Danny MacAskill: 'It's about riding into places you're not supposed to go, having fun, using your imagination'
- Claire Sawers
- 16 July 2019
This article is from 2019
Taking his outdoor cycling tricks into a circus tent, Danny MacAskill is producing a Fringe show that will be both spectacular and edgy
A pot of coffee arrives to the room at Hotel Du Vin where Danny MacAskill is doing a day of press interviews. Pouring some into the Greggs paper cup still in his hand from earlier, he looks round the room, describing what he sees. 'It's a bit like when you stare out the window in school instead of working. I'm always picturing tricks I could do, or calculating if I could jump a gap.' He laughs at himself. 'Even when I'm meant to be concentrating on interviews, I'm probably imagining my bike sliding over the table.'
The 33-year-old cyclist, or 'street trials rider', put a video of himself on YouTube in April 2009 and hundreds of thousands of people watched it overnight. It kicked off a fast climb to internet and IRL fame which has taken him around the world. He's marking the ten-year anniversary with his Fringe debut, Danny MacAskill's Drop and Roll Live, a three-week run of shows alongside his display team.
In that YouTube clip, which 38 million people have watched now, MacAskill jumps his bike off the rooftop of Macdonald Cycles near Lothian Road (he worked as a bike mechanic there, up until his video went viral), speeds up tree trunks in The Meadows, vaults over fences near Edinburgh Uni, bounces along walls near the castle … 'I was definitely one of those kids who had no fear growing up,' he nods. 'I'd go out every day, every night, on my bike with my pals; I was the smallest and usually silliest enough to try things out first. I bounced pretty well; I was usually the test dummy.'
Growing up in Dunvegan on Skye, he had plenty space to try out new tricks. 'It's never been competitive for me; street trials is not about ending up first place on a podium. It's more creative. It's about riding into places you're not supposed to go, having fun, using your imagination.' The challenge for the live Fringe show has been adapting what fans are used to seeing on YouTube (some tricks are attempted 200 times before making it into the edit) and delivering something 'spectacular but safe', as MacAskill puts it.
Staged in a 550-seater circus tent, MacAskill will perform with a talented team of riders including Duncan Shaw, his friend of almost 20 years. Shaw has his own popular YouTube channel, where he shares tutorials. 'Part of the reason trials is popular is because it's maybe more relatable,' explains Shaw, who's just back from Santa Cruz with the Drop and Roll team. 'We wear normal clothes, jeans and t-shirts, not Lycra or anything. Typical trials stuff is "hoppy", static moves; bouncing on a back wheel, for example. BMXers are more about grinding ledges, bouncing down steps, riding in skate parks. Danny pioneered a crossover between the two. Trials bikes are bigger, like mountain bikes, and don't have stunt pegs on the wheels. So they look more like normal bikes.'