Mert Lawwill

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Mert Lawwill (Born September 25, 1940) is an American professional motorcycle racer, race team owner and mountain bike designer.[1] He competed in the AMA Grand National Championship from 1962 to 1977. Lawwill is notable for winning the 1969 AMA Grand National Championship as a member of the Harley-Davidson factory racing team.[1] After his motorcycle racing career, Lawwill became one of the top motorcycle racing frame designers and builders.[1] Lawwill then used his experience as a motorcycle frame builder to become an innovative mountain bike designer, developing one of the first bicycle suspensions.[2] He also developed prosthetic limbs for amputees.[2] Lawwill was inducted in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.[1][3]

Motorcycle racing career[edit]

Lawwill was born in Boise, Idaho.[1] He started his racing career as an amateur racer on the local TT track in Boise and, later, scramble races (later known as motocross) across the United States Northwest.[1] In 1961, he moved to Los Angeles, California so that he could race at the Ascot Park race track which, at the time was the epicenter of dirt track racing.[2] He gained sponsorship from Dudley Perkins, a Harley-Davidson dealer in San Francisco.[1] It was during this time that Lawwill began to learn about modifying motorcycle frames for racing competitions.[2] By 1963, he had become a professional rider and in 1964 he signed a contract to compete for the Harley-Davidson factory racing team with whom he would remain for the rest of his racing career.[1]

Lawwill won his first AMA national race at the Sacramento Mile on September 19, 1965.[1] In 1969, Lawwill won the AMA Grand National Championship and, was voted AMA's Most Popular Rider of the Year.[1][4] His defense of his Grand National Championship during the 1970 season became the subject of Bruce Brown's 1971 motorcycle documentary film, On Any Sunday co-starring actor Steve McQueen and off-road racer Malcolm Smith.[5] Lawwill continued to compete for the AMA Grand National Championship until 1977 when, he retired at the age of 37 due to an inner-ear disorder that affected his balance.[1][6] He accumulated 161 career AMA Grand National finishes and won 15 Grand National races during his 15-year racing career.[1]

Design career[edit]

In the late 1970s, Lawwill became involved in designing bicycle frames for the burgeoning sport of mountain biking.[2] He was one of the early pioneers in the off-road bicycling world, having introduced the first production mountain bike.[3] He also developed the first commercially produced four-bar linkage suspension for mountain bikes and patented the design.[7] During this period, he continued his involvement in motorcycle racing as a race team owner in the AMA Grand National Championship until 1990 when, he grew frustrated with the way the AMA ran the championship.[2] He then ran the Yeti Cycles racing team competing in downhill mountain bike racing and, developed the successful Lawwill DH-9 full-suspension downhill bike.[2][8] Lawwill's custom racing bicycles became highly prized by top racers around the world and his designs won numerous national and world titles.[1][3][8]

Lawwill is currently involved in constructing and marketing street-legal versions of the Harley-Davidson XR-750 bike that he raced in the Grand National Championship.[2][9] He also runs a non-profit company supplying prosthetic hands so that amputees can ride bicycles or motorcycles.[2] Approximately a third of all the prosthetic hands that he manufactures go to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, for use by military veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Mert Lawwill at the AMA Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Backmarker: Mert Lawwill". Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Mert Lawwill". Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  4. ^ Assoc, American Motorcyclist (1970). "AMA Grand National Champions Past And Present". Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  5. ^ Assoc, American Motorcyclist (September 1971). "On Any Sunday: A Picture surreal, Larger And More Detailed Than Life". Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  6. ^ Assoc, American Motorcyclist (July 1977). "Mert Lawwill. Old? Maybe. Fast? Definitely". Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  7. ^ Hadland, Tony (2014). Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History. ISBN 9780262322225. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  8. ^ a b Heller, Peter (2002). Outside Magazine's Urban Adventure, Denver/Boulder. ISBN 9780393322842. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  9. ^ Girdler, Allan (2005). Sunday Rider. Cycle World. Retrieved 2 January 2016.

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