April 1, 2011
This is the inaugural post in a new feature that spotlights Adventure Cycling's corporate supporters. These companies support our mission and programs and do some pretty cool things of their own. We decided to ask them some questions and as a result, have learned some really interesting things. The answers below are direct from the companies. We hope that this gives you the chance to get to know them a little better, too.
Quality Bicycle Products (QBP) is currently our only Titanium Level Corporate Sponsor. They are also the parent company of Salsa and Surly bicycles, both among staff favorites for their own rides. Steve Flagg, the company's founder, took a few minutes to give us some insight into his company and their passion for cycling.
Adventure Cycling: Tell us a little bit about your company.
Flagg: We started back in 1981 out of a tiny office space in St. Paul. It was just my wife, Mary, and I, and our dog, Bungie. Some days we’d get only one phone call. We never imagined where it would all lead. Today, we have 450 employees and two LEED-certified distribution centers, one in Bloomington, Minnesota and another in Ogden, Utah. We supply about 5,000 independent bike dealers with parts, accessories, apparel and bikes from our consumer brands All-City, Civia, Salsa and Surly. We also distribute bikes from Ridley, a Belgian manufacturer renowned for cyclocross and road bikes. Our parts and accessories brands have pretty robust offerings, too. Handspun makes premium hand-built wheels. Problem Solvers makes parts that help bike-shop and home mechanics solve compatibility issues. And Dimension makes practical bike parts and fun accessories.
As a company, we’re committed to serving and expanding the bike industry. Officially, our mission is to get every butt on a bike. One way we achieve that is through our advocacy efforts. These have resulted in millions of dollars of federal funds for trail-building projects and national initiatives like Safe Routes to School. We’re also dedicated to reducing our environmental impact and showing other businesses that sustainable practices are good for the planet and the bottom line. Our LEED-certified distribution centers — one in Utah and one here in Minnesota — are very visible examples of this. Community action is a big part of who we are, too. Our employee volunteers give their time and effort to dozens of charities, including local food kitchens like Loaves & Fishes. We also support the Red Cross, World Bicycle Relief, and Trips for Kids.
Adventure Cycling: Talk about what services or products you provide for bicycle tourists.
Flagg: Two of our brands, Salsa and Surly, cater very effectively to bicycle tourists. Salsa is all about Adventure by Bike and really delivers this in its product line with the Vaya road-and-gravel bike, the Fargo off-road adventure bike, and the Mukluk snow bike.
Of course, Surly’s Long Haul Trucker is a touring classic that’s well known to your audience. More recently, they introduced the Troll, a 26” wheel mountain bike that’s very well suited to on and off-road adventure touring. The Pugsley, their fat-tire, all-terrain bike rolls over almost anything — sand, mud, roots, rocks.
With bike touring and adventure biking growing more popular, we saw a new opportunity for bike shops. So we launched Q-Outdoor, a distribution division that specializes in outdoor products like bags and stuff sacks, light tents and shelters, sleeping bags — everything a shop needs to outfit riders for a bike tour.
Adventure Cycling: Why do you support Adventure Cycling through corporate membership?
Flagg: As a company, we’ve really embraced getting every butt on a bike. An important part of realizing that vision is supporting organizations like Adventure Cycling that are so effective at inspiring more people to ride.
Adventure Cycling: What are your five favorite cycling related things right now?
Flagg:Well, the nationwide increase in bike commuting is a very encouraging trend. And we're particularly excited about Minneapolis being named the best cycling city in America. We're also very impressed with the massive impact of Mayor Bloomberg’s bike-lane initiative in New York. From an economic perspective, more community leaders are recognizing that bike trails do more than give people a place to ride — they’re good for business, bringing bike tourist dollars to restaurants, lodging and entertainment venues in trail-side towns — not to mention bike shops. Of course, much of the important work is still being done on a grass-roots level. All across America, volunteer-driven trail development and maintenance projects are making it easier for more people to start biking — and that circles right back to getting every butt on a bike.
Adventure Cycling: Where would you like to see cycling in America in 5 years?
Flagg: I’d like to see biking continue to progress as a more mainstream and acceptable form of American culture. We’ve seen enormous strides toward that with all the bike trails, lanes and paths that have been built over the last five years. This and other factors are causing a groundswell in participation. So there’s every reason to anticipate that the next five years will be even better.
Adventure Cycling: What is your favorite service or program that Adventure Cycling offers?
Flagg: Well, the maps are really top of the list. They are extremely accurate and packed with information it would hard to get from any other source — even your GPS. And they don’t run on batteries, either — a real advantage when your 80 miles from nowhere with another 80 to go. Adventure Cycling’s self-contained and supported tours are awesome. They’re very well organized, expertly led, and reasonably priced, too.
Adventure Cycling: As your company grows, have you had mainly tailwinds, headwinds or crosswinds? Explain.
Flagg: Really, all three are true. When you’re on a bike ride, the winds are going to shift. The same thing is true in business — we’ve ridden through every kind of wind. Sometimes, what appears to be a fierce headwind is really an opportunity in disguise. You adapt. You grow stronger. And you’re that much more ready to fly when that tailwind catches you.
Adventure Cycling: In what order would you list these in importance:
• The Bicycle for Utility
• The Bicycle for Competition
• The Bicycle for Recreation
Flagg: I would rank those number 1, number 1 and number 1. Seriously, I would not put one above the other. They are all equally important elements in the quest to get every butt on a bike. Our consumer brands serve each of these areas and continually discover opportunities for growth in all of them. From our perspective, those functions describe more of a continuum than separate niches. Here’s a story we hear all the time: some guy — or woman — pulls an old bike out of the garage for a little exercise and recreation. Next thing you know he takes it down to the local shop for repairs; maybe he gets a new stem and handlebars for a better fit. A while later he takes the plunge and starts commuting. Then the bike becomes his grocery getter, errand runner, pickup truck — whatever. It just takes off from there. A new bike is inevitable at some point, and as his interests evolve — touring, bike packing, mountain biking, a local cross race or road race or two — so does his stable of bikes. All that begins from a ride around the block on a rusting 10-speed. So yes, it’s hard, if not impossible to put one form of riding above the other.
Adventure Cycling: Have any of your staff ridden Adventure Cycling’s mapped routes? Which ones?
Flagg: A lot of our staff are seriously into bike touring and adventure biking, so Adventure Cycling’s maps and routes are pretty much the bible for most of those journeys. A year or so ago, Salsa’s own Joe Meiser raced the entire Great Divide Route. He likes to travel light but you can bet he was carrying Adventure Cycling maps in his pack.
Adventure Cycling: What do you like best about Adventure Cyclist magazine (other than having your logo appear)?
Flagg: Adventure Cyclist has long been — and remains — the only definitive source for bicycle touring and adventure biking. One of the great things about this publication is that it consistently features real people doing great rides. And by real I mean average folks who aren’t professional athletes, but have a passion for doing something extraordinary. I can only imagine how many epic trips have started with someone flipping through the pages of this magazine. Adventure Cyclist inspires people to get out there and ride, and that aligns very deeply with our own mission.
Adventure Cycling: What cycling related benefits do you offer your staff?
Flagg: We very actively promote all kinds of riding here at QBP. With our commuter program incentives, people earn credits for merchandise when they bike to work or use alternative modes of transportation like walking, public transit or car-pooling. For those who like a little competition, the Commuter Bike League pits team against team in the quest for the highest commuter miles. We have on-site showers, locker rooms, and a towel service. Because we want employees to know and ride our bike brands, we have a demo bike program that lets them experience a wide range of models. We offer generous discounts on bikes, so almost any employee can afford to purchase one. Beyond that, there are all kinds of riding groups here at Q, so there are plenty of opportunities to bike. The brands also sponsor tons of riding events: alley cat, road, cross and mountain races. There’s a whole world of involvement. Longer term, we’re looking at introducing a bike-respite program that would support employees that want to take time off for an extended bike tour or adventure.
Adventure Cycling: Is there anything else about your company that you really want to share with our readers?
Flagg: Most of us got into biking for fun or fitness or competition, but eventually realized there’s a lot more to it than that. We began seeing the bicycle as a vehicle for positive change. By inspiring more people to ride more often, I think we can go a long way toward solving some of the big challenges of the 21st century: energy, the environment, and individual health and quality of life. This is an exciting time to be a biker. A real paradigm shift is happening as more and more people incorporate biking into their active lifestyles. Here at QBP, we’re just thrilled to be a part of it.
Thanks to Steve for taking some time to share his company with us! QBP does not sell direct to the public, but you can find their brands at independent bicycle dealers around the country.
MEMBERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS is typically posted every other Friday by Amy Corbin, Membership and Marketing Coordinator. Membership Highlights spotlights the various benefits of membership,our accomplishments thanks to member support, and even interviews with some of our most passionate and dedicated members, both individual and organizational.