Pedal power wins daredevil cyclist 65 million hits on YouTube
Danny MacAskill, famed online for his stunts, shows Jamie Merrill a trick or two
For someone with more than 65 million YouTube views of his madcap bike stunts, Danny MacAskill is a pretty modest character. When he's off his bike that is. Put Danny on two wheels and he's a total show-off, popping on and off kerbs, sliding along railings and jumping off pretty much any urban obstacle you put in front of him.
"Never in million years did I believe I would be pulling stunts for a living," says the 27-year-old, as he bunny hops backwards and forwards on his BMX-style stunt bike. "Since I was a little boy I've had bike heroes and loved to ride but it's not that I use it to express myself. It's just that riding is what makes me tick. My brain is tuned to create obstacles and I get a kick out of solving them on my bike."
It's this aptitude for two-wheel problem solving that helped Danny, who is originally from the Isle of Skye but now lives in Glasgow, shoot to alternative-culture stardom in 2008 when a friend published a video online of him performing his seemingly impossible stunts. Back then he was working in a bike shop; now he's sponsored by Red Bull, has starred in a TV advert for Volkswagen, had a cameo role in a music video for Doves and, last week, released a new film of some of his wildest tricks yet.
Called Imaginate, the seven-minute short took Danny two years to film and has already clocked up close to three million hits online. Unlike his previous films, it was shot inside with life-size toys, including a massive Rubik's cube, a vast model train set, a real tank and a Red Bull F1 car.
Some of the stunts took as many as 300 takes for Danny "to nail" and as I meet him in west London – where he's filming with the BBC – he's obviously pleased with the result. The plan is that he will teach me some tricks but Danny is less mobile than usual; a torn disc in his back is playing up and I can soon see how he's injured himself so often.
His tricks barely look possible and there's no shame in admitting I'm a little nervous. In the past he has broken his legs and wrist and smashed his collarbone. "I don't mind breaking bones," he says. "It's probably good for me to take a rest from time to time and it's sort of a badge of honour in this sport. It shows you are pushing yourself."
It turns out that street trial riding is as difficult as it looks and, thankfully, a rain shower saves me from anything more dangerous than some low-altitude bunny hops and a couple of "stoppies" – that's when you hit the brakes and lean forward to bring your rear wheel into the air.
MacAskill is kind about my modest abilities. Does practice make perfect? "I don't train. Every time I ride I do it at full tilt and most of the time that's still on my own in Glasgow," he says as I depart. "I'm just lucky that I came along at a time when the internet, digital video cameras and editing software have come together to create this online video culture and I can share what I love doing with everyone else."
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