A Man With A Plan|
Sunday, March 11, 2001
It happens to everyone. We all start out with dreams that we pursue until we start to wonder if we're on the right track. Most of us will slowly wind down the activity until it takes on "hobby" status or even less. Only a very select and lucky few see their dreams turn into reality. Then there's another group who is able to alter their dream into a more realistic pursuit, and sometimes by chance, is able assist others reach their dreams.
Enter Simon Lawton a 6-year DH privateer pro and his company, Downhill Northwest. On a downhill course Simon's 6'5" height and 200+ pounds in the gladiator gear that comes with racing downhill is imposing. Underneath the body armor and full-face helmet is a soft-spoken unabashed mellow guy. But don't take him lightly because this is a man with a plan.
With some ingenuity, business sense and his own passion for teaching, Downhill Northwest brings the "pro" experience to others.
What Downhill Northwest offers is professional instruction and education, factory style support for racers of all abilities and disciplines, plus on-site industry technical and promotional support at national events. Learn to ride correctly, experience the events first class plus small to mid-sized companies can take their message to national events with a representative knowledgeable about the market's needs.
So far over 20 aspiring downhillers have tapped Lawton's knowledge and teaching in an effort to improve themselves. Beginners usually start with multiple lessons to build a foundation. Experts and Pros come to Downhill Northwest to work on specific skills and troubleshoot bad habits that may have developed over time.
The typical progression for a rider under the tutelage of Lawton is:
1. Discuss goals and understand current abilities
2. Build a set of tools for control of the bike
3. Proper brake modulation techniques
4. Being at ease with various pitches of terrain
5. Body positioning to maintain speed & control
6. Remaining calm & confident while airborn
7. Improve the level of ambidexterity in riders
8. Determine the level of commitment each student has, tailor lessons and focus accordingly
Lawton has an uncanny ability to fluidly communicate physical movement with words in a manner in which they are easily understood. While talking, his mix of body language and words clearly communicate the correct position for landing a drop-off. I'm thinking to myself, "where's my bike, I've got to try this!" I'm learning techniques in the middle of this interview!
Joining Lawton for 2001 will be former Yeti-pro, Oregon native and really fast guy, Jason Sigfrid. A consistent Top-10 finisher in the National Championship Series, Jason brings skills and insights honed on World Cup courses to share with Downhill Northwest students.
Okay, after a few lessons you know everything, right? Well why not put it to the test at a NORBA national event? Racing can be intimidating if you're not familiar with the routine. Downhill Northwest provides a complete race support package for amateurs and pros so that you can have the same experience as Myles or Lopes. On-site lodging, mechanic support and other perks mean there's only one thing for you to do - race! About the only thing not included is the factory tractor-trailer but who knows - maybe in 2002?
A third component to the Downhill Northwest business is industry support. Getting a few company reps, promotional gear, demos and product to an event is pricey. While still developing this aspect of the business, Lawton acts as an on-site event rep for companies without the humungous marketing budgets. Mountain Speed, makers of the MRP chain guide, has already signed up to take advantage of the cost savings. "We are very excited to continue our active support and participation with Downhill Northwest" stated Mike Cuddihee, Moutain Speed's Global Sales & Marketing honcho.
An ingenious combination of services for beginners, advanced riders and the industry is sure to catch on. Simon has developed a way in which he can continue his lifestyle as a professional mountain biker but give back as well. As he mentioned, "It's absolutely amazing to see people change over the course of lessons. Not just improve their bike skills but gain confidence to do what ever they choose to do in life."
The cyclical approach of correctly teaching the sport, improving the race experience and supporting the industry in an innovative way is what caught our eye. The byproduct of the service is a camaraderie that develops at the events and carries through as friendships develop. "You're more than a student or racer, you're part of the Downhill Northwest team and a part of the scene," according to Lawton.
Throughout 2001 the guys at Downhill Northwest will be presenting articles on technical riding tips and helpful hints to dial in your bike or improve fitness. While certainly no replacement for a private lesson, we think you'll reap the benefits.
For more information on Downhill Northwest and their services, visit www.downhillnorthwest.com or contact Simon Lawton at 206-329-0686 or toll free in the U.S.A. at 877-329-0687.