Lululemon Elite Ambassador Aaron Gwin is no stranger to the top step of the podium, standing with a wide-spread grin across his face weekend after weekend, during the downhill mountain bike racing season. But what most fans don’t experience is who this World Cup winner truly is when he’s not riding a bike.
Gwin grew up in southern California’s Morongo Valley. A self described “racing enthusiast,” Gwin was introduced to a bicycle when he was just 4 years old as a way to release some rambunctious energy. As soon as he was able to clear all of the jumps at the BMX track near his house, he started racing.
“I’m not sure when I made the mental switch into really wanting to compete, but I know it was pretty early on. When I first started it was just for fun and I liked it, but there was a point in there where it got competitive and I wanted to race a lot.”
After racing bmx until the age of eight, and then motocross from ages 12-17, Gwin switched his focus to downhill mountain biking at the age of 20. Turns out, he was a natural. In his first race, he came in third among elite-level pros and Gwin was already hooked. The sponsorships started rolling in and in both 2009 and 2010 he won two US National Championships.
In 2011, Gwin became the first person, ever, to win five World Cups in a single season. From there, he became more and more successful, quickly establishing himself as the rider to beat and resetting the bar in what was previously thought possible. Gwin was sidelined in 2013 due to a shoulder injury and was unable to defend his title but would come back strong, opening the 2014 season in South Africa with a win and going on to finish second in the World Cup that year. Determined to make his way back to the top of the sport, Gwin would go on to win back to back UCI World Cup titles as well as US National Championship titles in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Despite the already tremendous success that he's had, he looks back on his past results and laughs, admitting with a grin, “I’m enjoying myself and as long as I'm competitive, I’d like to race for as long as possible. I'm getting pretty close to breaking a few of the all-time win records and it would be a great honour to hold those."
In 2016, this high caliber, world-class athlete left Specialized Bicycles, a top team in the industry, with the intention to start his own team. Markus Flossmann, owner of YT Industries, saw an opportunity that he thought would align with Gwin’s ambitions and arranged a meeting. After laying out his company’s values, goals, and intentions for young athletes, it was apparent to both sides that this could be a great fit. Plus, Gwin believed in the products and loved the story behind the company.
“YT stands for Young Talent,” Gwin explained, “Markus, the owner of the company had gone to a local riding spot and saw a lot of young kids riding at a skill level that was making it dangerous for them to be on the bikes they were on. He asked them, ‘why don’t you guys have better bikes?’ And they basically said, ‘we can’t afford them.’ So Markus went home and figured out a way to make good bikes affordable, and a couple months later he made 50 hard-tail dirt jump style frames. They sold out within a month.”
After strong consideration, Aaron signed on with YT Industries and immediately hired the highly experienced and successful team manager, Martin Whitley. Together, the two began building a world class race team that provided a space for Gwin and other young athletes to take their efforts and talents to the next level in a supportive environment.
In addition to being a full-time professional athlete and organising a professional race team, Gwin also studies Greek, regularly plays the guitar, takes singing lessons, and actively pursues multiple other interests, keeping him on his toes year round. Down to earth, relatable, and having a knack for finding the humour in each moment, Gwin is dialling in what he’s learned and is seeking to help those who are looking to him for support: the next generation of riders and young people.
“For me, I've always had the desire to help young kids, to just encourage them in whatever it is that they want to do. There’s a lot of things these days that can easily discourage a kid from pursuing his or her dreams. Helping kids with riding techniques etc. is great, but I want to do something that’s more impactful. Something that goes beyond sport and more into general life."
One way Gwin will be doing that is by releasing a series of videos targeting young kids everywhere who are looking for more information: inspiration, advice, and a foothold into the sport or pursuit that they’re so passionate about. Aaron's focus will be on helping kids believe in themselves by encouraging them to develop wise beliefs behind their actions.
"If you believe in what you are doing and why you are doing it, you will inspire yourself to push through the ups and downs. Self-belief is not some mystical thing, it's actually just logic based on the fact that anyone has the ability to think. If you are able to think then you are able to learn. If you are able to learn something well, you should be able to perform it well. There are obviously a few different factors that can come into play which may help or hinder your ultimate levels of success, but for the most part, anyone is capable of performing just about anything that they want to at an extremely high level. That's the simple truth."
Focusing on self-belief, hard work, and wise thinking, Gwin’s video series will highlight the lessons he’s learned within the past 25 years, the setbacks he’s faced and how he’s overcome them as well as his resilience and resolution to move past injury, self-doubt, and bad races in order to continue to do what he loves on a daily basis.
“At the end of the day, you never really know how good you can be at something unless you try. When you find the thing that you really love to do and your skillset and everything lines up... great things can happen.”
True to his word, Gwin has finally found an outlet to encourage his audience in a way that he believes will be extremely helpful.
Due to roll out in Spring 2017, stay tuned for the first video which will debut on Aaron's various social media platforms.
By Kristen Mohror at lululemon.