Danny MacAskill on facing fear, his love of Skye and his Wee Day Out

DANNY MacAskill's latest film '“ entitled Wee Day Out '“ took him to farms, estates, forests, riverbanks and railways around Scotland and is the latest in a string of hit videos for the stunt cycling star.

Danny MacAskill gets ready to begin his wee day out. Picture: Fred Murray/Red Bull
Danny MacAskill gets ready to begin his wee day out. Picture: Fred Murray/Red Bull

The clip, which took several months to film and saw MacAskill travel to several rural locations around the country, is aimed at capturing “the simple fun of a ride in the countryside”.

The result is definitely one of the best - and most light-hearted - videos created by the Redbull athlete yet, and one that he says he found extremely fun and challenging to film.

“With every video, the bar is set higher, so if you use the same concept twice, you have to push yourself twice as hard to have success with it.

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    “The way I tend to do deal with that, is to look for a new theme or concept that allows me to get creative, the last video I did with the mountain bike was the Ridge on the Isle of Skye, which is very emotive.

    “It’s me, rowing into the Cuillins with Martyn Bennett’s Blackbird song playing in the background, and it’s definitely more about the scenery and me kind of being in the scenery.

    “Whereas with A Wee Day Out, I’m on the mountain bike again, I’ve come back to that similar setting (Scotland) but this time I wanted to make the riding a lot more technical and also make it a little bit more relatable.

    “So the theme I chose, was a fun day out in the Scottish countryside, and I wanted it to have a slightly tongue in cheek feel. So with that in mind, I started to think about all of the obstacles that your everyday mountain biker and walker would come across, like the hay bale, the puddle and the log.

    “These things have a relatable aspect, people know how big a hay bale is and that you really shouldn’t be rolling them down hills,” he laughs before adding a discalimer that any kids who watch the video shouldn’t follow the video’s lead on that one and annoy any farmers by creating some errant rolling bales. “And everybody at some point in their lives has gone into a puddle in their wellies wondering how deep it is in the middle.”

    “I then took those ideas and those obstacles and treated them in a fun way, by turning them into tricks, it’s those kind of things, like the stunt with the six foot puddle, that really sum up the fun nature of the video.”

    The Youtube star and his film crew visited the Pentland Hills in Midlothian, the Strathpey Railway in the Highlands, and Kenmore, Blair Atholl and Loch Tay in Perthshire to make the film.

    Among the latest tricks, all of which were all performed on a mountain bike, was a very tricky looking hay bale stunt and a submerged ride through a six foot puddle, which he thankfully didn’t just come across and isn’t still out there ready to surprise an unsuspecting walker.

    “I don’t think any farmer is going to let puddles develop like that on their farm road,” Danny replies laughing, when he’s asked about the stunt. “As with a lot of the features in the new film, we had to build it ourselves.

    “Don’t worry,” He explains. “It was my friend’s farm and we had his permission!”

    The outakes and the Go Pro edit (which Red Bull have just released) give a glimpse into just how much effort goes into making these videos and pulling off the stunts, which Danny says are not always as easy as he makes them look.

    “A Wee Day Out was a very difficult video to make, when we made the Ridge we very lucky with the weather and we actually managed to film it in seven days, which is incredible quick for one of my videos.

    “With a Wee Day Out, we probably spent seven days alone just setting up and working out the hay bales stunt.

    “We were tackling tricks or set ups that we had no idea whether they were actually going to work in the end. The only way that these things can happen is that you go to these locations, you get roughly set up and then you start rolling the cameras and trying out the stunts.

    “Luckily, everything we tried did work, it just takes time. The bale stunt for example took me three or four hundred attempts.”

    He’s quick to point out that most people won’t believe him when he says this, but that it’s true, and that sometimes he just has to keep trying it out in the hope that he’ll eventually pull it off.

    “I don’t hide the fact that it takes that many attempts, I’m not competing, I’m not live on a world stage. Sometimes the probablitty of landing a trick is so low you just have to go round in circles and keep trying and trying, it’s all about perseverance.”

    Anyone watching any of his videos would be forgiven for thinking that MacAskill is fearless but he says that is not true.

    “A lot of the riding in this video is quite technical, so fear doesn’t really come into it, it’s more just perseverance and believing you can do it. I’m far from fearless though, the main fear you get doing these kind of stunts is the fear of the unknown, you don’t know how it’s going to feel at the bottom.

    “You go through all of these scenarios where you think if you underprepare a front flip and you land on your back, how is that going to feel?

    “And the answer is of course: not good.”

    “More often than not though, these are irrational fears and the rational part of your brain knows that you can do it. Some tricks there are more risk of crashing, but once you’ve tried it for the first time that fear is gone, even if it’s been a crash or a heavy impact, you know what’s coming.”

    As one of the world’s biggest YouTube stars - his videos currently have more than 250 million views - it’s clear that many of those viewing will see him as an inspiration and his advice to anyone who wants to follow in his footsteps is to take your time, master the basics and to persevere.

    “I’ve been riding trials for about 19 years now, it’s been a very slow progression to where I am today, I’d say it’s all about taking time and learning the basics.

    “There’s a lot of riders who just want to learn the bigger tricks but they don’t know the basics, like bunny hop or manual and it’s really the basics which will make you a much more solid rider.

    “Don’t rush it and don’t be deterred, persevere, just be realistic about what you can do and know your limits.

    “It’s important to test them from time to time, but do know them, then you’ll stay healthier when you’re learning and you’ll be able to spend more time on your bike rather than off it with injury.”

    Over the years, MacAskill’s videos have seen him ride trial and mountain bikes and visit many locations all over Scotland, and across the world, for him, anyone wanting to take up trial biking should look no further than Aviemore, which was his stomping ground growing up and learning to ride.

    For mountain biking he says, there’s no place better to go than Glentress, which is just outside Peebles in the Borders. “It has well sign posted and a range of graded trails, which are great for riders of any level.”

    As for his favourite place to go in Scotland, not just to ride, but to visit, his answer comes as no surprise.

    “I have to say the Isle of Skye.”

    “It’s been getting busier and busier the last couple of years but there’s so many cool places to travel round and see; the Quairang, Macleod’s Tables, Neist Point, and of course the Giant MacAskill museum, run by my dad, who’s now probably got his own IMDB after his appearance in my video.

    “It’s a pretty amazing place to visit.”