Stunt riders are hardly household names in a world where football has a near monopoly on global sports stars, but just a walk – or a ride – down the street behind Red Bull rider Danny MacAskill is proof of his, and the sport’s, popularity.
It may seem a ridiculous concept to be surprised at considering he has over 200 million YouTube views, but in the space of 30 minutes on London’s South Bank, MacAskill was mobbed by fans filming him precariously ride across a 10-inch wide rail with the threat of a 15ft drop.
People came up to him asking for photos and it was a sign of just what he has done to make the sport so popular.
“I just wanted to make people think about being a little bit more creative,” MacAskill told The Independent.
“It’s something that you become more aware of when you travel halfway around the world and are talking to people who have not only seen the videos but also remember a lot about them. There are people who have been inspired to get on a bike [because of the videos] so that’s what I find pretty cool.”
And he’s about to get even more popular. MacAskill’s new video, titled Danny MacAskill's Wee Day Out, is his second outing on a mountain bike following 2014’s The Ridge, where he tackled the Cuillin Ridge on his home Isle of Skye.
“We had a big problem on our hands because the last film was so successful so this was tricky about finding a way to make it different.
“It’s meant to be a feeling of a Sunday bike ride and enjoying the great outdoors and I basically just tried to think of what challenges people face on their day-to-day ride – crossing gates, negotiate puddles – so I just took that to a more extreme level.
“Like the puddle stunt, you never know how deep they are and sometimes the water floods your wellies, so we were just trying to take that image to the extreme.”
“I’ve done a few videos now and each time I’m trying to come up with something new and different. The last time I was on my mountain bike was up in on the Island of Skye and it was more epic so I really wanted to do something that would appeal to the regular weekend rider.”
If there is a method to the madness of MacAskill’s videos then it is to take something ordinary, like a Sunday bike ride or a child playing with toys like in Imaginate, and make it extreme. The tricky bit is making each video stand out from the last.
“I don’t tend to compare the video to one another,” the 30-year-old added. “I try to keep them as different as possible so they just stand alone.
“I make them as if I have never made a video before. This one has been a long time in the making; we’ve been working on it since March.
“I’ve normally got a list of ideas and when I tick one off I can usually just move down and see what I feel like doing the next year. One of the ones that has been top of my list is a fun mountain bike video.”
While still rendering the typical viewer to consider him insane, the new video is a step into the unknown for the YouTube star as he parks his usual trials bike in favour of a heavier mountain bike.
His reasoning behind it? Despite being at the top of his sport, he is always planning ahead, and with a mountain bike he can perform tricks previously untried on that type of ride. MacAskill’s videos have inspired many kids to get on their bike and he knows it is only a matter of time before they start performing tricks he is yet to create.
“I did a side-project last year on the mountain bike and it went much bigger than we could have expected and it opened up a lot more opportunities for me,” he continued.
“I class myself as a mountain biker as well as a trials biker anyway but it allowed people to see me as a mountain biker and it’s something I’m keen to grow a little bit more.
“It’s how I plan to sustain my career. With trails bikes there will always be kids coming through and make what I’m doing look very simple.”
It seems unlikely for one of the great innovators of trials riding to be ousted from the top so easily and that’s why he is working so hard to ensure it doesn’t happen, given where he started, making videos in his lunch break at a job at a bike shop with a friend.
Since then his bike has taken him from Skye and back again, via a sunken city in Argentina, the rooftops of Gran Canaria and even Hollywood, where he was invited to appear in the film Premium Rush, alongside Inception and Batman star Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
“There’s definitely moments where I have to pinch myself to work out whether it is real.
“It’s been a fun few years. My bike has taken me places I’ve never dreamt I would go to. There have been so many crazy things that have happened but I’m still working on these projects with just a group of friends so a lot has changed, but a lot hasn’t - I’ve still got my friends behind the camera.
“I’m just riding my bike for a living so I’m not complaining.”
MacAskill has travelled the world on two wheels – and sometimes one – and has shown that your bike can take you anywhere, if you peddle hard enough.
To find out more about Danny MacAskill go to www.redbull.com.
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