Skip to main content.
Bikes. Parts. Chaos.

Original words by: Aaron Domeier

So, for the past couple of years, I’ve been doing installments of “Tales along the Road” as a way of giving praise to the many awesome shops and shop people giving their time to sell our superior steel in far off lands. I intend on continuing this tradition, but under new moniker and a new angle. I bring you, “Tales from Steel Force I”. I fully plan to continue my efforts to bolster the shops that do us proud, but maybe this time around, it’ll give me great insight and perspective of the people that make the Bike Industry tick. I’ll do it from the perspective of a van. Yeah.

Maybe I’ve spent too much time alone on the road?

Four different colored Surly demo day fliers taped to a glass window

 You see, Surly acquired a tool that can take a bike brand to the next level the demo world. A single object, so hallowed that it beckons a unique breed of human, capable of harnessing the power of the demo van. These handlers have created secret alliances across the land through clandestine meetings, secret handshakes, and blood pacts set life-long debts to each other. Alliances not easily forged by strangers. Alliances forged in fire. You see, to gain acceptance into this order, some things must be set right before acceptance can be marked. Challenges met by nothing less than a champion.

Person holds a burning bush next to a campfire at night with a person holder their arms out

I, of course, speak of the branded van. There are many branded vans out there. There are many like it. But this one, this one is ours. It says so on the side. See, right there. Surly. S-U-R-L-Y.

Left side view of a black cargo van with bikes on the back, driving on a snowy road

A branded van is the token entry into this fabulous world. It is the cost of admission in a world of windshield time, books on tape, bad posture, and an even worse attitude.

Demo drivers make demo vans go; demo vans make bike demos go.

Think of us as a bunch of rogue pirates, begrudgingly accepting marching orders with labored acceptance as dreams of the freedom and the open road dance in our sideview mirrors. The van is our cutter, our Black Pearl, or whatever the hell Jonny Depp calls that buoy he calls a ship. (does his ship have an inverter and kick ass glow lights? Doubt it.)

You need to customize that shit.

Two Surly pop up canopies with red string lights lit up in front at night in the woods

Bikes line up in front of two Surly pop up canopies on a paved lot

In comes the wrap job. Wraps on vans are common. Good artwork on vans is not. The wrap job on your van sets you apart on the playground much like a Pittsburgh Penguins Starter Jacket used to set you apart from all the San Jose Shark Starter jackets of the world. Custom art work is like a GOOD tattoo. Yes, tattoos can be cool Gary. Does that mean all Tattoos are cool? No. No, my friend, no it does not. (No Ragrets anyone?) The better the art, the more your brand stands out from the crowd. If you want an example of an God Tier van wrap, scope both Industry Nine vans, both are custom and one has a wizard. A fucking Wizard. Levitating a wheel. Dude.

 Now that you have your van and your wrap, you must learn to wield that sword. A demo driver’s record could be spotless, but that doesn’t mean shit if you can’t back that van into a row of other vans and not muck it up for everyone else. The rules are simple, back your van up whenever you can. This maneuver makes great logistical and tactical sense: Your rig is now ready to tear ass to-or away from anything. FIGHT OR FLIGHT BABY!! Say you just realized you’re an hour late for a demo because you stopped for some top-level SHEETZ grub, and you hear cries of some concerned citizen that is sitting at the trailhead, all alone. With no one to swap their brake levers to moto, or replace a tube on their non-demo bike, or bleed their mechanical brakes. And you gotta Boogie like right NOW!!? No problem. Put that golden chariot in Drive and PUNCH IT CHEWEY! You now can enjoy full visibility of all the little parking lot goblins that wish to make your day a living hell.

Let the world know the power of your brand by the trail of dead Left Lane Lurkers in your wake as you leave their weak ass automobiles in in your sideview mirror. Turn and burn time.

Three people standing next to a building at night looking into the trees

Pro tip: When backing in line with other parked demo vans. Fall in line and make a pretty picture will yah? Don’t be a fucking artist. This is not time for some art school grad to decide they want to “Draw outside the lines”. Be a trooper and get your van in profile, cool? Cool. (Full disclosure: I fully endorse “drawing outside the lines” for everything in life except Van parking and field sobriety tests) Now that you have learned to park your van like an adult, you have earned Tender Foot rank in the rogue, splinter cell faction known as Demo Drivers.

We out there. Our vans are the source of our power. Take heed to that power and use your turn signal. Get out of the left lane unless you are passing. Never forget- we have air compressors.

This, friends. Is the first instalment of “Tales from Steel Force I”

Two hands holding up white plastic cups in front of an outdoor fire pit with people in the background

Stay tuned for more Tales from Steel Force One in the upcoming months. Until then, take both red and blue pills, breath deep and enjoy the ride.






…don’t forget your towel next time, OK?  

Right side view of a green Surly bike, mounted on the rear of a black van, in a parking lot with trees behind