Not long ago, David Gray took a Surly Big Dummy for an outing.
“People always stare when I bring out Big Dummy,” comments Gray, without the slightest apology for using a word like “dummy” in conversation. After all, the Big Dummy he’s referring to is a bicycle-one of the craziest, most eye-catching bikes on Minnesota’s trails, and Gray’s favorite mode of transportation when he has something to haul.
Gray, a product designer at Quality Bicycle Products in Bloomington, has lugged furniture, groceries and the occasional stranded pedestrian on the back of Big Dummy. With its long, lanky body and steel frame, Big Dummy is tailor made to support weighty hauls. The trick for the cyclist is to maintain balance and work those leg muscles.
Minnesota bike enthusiasts grow starry-eyed at the mention of Quality Bicycle Products. QBP is a one-stop emporium of all that is new and unique-not to mention tried and true-in bicycles, bike parts, accessories and apparel. As a distributor, QBP warehouses and ships bikes to more than 5,000 independent retailers. As an innovator, QBP designs bikes and bike parts for niche markets. Among their lines are Dimension for fashionable bike accessories; Salsa Cycles for road, mountain and cyclocross bikes; and Winwood for high-end specialty bike components and accessories.
David Gray and Scott Thayer work for QBP’s house brands. Gray designs bikes for Surly (sturdy, no-frills, road, mountain and cross bikes), while Thayer is brand manager for Civia, a QBP line devoted to the commuter bike market. Both have worked at the company for a decade or more. Both are bike junkies. Like many of their co-workers, Gray and Thayer live in Minneapolis and commute to work every day by bike.
“It’s like there’s a north-south bicycle freeway that people from QBP take to and from work,” says Thayer. Originally from Michigan, Thayer made trips to QBP in college and then courted human resources with resumes and phone calls until a position opened. The position was in accounting, hardly Thayer’s forte, but he saw an opportunity and grabbed it.
“A lot of us have stories like that,” says Gray, who worked his way through several departments, including warehousing and fulfillment, before landing his design job with Surly. Gray tinkers with bikes at QBP and in his home-based workshop. He and Thayer also pitch QBP bikes at trade shows around the country.
Thayer’s Civia bikes adopt their model names from Twin Cities geography. The Bryant, named after Bryant Avenue, is one of the newer designs.
“The Bryant is a higher-speed, longer-distance commuting bicycle. So it comes with attachments for a rear rack and is also front-rack capable,” says Thayer. He emphasizes the advantage of the model’s internally-geared hubs and belt. “With a belt, you don’t have to worry about lubrication or getting a big grease smudge on your pants.”
The Bryant’s belts are designed by the same company that manufactures belts for Harley Davidson.
“They add carbon fiber to the belts, so you don’t have the stretching. These belts actually have three to four times the durability of a traditional chain,” says Thayer.
One of the QBP office highlights, aside from the in-house espresso bar and Dog-of-the-Day Program (whereby an employee can bring his/her dog to work for the day), are the outdoor and indoor bike racks.
“We tend to ride a lot of what we sell and design. So you see a lot of Surly, Civia and Salsas on the racks,” says Gray, who’s partial to the Surly Pugsley for snowy or sandy terrain. The Pugsley is a squat, powerful “adventure bike” on 4-inch wheels and Large Marge rims, engineered to bash through thick Minnesota snow. Gray races his Pugsley in the annual Arrowhead Winter Ultramarathon near International Falls.
The employee bike racks are also the showcase for test models-models that Gray, Thayer and coworkers try out on daily commutes before the official unveiling. Access to wheels is another plus of working at QBP, but stamina and leg power still cost extra.
The first Wednesday of every month, QBP hosts free public tours of its Gold-Certified LEED office complex for people to see what’s new.