It would be fair to say that trials bike rider Danny MacAskill is in a pretty good place right now. Literally. “I’m actually sat outside the hotel in a pretty ritzy part of Monaco,” he says down the phone. “It’s crazy”.
He’s spending the weekend on the Riviera at the invitation of his major sponsor, Red Bull, who have flown him out for the Monaco Grand Prix for the premiere of his latest video Epecuén.
“I did a show thing and Daniel Ricciardo was there when I was warming up. He had a go on my bike. He’s actually quite handy on it eh!”
Listening to him talk excitedly about meeting the formula one driver, it would be easy to forget that this unassuming Scotsman is a huge global star in his own right.
His various Youtube videos have racked up a staggering 100 million views. 60,000 Twitter followers hang on his every word and he has 550,000 fans on Facebook – more than three times as many as Ricciardo.
“Danny’s racked up a staggering 100 million Youtube views. 60,000 Twitter followers hang on his every word and he has 550,000 fans on Facebook.”
Surely he’s getting used to being a part of big events like the Grand Prix these days, I ask? “Naw, it’s all still very new to me, stuff like this,” he says, his Scottish accent crackling down the line. “It’s quite surreal.”
But then again perhaps it’s not surprising he doesn’t feel entirely at home. The international jet-set world of formula one is a far cry from the tight-knit trials bike scene MacAskill came from.
And Monaco, the playground of the rich and famous, couldn’t be further away from where his journey began in the tiny town of Dunvegan, on the far west of the Isle of Skye.
From the West Coast to the World
It was there, at a very early age, that Danny first got into bikes. “I must’ve been maybe four years old and I can vividly remember trying to do skids and wheelies on my garden path on a bike my dad got me out of the back of a skip.”
“I don’t know where the inspiration came from to try tricks ‘cos I don’t remember seeing anything like ET on TV, but I still have vivid memories of falling off the whole time and crashing into my garden gate.”
The remoteness of the landscape around him (Skye has a total population of about 10,000, spread over more than 1,600 square kilometres) meant that once he’d learned to ride, the young MacAskill naturally got into mountain biking.
“Then I think I first saw trials properly with Martyn Ashton and Martin Hawes in MBUK and I thought ‘that’s what I want to be doing!’ So I started kind of modifying my mountain bike and slowly got into it.”
Danny’s willingness to get himself into things and plough his own furrow is something that’s helped to define his career since. He had “a few friends [who] got into trials together” at high school, but from the outset he enjoyed riding by himself.
“Very few people knew what Danny was capable of.”
“Going riding with friends is definitely an amazing time,” he says, “but I used to ride a lot by myself in Dunvegan during the week.” He admits that some people might find that strange, “but you get so much more done. You’re not stopping and yacking the whole time.”
This solitary pursuit of progression had two consequences. Firstly, he learned tricks and ways of doing things that were different to what anyone else was doing.
As he explains: “I feel like riding by myself is a big part of why I ride the way that I do. Because you’re not influenced by other people, you’re thinking up your own ways to do stuff.”
Secondly, very few people – even in the small, close-knit trials scene – knew what Danny was capable of.
So when the first proper length video of him riding dropped on Youtube in 2009, the reaction was one of total amazement. For his part Danny could have had no idea what was coming next.