Battles with Newton
When Danny MacAskill takes the first leap in his massive Red Bull MacAskill’s Imaginate hit on YouTube, there is huge grin working its way across his face. As he reaches that mere microsecond of mid-air stillness he is both with nature and struggling to defy it. Balanced at that moment before the earth’s pull imposes reality, Danny is at his happiest. He is flying, both physically and in spirit. His emotions soar as he battles against Newton, something in the back of his mind telling him that he can, maybe just this once, beat gravity. For a moment, he is truly weightless.
Quote: “Too busy getting comfortable with being outside of my comfort zone”
Less than a blink later Danny is looking for where, how and when to land. Muscle memory tells him the slightest shift in weight stands between triumph and tragedy. Only the impact will tell how this move ends, but even failure comes with a side order of adrenaline rush.
Every bump or bruise is softened by elation and the knowledge that each is a lesson and an incentive to do better. Going wrong means going back to the start, taking a breather, assessing the damage and summoning the energy to begin again. But if ever there were a poster boy for the rewards that risk and determination can bring, then trials cyclist Danny MacAskill is it.
Anyone who has watched the groundbreaking YouTube video Inspired Bicyles that brought Danny to the attention of the general public, street daredevils and trial cycling fans will be left in no doubt as to his willingness to put bike and body in jeopardy, as well as his ability to pick himself up and try again. Danny’s sense of humour and his own special brand of humility helps, although it is his ability to throw himself headfirst into danger that makes his performances so real and so stunning. Although it certainly can’t stop careering over the handlebars being a part of his days’ work.
“Once you reach the point where you are actually crashing then you have got past the worst part,” says Danny. “It sounds crazy, but at least you know what is going on. The worst thing, for me, is that first attempt, when all you have is a head full of worst case scenarios.”
That is, perhaps, not the kind of thing that parents who have recently removed the stabilisers from their offspring’s bike or schoolteachers trying to push cycling safety may want to hear. But Danny’s dedication is certainly something that could inspire any sluggish classroom on a long afternoon. Although Danny was never one for staying in and studying.
“I was just really into my bike,” he says with a wry grin. “If it was a nice day out then there was no chance for homework. Too busy getting comfortable with being outside of my comfort zone.”
The secret to Danny’s success is that he still rides and thinks much like that kid who would rather be soaking up the sun and smiling on his bike than stuck indoors. A fun-seeking cyclist to the core, his time taken off from jumping off and over things for a living is spent chasing new moves on new obstacles and haring around whichever city he happens to be in that day on his bike. It is not the fame or acclaim that does it for Danny, it is simply the ride, every time.
“Recently I had been out riding my bike and I came home with that same feeling of coming home from school when I was eight-years-old,” he says. “It was like I’d had the best time ever. Even when it is pouring with rain I am out just riding for myself. It is brilliant.”
On set, the cameras are rolling and focussed on Danny as he goes straight from looping the loop to front-flipping over an F1 car. Cyclist and machine thrown by kinetic energy. No desire to stop and no way of stopping, despite no way of knowing how this will end up. Danny’s ideas become reality. This is bravery. This is mind over matter. This is perfection. This is Danny MacAskill.