word ‘fuck’ appears in your blog?!? I’m not going to buy a Surly because you people use bad language. You are jerks.”

In fact, some people go so far as to tell us we should change this or that to make ourselves more palatable to them. In some ways, this is the system functioning as it should. I’m sad that this person doesn’t want to buy a Surly because we said a naughty word, but that IS who we are and that person’s choice NOT to buy something from us is based on the reality of the attitudes of the company from whom they are buying.

In fact, the consumer’s power of buying or not buying, boycotting or supporting is an integral check on the ego and economic power of anyone who sells things (or at least it should be, in my opinion.) I like to know where my food comes from when I can, and I don’t do business with a number of places because of what I know about them. Still, I’m sure I buy some things from complete bastards too. It’s pretty hard to be certain either way on this. If the bumper stickers on the truck owned by my lawn mower repair guy give any indication to his real political views, then I’m guessing that we don’t have much in common on that front. Still, he sharpens the hell out of my blades and I like that.

Here’s what Surly is NOT going to do, however: We’re not going to provide you with an image of us that is so squeaky clean as to not upset anyone. I’ve told people in the past who write angry e-mails that it is not our goal to offend you, but it is also not our goal not to offend you. Our goal is to make great riding bikes and not clutter up the world with the kind of overinflated bullshit that we believe is worse than bad words and fart jokes. We will do what we can to offer what we think is advertising and website copy and editorial writing that means something. We hope that it means something to you. But if something we write or draw or say rubs you the wrong way, we know there are people out there big enough to see that that does not affect how our bikes perform. In other words, it’s not that we’ve somehow screwed up and made a mistake. It’s that you and us see things differently. That’s ok. It’s good in fact.

In the end, I don’t want everyone in the world to ride a Surly. I think it would be complicated to produce that many bikes, and I (we) really like a lot of other bikes and the people who make them. We’ve done our best to show you our stuff and have some fun along the way. If that means we can’t be friends, then that’s a bummer, but it doesn’t mean that we have to change our message. What if everyone thought just like you do?

You guys are surly, the name fits…