All posts by Griff Wigley

Gary Sjoquist, a man on a bicycle mission, with a company where you’d like to work

Gary Sjoquist, Hans Rey, John Gaddo, Jeff Verink QBP HQ in Bloomington, MN Gary Sjoquist, Griff Wigley
If you care about bicycling for yourself, your kids or your town, you should know what Gary Sjoquist is up to.

QBPI met Gary over beers in Crosby, MN a month ago (left photo, blog post here). He’s the Director of Advocacy for Bloomington, MN-based QBP (Quality Bicycle Products), one of the largest bicycle parts distributors in the world.  He invited me to take a tour of QBP’s headquarters and yesterday I took him up on his offer. (Photo album below.)

MORC MN Mtn Bike Series 2011 Trips for KidsMinnesota High School Cycling League
Among his Minnesota-related activities, Gary co-founded Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC) “a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to safeguarding the future of mountain biking in Minnesota… ” One of MORC’s projects, which Gary has worked on for over ten years, is the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System that opened a month ago in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. The Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival is what got me hooked on mountain biking and spending more money than I’d ever imagined at Milltown Cycles.

Gary’s the director of the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, a non-profit organization that, besides hosting the races, uses the entry fees to fund:

  • Trips for Kids, “which provides inner city kids the opportunity to experience mountain biking on our Minnesota trail system.”
  • The new Minnesota High School Cycling League, “a newly formed Minnesota State High School League-sanctioned sport that begins competition in September of 2012.”

Nationally, Gary’s the Director of Government Relations for the Bikes Belong Coalition:

Bikes Belong CoalitionBikes Belong Coalition was formed in 1999 as the national coalition of bicycle retailers and suppliers working to put more people on bikes more often. U.S. bicycle companies recognized that they could accomplish more for bicycling by working together than by working independently. From helping create safe places to ride to promoting bicycling, we carefully select projects and partnerships that have the capacity to make a difference… Additionally, we operate the Bikes Belong Foundation to focus on children’s programs and bicycle safety.

For more on his work, see the 2008 Bike Radar article, Interview: Gary Sjoquist, advocate.

As you’ll see in my photo album, QBP’s headquarters and distribution center is not only huge, but spectacular. And it’s got a reputation as a great place to work. Their Career and benefits page has the details on why.

See my album of 30+ photos, the large slideshow (recommended), or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Why I didn’t buy my mountain bike from Milltown Cycles

Robbie Wigley with her new Trek 7300 WSD from Milltown Cycles, somewhere on the Sakatah TrailRobbie bought her new hybrid bike (Trek 7300 WSD) at Milltown Cycles a month ago and was pleased with the advice/treatment she got from owner Ben Witt and manager Curtis Ness. The day she purchased the bike, we couldn’t wait for them to assemble it as we were due to meet some friends at the Cow.  No problemo. Curtis delivered it to our table.

So after I spent a weekend at the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival trying out mountain bikes, I spent an hour with Ben at my morning office at the Blue Monday, talking pros and cons of all the possible variations of which mountain bike to buy, given my price range, riding ability, planned use, etc.  His recommendation: a 29er hardtail, the Gary Fisher X Caliber.  I told him to order it and promptly tweeted the news.

A couple hours later, I got an email from Ben (he also uses Google Talk/IM which I found to be very helpful):

I hate to say it, but I can’t get that bike for you.  They are sold out for the year, and they don’t list an estimated time of arrival for the new 2012 models.

He then recommended that I get the bike from a competitor, Penn Cycle in Bloomington, which did have one in stock in my frame size:

I’m sorry to have that as the only option I can offer.  There are not many bikes that are similar to that to offer as alternatives.  I think you’d be very happy on that bike, and we can easily get the tires, pedals and other accessories here for you.

Ben Witt and Griff Wigley with a Gary Fisher X Caliber at Milltown Cycles in Faribault, MNBen Witt and Griff Wigley with a Gary Fisher X Caliber at Milltown Cycles in Faribault, MNWhaaaa?  Couldn’t he could sell me another bike in that price range with similar features? I wanted to buy a bike from him.

He was adamant. The X Caliber was the bike that was best for me and it made no sense to wail till fall to get one.  He was confident I’d be a long-term customer of Milltown Cycles and that he’d make a fair profit from whatever accessories, parts, and service I’d need.

I got my bike later that day.  And a few days later, he outfitted it with Eggbeaters and tubeless tires. Watch out, Hans Rey.

Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival grand opening: John Gaddo and Hans "No way" Rey dazzle the crowd

Hans Rey, Griff WigleyAs I got ready to dig into my plate of lasagna at Maucieri’s in Crosby last Friday night, in walks Hans “No way” Rey, “considered the world’s leader in extreme mountain biking… a former trials riding world champion, a showman, a stuntman and an adventure mountain biker.”

He was the featured stunt rider for the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival, brought to the event courtesy of GT Bicycles, with financial support from MORC, IMBA, and Bloomington, MN-based QBP (Quality Bicycle Products), one of the largest bicycle parts distributors in the world.

Gary Sjoquist, Hans Rey, John Gaddo, Jeff VerinkHans is a god, even in my world of motorcycle trials, so I was thrilled to be invited to join him and some other mountain bike industry guys for dinner and beers. In the photo, L to R: Gary Sjoquist, Advocacy Director for QBP; Hans Rey; John Gaddo, Inside Sales rep at QBP; and Jeff Verink, sales rep with GT Bicycles and the talented master of ceremonies for the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival.

While chatting with John Gaddo, I learned that he grew up in my hometown of Northfield.  Many locals might know his dad, general manager at the former WCAL-FM. John mentioned that he was also a trials bicycle rider but I had no idea the level of his skills until he teamed up with Hans for the bicycle trials exhibition on Saturday night.

I borrowed my son Graham’s mountain bike for this trip, but it’s safe to say I’m hooked on this sport and will have one of my own soon. Blog on!

See my album of a dozen photos of the John Gaddo bike trials exhibition, view the large slideshow (recommended), or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

See my album of 28 photos of the Hans Rey bike trials exhibition, (and photos of Hans signing posters and speaking about his Wheels 4 Life non-profit), view the large slideshow (recommended), or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

See my album of 40 miscellaneous Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival Grand Opening photos, the large slideshow (recommended), or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

See my album of 26 Cuyunda Lakes Mountain Bike Festival Grand Opening Kids Bike Races, the large slideshow, or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow: