How to Break Into the Cycling Industry – Raleigh Bike’s Frontman Brian Fornes

Brian Fornes, racing at CrossVegas, makes marketing "work" look easy.

We love the tradeshows and press events. They’re a smorgasbord of shiny new bicycle awesomeness. But day after day of lugging cameras, iPads, laptops and more around with nothing more than a few three-quarter-inch Clif Bar samples and 2oz cups of Kinetic Koffee fueling mad dashes across a couple square miles of booths can drain us.

That’s why it’s always refreshing stopping by the Raleigh booth. Brian’s always good for a laugh, usually good for a cold beverage and better than most at returning emails in a timely manner. He makes our job easier covering Raleigh’s bikes, which generally results in better coverage for their bikes. He’s also the guy that helps us line up two wheeled things to review (we’ve got a couple in the queue now, actually). Beyond our little Internet world, though, Brian gets the Raleigh brand out in front of people, choosing events that build on the brand’s growing relevance in cyclocross and urban/commuter bikes. He puts a face on the brand.

As of late, he’s also charged with convincing people the 125-year-old-brand can make a very modern carbon fiber road bike and 29er. Here’s how he got there…

BIKERUMOR: Who are you and what are you doing here?

BRIAN: I’m Brian “Sally” Fornes and I work for Raleigh America and am the Raleigh Marketing Guy. I think the title is actually Marketing Manager, and how you manage marketing…your guess is as good as mine. I do know I have a lot to do with the social media, sponsorships (from teams to individuals to events), brand image, ads in magazines and web, talking about bikes, getting bikes in hands of people who talk about bikes, riding my bike, drinking beer with people who like bikes, going to trade shows, organizing photo shoots, the list goes on and on. Some days it feels like additional duties get made up and lumped under the title. Although, I know a lot of people look at it as the Fun job…and some days, I tend to agree.

 

 

 

Ringleading the 2010 SSCXWC in Seattle.

 

 

BIKERUMOR: What was your first job or experience in the cycling industry? How did you “break” in?

BRIAN: I think I started like a lot of folks do…I was a shop rat. I hung around the campus bike shop enough that I eventually got a job there. I was in sales but really wanted to be a wrench. Bikes may be inherently simple…but there’s something amazing about making them work well…and I wanted to do that.

After I graduated from college I was burned out on school…so I got my USAC Mechanics License and volunteered up some time at the US Olympic Training Center In Colorado Springs. They took me on a couple trips and I got offered a job as a travel wrench. That got me 3 years of service and 1 Olympics under my tool belt. After Sydney I got burned out on the hours, athletes, coaches and stepped away from the Pro Wrench scene and got back into a shop.

Unfortunately, my travel bug was still firmly in place so I started leading bicycle tours. However I quickly discovered that being a Bicycle Tour Guide was just like being a Traveling Wrench…I just got to eat better and sleep in nicer places. So I I spent the next several years doing whatever would make me money…(go ahead and use your imagination, cause I probably did it)…but at the end of it none of it made me happy. Bikes made me happy. So I contacted a good friend of mine (whom I happened to work with previously in a shop) and asked if Raleigh was hiring. He told me Raleigh was in need of a Warranty person and offered me a job. Two weeks later I left my ski bum life and traded it for the “industry”.

BIKERUMOR: What’s your educational background?

BRIAN: I actually graduated with an English Degree and a Teaching endorsement. I was going to mold and sculpt the minds of future leaders of the free world. Fortunately for them, I couldn’t get away from bikes.

BIKERUMOR: After that first experience/job, what was the path to your current position?

BRIAN: I spent 2 years in the Warranty trenches at Raleigh…not easy mind you…and then got promoted to being a Parts and Accessories Assistant Manager. During this time I became really good friends with the Marketing Manager at Raleigh. We rode, chatted, started up a little Raleigh Blog and tried to show folks that there were passionate people that worked at Raleigh. The blog never became huge, but it did become a form of resume for me when my friend left and the Marketing job opened up. I was unsure of my ability to do that job (as I have a tremendous amount of respect for the person who did it before me), however my current boss had a lot of faith in me and was quite persistent. I’ve been doing Raleigh’s Marketing for almost 4 years now.

Riding (front, left) and "working" at the Dead Baby Downhill fun ride in Seattle.

BIKERUMOR: What’s a normal day for you?

BRIAN: No such thing as a “Normal” day. One day I could spend the entire day surfing the internet, checking out bike videos or looking for a new direction. Next day I’m in spreadsheet hell, doing expense reports, planning events, ad planning, writing up sales material, and updating social media. The day after I’m at a photo shoot and riding my bike all day. The day after that I’m in meetings presenting our new lines of bikes and answering emails in airports. Then I’m putting together sponsorship packages, helping sponsored riders, answering emails, returning phone calls, sending bikes to magazines. Then the weekend hits…and I go to bike related events all weekend. From alley cats, to crits, to goldsprints, to MTB events, CX races, or just straight up booze cruises. Monday rolls around and we start all over again.

Rejected photo from a catalog shoot.

BIKERUMOR: What are the highlights of your job?

BRIAN: Part of my job is to be social…and the bike industry is full of amazing people with varied backgrounds. Getting to know the people that help make the “wheels turn” in this industry has been amazing. I think that becomes evident in the project bikes and collaborations we’ve been doing lately. The creativity that flows from doing bikes like our Carbon SSCX rig, the Macaframa Track frame, the Twin6 SSCX frame is just pure fun.

And honestly…we’re all here for the bikes. Since I’m usually out and about, talking to press, shops, etc…I NEED to have the latest and greatest the company is making…which ain’t too shabby.

BIKERUMOR: What could you do without?

BRIAN: Spreadsheets. Ask my bosses, this is perhaps (ONE of) my biggest flaws. My mind just doesn’t work in a spreadsheet world.

BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give to someone looking to follow your path today?

BRIAN: I don’t know if I’d recommend anyone following my path. I never had a clear direction of where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do…still don’t. I’ve been fortunate that my passion has led me to where I am today. If were to look back on it all though…my time in a shop got me started, and my ramblings on the internet got me to where I am. I guess it just goes to show that drinking beer and riding bikes can pay off.

Taking his job seriously - Beer coozie helmet matches Raleigh's limited edition carbon fiber SSCXWC frame.

Comments

Josh Kollman - 01/17/12 - 8:41pm

Knew Brian “Sally” in college. Nicest guy in the world, and a great athlete. Besides cycling, he is one of the best ultimate frisbee players I’ve ever seen. He can make friends with just about anyone, so his success doesn’t surprise me.

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