The bicycle industry has lost a giant. Bill Fields, a man whose career changed the bicycle industry in the United States has died following a prolonged illness that began with West Nile Virus.
Fields’ career outside the bike industry was significant enough for one lifetime. He worked for Hewlett Packard and later for aerospace contractor TRW. However it was when he set up a publisher’s rep firm to sell advertising that he made his first mark on the bike industry. Clients included Bicycling and VeloNews back when neither was particularly sophisticated at ad sales.
He joined Hester Communications, the publisher of Bicycle Dealer Showcase which was—until the rise of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News—the trade publication of record for the U.S. bike industry (there were others, but BDS was the only magazine worth reading back then). Hester also produced the Long Beach trade show, which predated Interbike’s Anaheim show.
The mark that Fields made that more of you will remember was a magazine called Bicycle Guide. Fields launched that in 1983 only to leave it less than 10 years later to begin consulting to the bike biz. He was particularly active consulting to big bike companies and anyone trying to grow their business.
Less known about Fields was that he also offered headhunting services for the bike industry; that may be the truest indicator of the man’s depth of relationships. No matter what role you needed filled, Fields had a resume in his files that was just what you were looking for.
For my part I was always just a little behind him. I began freelancing for BDS in 1993, years after he had departed, and joined the staff of Bicycle Guide in 1996, again, long after Elvis had left the building. However, I was one of many who benefitted from his headhunting services, primarily as a huntee, but on one occasion as a hunter. If Bill Fields introduced you to someone, it was because you needed to know that person. He was as pleasant as a rose, as interested as a reporter, discrete as a spy and better connected than a smuggler. He was the sort of guy you looked forward to calling.
He leaves his wife, Jennifer Fawcett, three children and four grandchildren.