Man on the move
After jobs in grassroots marketing with Coke Foods and Pentax, Worthy went into publishing, working at Rocky Mountain Sports and Fitness and then California Bicyclist in the mid-80s. A decade later, he partnered with McQuaid to publish the official Tour de France guide for the United States and the official World Cup mountain bike guide. (Velo is the current licensee of the Tour de France guide in the U.S.)
All the while, Worthy kept his fingers in other pies, always building his address book. Several sports drink companies sought his skills in their early years, but a turning point came in 1998. Worthy went to the road world championships looking to meet cycling clothing manufacturers. He saw a hole in the U.S. market for custom clothing. Voler and Aussie were around, but at the time no one in the U.S. had a full-zip jersey. America was behind in the custom clothing arena.
Through a connection at Santini, he met Frans Verbeeck, head of Vermarc, and kept in touch with him over the next few years. (Verbeeck was a world-class racer in his day, considered Belgium’s number two to Eddy Merckx.) In 2001, Worthy became the U.S. importer of Vermarc clothing, signing a 10-year contract. In 2011 he re-upped for another 10.
Worthy’s reputation as the “Where’s Waldo” of the cycling industry is built on years of crisscrossing the globe. At the peak of his traveling days, he was on the road for half of the year. Recently that’s slowed down thanks to groundwork laid in years past.
“I don’t go to Europe as much,” he said. “It’s not as romantic as it seems. But I have 12 bikes scattered around the world. In my favorite spots I always have a bike to ride.”
His “favorite spots” include Portland, Marin County, Santa Barbara and Boston as well as Munich, Belgium and Italy. While he doesn’t often travel with a bike, he always brings a yoga mat for his morning stretching — he’s only missed his morning routine three times since 1976. He also brings running shoes, cycling shoes and pedals, making a point that everyone should carry on cycling shoes, pedals and a pair of bib shorts when flying.
“The rest you can borrow,” he said. “But no one wants to ride in someone else’s chamois!”
What’s unique about Brian Worthy isn’t that he rides most days. Pros do that for a living. It isn’t that he travels so much; many in the industry travel more. What’s unique is that Worthy seems to always turn up at the right place at the right time. He has a knack for being where it matters in the cycling world.
While he jokes about having cloned himself, he describes himself as an opportunist. But opportunities are born out of work, and after years in the trenches, thousands of handshakes and plenty of talking, Worthy has capitalized on his opportunities, wherever they take him — which seems to be everywhere.
Brian Worthy’s tips for becoming ubiquitous
1. Never do out-and-back rides. Always do a loop. You can be seen three different times in an hour-long ride.
2. Forget Twitter and Facebook, nothing can replace real face time.
3. Connect the dots: “Usually I can find things out about someone. I can trace someone’s lineage. All you do is connect the dots. I believe in going to the top. Go to the biggest dot. You need to figure out motivations.”