Interview: Danny MacAskill talks Every Day Carry, Travel, Scotch, and what’s up next

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There are few people in the cycling world as recognizable as Danny MacAskill. While many pros obtain stratospheric levels of fame and notoriety within the world of cycling, few can boast that even non-cyclists have shared their videos and know their name. And yet, Danny still manages to be one of the most approachable geniuses on a bike you’re likely to meet – which is surely part of why he’s so popular with fans. Shortly after the brick of time Magura had arranged for one on one interviews, Danny was out front signing autographs. The crowd was so big that Magura had to shut it down so Danny could get onto his next obligation.

While his skills on a bike have catapulted him into the spotlight, they also brought on an increasingly heavy schedule of demos, appearances, and rides befitting an international celebrity. Fortunately, we had enough time to sit down with Danny and pick his brain a bit about a number of things, including what he carries around the world, set backs along the way, and what’s coming next…

The interview picks up with us recapping the festivities of the previous night at Santa Cruz Bicycles for their Juliana Bike Night and pre-launch party for the new Joplin. As part of their “Going Places” video series, there was a good bit of Scotch available for sampling, and we ended up trading drams of scotch and bourbon (no surprise, Danny seemed to prefer the Scotch)…

Bikerumor: It was… it was interesting.

Danny MacAskill: Yeah, it was a good laugh.

Bikerumor: When you come over here do you drink bourbon often? Or is it more Scotch? Do you drink Scotch much?

Danny: Ehmmm… yeah, I drink it a fair bit.

Bikerumor: The water of life?

Danny: Yeah, the water of life, yup. Yeah, I kinda go through phases. Depends where I am, if I’m home like on Skye. Or course you’ll have a few drams… normally. Beers and drams are not a good combo (laughter)…

Bikerumor: As I mentioned yesterday, we’ve got our everyday carry series that we’re starting to put together, what do you carry on an everyday ride?

Danny: Well, I don’t know what you’d class as my everyday carry, because I’ve got to go like two sides of things that I’d class as my every day. Part of my everyday carry is that I’m literally always on the move. So I’ve got my bike, I’ve got enough gear to I don’t know, is this more for like as you go out riding on the trail? Is that how we should look at it?

Bikerumor: I think it’s interesting to talk about both – so how do you choose between what you’re riding?

Danny: It depends what I’m doing. You know, like where I am, where I’m going…

Bikerumor: Did you start mostly in trials?

Danny: Yes. But I’ve been doing more on the mountain bike, especially after The Ridge, it kind of opened up.

Bikerumor: That was huge, right?

Danny: I had ridden mountain bikes all the time, but it had opened up this whole new opportunity.

Bikerumor: Sort of bringing those trials skills to mountain biking?

Danny: Yeah. So what I’ll do is I’ll go through what I would take on my mountain bike first. Normally when I’m riding, I used to ride with downhillers a lot, and they used to ride you know, light, without packs. So they’d go out for a two hour ride – this is not riding downhill, more like enduro kind of style, or all mountain, or whatever you want to call it. And I kind of got lured into the same thing. And every time I did I’d end up on the trails with no tube, pump, and this kind of stuff. So, I mean I really actually enjoy riding with a pack on, and I don’t mind kind of mule-ing for everyone else. If everyone else wants to go light, it doesn’t matter if I have like Kilos in my back pack, it doesn’t affect my trail experience. If anything you can kind of view it as a bit of protection on your back as well. So often, I ride with the Evoc FR Freeride Enduro pack.

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Bikerumor: And, do you have your own colorway in that pack?

Danny: Well, this is my travel stuff (referring to the Evoc Street MacAskill pack on the ground). It’s a big part of my everyday.

Bikerumor: Ok, let’s talk about that – so how do you prepare for an event like this? You’re coming to Sea Otter to ride mountain bikes, do some filming, demos…

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Danny: Yeah, so my every day carry would involve normally my Evoc Bike bag. I’ve got a signature line with Evoc and basically it involves all of the bags I used out of their line apart from the backpack because it was made specifically because they didn’t have the one that I just kind of needed. But it’s basically what I use to transport everything for what I do to a different country. And that might involve one or two bike bags. So on an average I’d usually be taking one bike – a trials bike or a mountain bike. And in the bike bag I’ve normally got a Lezyne travel pump, usually a couple of Lezyne tools and multi-tools, a whole bunch of Continental tubes…

Bikerumor: You run tubes on your bikes?

Danny: Yeah, on my trials bikes I usually run tubes. So I would say my everyday carry is my bike bag. And it’s usually got a travel pump, two sets of allen keys, and a selection of brick-a-brack that kind of accumulates. You know I’d have some spare parts for my brakes, just little things.

Generally, the cool thing about my bikes is that I run a pretty solid set up on both my mountain bike and my trials bike.

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Bikerumor: Just so it holds up to your abuse?

Danny: Yeah, my trials bike for instance – you know I travel to wherever in the world. I’m unlikely to take any spare wheels or really any significant spares. I’ll ride that bike for a week. I’ll maybe do shows on that bike, I’ll do everything. Once I’m done with that I’ll put it back in the bike bag, take it to the next destination and do the same thing again. So I tend to run a solid set up. That’s in there. Then I also have my bag full of clothes and various gear, and then I’ve got my backpack which I’ve usually got one helmet on the back of and the usual stuff – laptop and all that good stuff. That’s all part of getting myself and all that stuff to the location. It’s almost as much part of riding as my backpack is for my mountain bike, so for my trials bike that’s how I arrive most places.

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Bikerumor: Do you do anything, well, what special set up touches do you have for your mountain bike?

Danny: To be honest, on my mountain bike it’s fairly stock. On the backs of my Magura MT7 levers I run a little bit of rubber. Because when you’re riding trials – it’s the same with most brakes, not just Maguras. You’d never pull your brakes as hard as you’d do on the trials bike. And what you end up doing when you do big drops to flat is that you can sort of catch the back of your fingers with the brake levers. It’s something you’d never ever do, or ever have a problem with on the mountain bike because if you pulled them that hard you’d be going well over the handlebars. That’s really it, as far as special mods I’ve got going on currently. Yeah, that’s basically it.

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Bikerumor: What size rotors?

Danny: I’m running 203 rotors front and rear. Again from the trials’ perspective, I have it kitted up so it rides amazing on the trails, but I also like to play around on it like I do. So for me, there’s no such thing as ever having a brake that’s too powerful. These MT7 brakes are insanely powerful anyways, but with the 203 rotor it means you barely have to do anything at the lever. This thing kinda handles like my trials bike does. Other than that, yeah I don’t really have anything really fancy going on. It’s fairly stock (referring to his Santa Cruz 5010 CC).

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Bikerumor: That certainly speaks to the bike…

Danny: Yeah! Yeah, exactly. I mean I’ve been riding this thing on the street as well which generally in the past, any full suspension bike I’ve ridden in the street haven’t fared that well, but this thing has been solid.

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Bikerumor: Do you use standard Continental tires for your riding rather than specific trials tires?

Danny: Yeah, these are production Conti tires that I’m running. Occasionally I’ll get some prototype pieces through the doors, but these have been in the works for a long time. I’m stoked. The Barons have been great.

Bikerumor: And they hold up to all the trials moves?

Danny: Yeah, they’re sort of ideal with the Apex casing, and it just keeps it a bit more stable. But yeah, it’s pretty good.

Thinking back to what I carry for a ride, it’s usually just sort of tubes, Lezyne pump and tools, and some water. And maybe a light weight packaway sort of jacket from Endura as well. I try to keep it pretty simple to be honest.

Bikerumor: Is there anything from home that you can’t live without – any food, anything like that?

Danny: Nah, I’m quite content with trying things, sampling new foods. I try to keep an open mind to that.

Bikerumor: You have to right?

Danny: Yeah, yeah. So I don’t really find myself missing anything at home.

Bikerumor: What’s your travel schedule like?

Danny: This year it will be pretty, well quite busy. The first half of the year I’ve already been traveling more than I would normally be. I’ve been over to the U.S. twice, I’ve been to South Africa, I’ve been all over Europe and Switzerland just before coming here. And then the rest of the year we have quite a few Drop and Roll shows we’ll be doing. But quite a few of them are actually in Scotland. Which just sort of happened that way but it’s quite ideal. It means that rather than spending a few days traveling to a show, we can get there in a couple of hours. And it means I get more time on my bike which is always…

Bikerumor: Ideal?

Danny: Yeah, it’s always nice.

Bikerumor: How are you doing with your back?

Danny: The body’s holding up really good actually. Generally in the last two years I’ve been running pretty smooth.

Bikerumor: Was it Imaginate that you talked about the issues?

Danny: Yes, it was before Imaginate. So I had a back operation about a year before I started Imaginate, or 9 months. And it took me out, I didn’t really recover. I was recovering through Imaginate. It wasn’t until about a year after that that I started feeling a bit more back to normal. It’s just niggly little soft tissues like backs I’m sure. It’s funny when people talk about backs, especially when you’re young, people are like “ahh, what you on about, what you on about.” And then you actually get a back injury yourself and you suddenly realize they’re not that ideal (laughter).

Bikerumor: So how old are you?

Danny: I just turned 30.

Bikerumor: Ah, we’re in the 30 club together.

Danny: Yeah, exactly. But generally you know I’m feeling good. I’ve been riding loads. I’ve been eating a little too much on this trip, but other than that…

Bikerumor: That tends to happen…

Danny: Exactly.

Bikerumor: When you have an injury is there anything you do specifically to recover?

Danny: Yeah, if I am injured, that’s the time I tend to hit the gym and do what I can to get myself back on the bike. But once I’m back, I tend to just ride and focus on riding. I should probably focus more on cross training, gym work, things like that, but sort of the physical side is almost less important than the mental side for what I do. Obviously, you need to be physically strong, or capable on the bike, but the mental side is a lot more important.

Bikerumor: Like when you’re riding roof tops?

Danny: Yeah. And the only way you get that is by spending time on the bike and you get in your comfort zone. And even if you’re crashing or whatever, it all kind of builds your confidence generally. And that’s the hardest part. It can be harder when you’ve been off the bike for a while. Off the bike for 6 weeks, fine, no problem. Off the bike 2 months, no problem. You know, 3 months, no problem. But once it gets past that time you have to kinda just chill and let it run. But it can take a bit more time to get yourself back into that place. You can quickly get back into the basic stuff, but when it comes to hitting the bigger stuff again, it takes a while to just get your brain to click. It’s not like you’re scared or whatever, it’s just kind of hard to do what you want to do, and get done what you want to accomplish.

Bikerumor: Any big video projects coming up that we should know about?

Danny: Yeah, I have a few things planned this year. I’m working on one with RedBull. Um, [deep breath] It’s quite an ambitious one. As per usual…

Bikerumor: Compared to just the little projects you’ve done [sarcasm]…

Danny: Yeaaah… but this one is ambitious. Like I’m feeling way more, it’s a lot less, umm, how to put it. It’s hard to imagine it actually working out so I’m kind of struggling at this point. Like I’m setting this bar…

Bikerumor: How do you better what you just did?

Danny: No, it’s not about bettering the previous film. It’s all about putting out something different. Different feel, different location. You know, often we try very hard with each project and to try and better them – usually we’ve done them to the best of our ability. So going back and trying to one up them again, it could be very difficult. I like to go down a different avenue each time. It keeps things fresh and interesting.

Bikerumor: Thanks Danny!

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