Dave Watson’s grace on his bike has had the biggest influence on me, more than any other rider. He has a long bodied ability; a natural panache that sent him over the rough stuff looking like he was more than just hanging on. Back in his heyday, he was long, he was low, and he represented everything that got me fired up – root ensnared deep woods trails been torn apart by a badass dude on a DH bike. I had seen Dave in person at the races: on Hornby Island racing dual slalom, at Parksville in the DH, and also on the screen; flowing Kelowna step downs in NWD, and flying high above Howe Sound in Ride to the Hills. For my friends and I, addicted to riding our local trails, Dave Watson was a hero: The guy who rode the bike we wished we had, rode the trails we wanted to ride, and wore the clothes we craved.
Back then, the entire culture of North Shore riding was the coolest thing to me. It was an emerging scene of pioneering people, misty forests, high end bikes, and a new way of riding trails in the hills. For me, being just across the water on Vancouver Island, the Shore was so close but so far away. It was a place of big trees, fog, and rain that captivated my mind’s eye. As a teenager my riding buddies and I learned how to hop up and over big piles of logs on our local trails, we bought Roach vests and shorts, and started to build ladder bridges in the forests. Our progression came from our dedication to riding, but also from emulating those on the forefront.
New films and magazine photos of our heroes fueled the fire: Johnny Smoke ducking the noose on Hangman, Andrew Shandro’s tires praying for traction over the most gnarled mess of roots imaginable, Dave Watson riding the craziest looking trail we’d ever seen on Cypress Mountain, for the lens of Sterling Lorence. Mitchell Scott’s article in Bike Magazine, ‘Fear and Loaming.’ Images of soaking wet cedar slats, Rocky Mountain’s Purple Pipeline, and Todd Fiander’s teetor-totter above a pond. Trail names like ‘Ladies Only, Severed Dick, and Flying Circus’ were like hedonistic phrases falling upon the ears of the untainted…….The North Shore was as foreboding as it was tantalizing.
It’s been a cool experience to watch my heroes of the North Shore evolve: Nowadays some of them own bike shops, guiding companies, coaching programs, and others are still riding professionally for the magazines and films. But Dave Watson did something unique, he founded a clothing company: Sombrio. He transferred from being a core rider to someone addressing an issue: What we wear while riding our bikes. Some people shun style and the latest fashions, but the reality is mountain bikers require functional clothing. And back when Sombrio started up, there wasn’t much in the way of riding specific gear for us to wear out on the trails. Riders are out there in the forests, in erratic weather. Dave saw a need for us to ride comfortably, in stylish stuff instead of a mix of clothing designed for other sports. The years have passed and Sombrio has gone from hatchling to full-fledged firebird: tons of awesome gear, team riders, sponsoring events, you name it.
When I saw photos of Sombrio’s new ‘Mobile Brand Experience’ (MoBE), I was super intrigued because it looked like such an expensive fancy looking hunk of shiny metal. It seemed a little over the top for driving around town, and since Sombrio doesn’t have a DH racing team, I was wondering: What the hell is that!?!
I asked around and found out that there is a super unique concept behind the Rig. It is essentially a mobile clothing store, with the entire Sombrio lineup of clothing and footwear displayed, change rooms, and even iPADs to access their website and make orders. On top of that, there is a staff of young folks piloting the movable mother-ship all over North America, pulling the parking brake at bike shops, festivals, races, and all sort of mountain bike events. The crew even has a portable pump track they set up out front for people to ride. I did a little research and couldn’t find much in the way of other companies doing something like this, especially from the North Shore. It’s inspiring to me that Sombrio continues to push the scene and come up with innovative ways to reach people. Dave Watson started off as a North Shore dude riding and racing hard at the forefront of the West Coast riding scene, and now he is spreading that vibe all over North America.
It’s been well more than a decade since my Junior High School days. Back then I was riding as much as possible on my Kona Explosif hardtail and conquering new challenges every ride. The time has flown by, and all the trails I’ve ridden (and re-ridden) up until now have brought me so many experiences and stories. Back in the day, bike companies flogged their products out of simple tents at bike races. Things are much different now and Sombrio’s MoBE is a huge, in-your-face example of that: a way to get the product and culture to riders who haven’t yet heard of or seen the brand. Progression and innovation is part of our sport, and Sombrio is at the forefront.
In the last decade, I have had the opportunity to ride with some of my heroes from back in the day. Although I’ve followed Dave Watson’s progress from professional rider to owner of Sombrio Clothing, I’ve still haven’t ridden with him. I’ve been trying to ride like he does for years and years but have yet to follow the man down a trail. Dave’s influence has gone far beyond just me. Back in Junior High the riding community that became ‘Shore’ or ‘Freeride’ or whatever you feel like calling it was quite small. Not anymore, and Sombrio has been there from the beginning. It’s a great thing to see. I look forward to visiting the Sombrio Big Rig and checking out Sombrio’s latest and greatest. And who knows, maybe I’ll even get to hit the trails with the man himself.
- Riley Mcintosh / sombriocartel