Interview: Danny MacAskill on Finding Inspiration, Attempting Tricks 700 Times & "Game Changing" Tubeless Set Ups

Jan 8, 2020
by James Smurthwaite  

Danny burst back on to our screens this week and put all our New Year's workout resolutions to shame in his new edit 'Gymnasium'. It saw Danny back on the 24" wheels of a custom, carbon Santa Cruz trials bike ticking off some of the most creative tricks he's ever produced, and that's a pretty high bar to vault over.

We caught up with Danny to talk about his return to the trials bike, how he motivates himself to constantly raise his riding level, and the custom bike Santa Cruz produced for him:

You're back on your trials bike for the first time in a while, what prompted that shift back to from the mountain bike ones to the trials ones?

Basically two years ago, in 2017, I broke my kneecap filming and that took a long time to recover from. I ended up having an operation and then a meniscus issue so basically I've not been on a 100% street level on my trials bike for a little while.

The mountain bike is a little more forgiving and slightly easier going on the body than say street riding on my trials bike so that's kind of why I had to do more on the mountain bike. It was quite nice doing low impact riding but because it's low impact, you have to up the technical difficulty. There's plenty of tricks in there that took me a few hundred goes to land.

At least this time it's in a warm room and not a windy hill in the middle of nowhere.

Yeah, we actually had a full heating system so it was quite nice to be in shorts and a t-shirt in late November/ December. It was quite a luxury compared to shooting a week before that on a different video out in the elements and I was freezing for five days.

Where did the inspiration for the theme come from?

These days it certainly makes it a lot easier to make a video that's going to travel out of the bike scene if you have a little bit of a concept around it. I mainly spend my time in the gym when I'm doing my rehab but when you're on these machines it's pretty boring so I would daydream half the time about riding all over it.

I thought it would be quite cool to make a little gym and not really have any limitations on it so I wrote down a bunch of ideas that I thought would be fun and we tried to make those come to life. It's quite a fun basic concept but it allows me to be quite creative.

It felt spontaneous to me, how much was pre-planned and how much came to you there?

I wouldn't say pre-planned - if pre-planned is a little sketch in a sketchbook then maybe! I actually had four days before filming to ride around and try some different things, like sticking the dumbells on their end. Normally what happens is you get massively disappointed, or you have this new idea and then reality kicks in and the physics just isn't on. Luckily there were some pretty out-there ideas that did come alive in the end, maybe not exactly how I would want them but I'm happy with what we got in the time we had.

Which was the most difficult to pull off?

The most difficult by far, was the ghosty to bump front flip catch. It took us two and a half days altogether. I really like the idea of being able to ghosty my bike and make it do something. I watch a lot of skateboarding videos and lots of the creative skateboarders, Matt Tomasello or Richie Jackson, quite often do tricks where they're jumping off the board doing something else and they reconnect and ride away.

The nice thing about skateboarding is that it's got four wheels but with a bicycle, there's a bit more variation in what can go wrong with it. Initially, I was quite surprised at how high the bike jumped from the springboard, it's amazing how much energy you can get from a little bump. The dream was to not touch the horse myself and jump and connect with the bike in mid-air. The thing that was stopping me was basically that when you caught the bike in mid-air, the back wheel would touch the ground first and your pedals would spin backwards and your pedals wouldn't be where they were supposed to be - that's why this trick that you see is sketchily landed because my feet were looking for opposite pedals.

I must have tried the trick at least 700 goes at least and it was probably the hardest thing I've ever done to any bike ever. That's why we had mats on the far side, it wasn't for myself, it was for the bike. The amount of times it was landing to the forks, to the handlebars, every which way you can imagine the bike to tumble and rag doll. It's not the kind of thing you do with a one-off carbon trials bike but I felt it was a good enough idea to justify the punishment.

What keeps you going when you've tried a trick 500 times and you know it might take you another 200 to get right?

Well, in the beginning, you're going off into the unknown. It's quite nice when you're trying stuff that nobody else has done and I really enjoy that part of the filming process. In the beginning, the wonder is there, and that will give you 200 goes worth of motivation.

Normally before 200 goes you've had a glimpse that it's possible. If you've not had a glimpse by 200 goes then you might as well give up.

From 200-400 you start getting that feeling that it's possible, you're usually getting quite tired at that point, quite frustrated, usually lots of shinners and whatnot but once it goes beyond that point it can get disheartening.

The motivation after that is that you've put 400 goes in already and you don't want it to be for nothing so you have to keep going until the end. With that kind of trick, there were so many variables, we were adjusting the tyre pressures by 1 or 2 psi, which would make a huge difference to the rotation. Half the time the bike would come back at me, it was just so inconsistent.

I think I landed the one in the film after about 600 tries and I wasn't particularly happy about how messy it looked so I tried it another probably 200 goes after that and I couldn't get any better. My bike was pretty much going to be destroyed and I had to do some other bits to finish the film so I had to give it up.

It's cool because it's my own ideas I'm working towards and I have my own team of friends that are willing to go through it with me. My friend Miles was running with a dolly style go-kart. He was having to sprint with me for 700 tries so we were both going through the mill with that one.

bigquotesI've been able to run a really reliable tubeless setup... and that's probably the biggest game-changing thing for me

Carbon seems like an unusual choice for a trials bike, what are the benefits you find from it?

It's a little bit of everything. When I signed with Santa Cruz four years ago, one of the ideas that came up was to build a specific trials bike - whether it was aluminium or carbon. They have this new carbon lab at the headquarters in Santa Cruz where they build small parts for testing rims, testing layups of head tubes and whatnot, but they've expanded this part of their R&D so they can build an entire frame. Certain layups I've done on my carbon trials bike have gone on to be in the production mountain bikes.

When you're riding do you notice a difference?

Yeah, it's about 1.5 kg lighter over the whole bike but the one thing I want is for it to be strong enough. The last thing I want when I'm 360'ing down a bunch of stairs is to have a mechanical that makes me have to go up there and do it again. I got them to lay up the carbon pretty thick because I don't want to find out the breaking point of carbon steerer tubes and carbon forks so although it's light, it's pretty heavy duty.

They also built some carbon Reserve wheels, which meant I've been able to run a really reliable tubeless setup with the Continental tyres and that's probably the biggest game-changing thing for me. In terms of being able to hit things that much harder, it’s probably added about 10 or 15 percent onto how high I can go bumping upstairs for the energy I can put into the bike without getting punctures. It feels quite futuristic, although it has been around for ages in mountain bikes.


  • 151 2
 700 times, repeating and failing the same thing over again until you make. That’s dedication right there.

But it was definitely worth it, that video is absolutely amazing.
  • 40 2

I would be at the hospital (or cemetery) before 30 tries
  • 4 0
 So impressive! Really amazong video
  • 2 1
 Life lesson
  • 16 0
 It's like me trying to go for just one beer. I've tried it thousands of times I'll get it eventually.
  • 2 0
 @honourablegeorge: most under-rated comment on here.... i do am a repeat offender...
  • 104 0
 Me: Tries trick one time. Smashes face. "I'm never doing that again".
  • 53 0
 If I had to try a bike trick 100 times in a video game, I’d likely throw the controller through the back of the TV. 700 times risking life and limb IRL just to entertain us morons? Thanks, Danny! You’re a f’ing legend.
  • 5 1
 As someone who plays a lot of bike games, it's more annoying on the game because most of the time your fail defies all logic. I just drop the controller and try the triple backflip no hander on my real bike Wink
  • 34 0
 24 " Smile
  • 3 0
  • 5 0
 Are you sure they aren't 20" but just much closer than you think?
  • 4 4
 @bigtim: 100% 24s mate
  • 30 0
 I thought he always got them first try and then made "fake" try's
  • 12 0
 Such talent, much wow !
  • 10 0
 insane. SC should run a limited batch of trial bikes. just out of respect to Danny and his fans. 700 at least.
  • 7 0
 My eyes are getting old, but I'm 99% sure Danny isn't a midget and they're actually 24".
  • 15 8
 So.. no details on this game-changing tubeless setup?
  • 21 1
 I think it's just tubeless but on a trials bike..
  • 4 1
 Ghetto tubeless, with one change, you glue the excess tube to the outside of the tire with rubber cement.... I think Gwin (or mechanic, or both) were first to figure it out. It's a bit one and done usage wise. Stops burping at low pressure.
  • 3 0
 These are 24" wheels I believe, so getting carbon and tubeless rims is perhaps non-trivial.
  • 2 0
 @draggingbrake: come again??
  • 1 0
 Its just regular MTB tubeless, which is a first for this type of bike. He had tubes before.
  • 1 0
 @draggingbrake: I think thats called guetto tubular. It’s been at the back of my mind for a while now to try it on my bike too lazy
  • 8 1
 I wonder how many takes the tape to tape jump took.
  • 2 0
 That was my first thought when I saw it! That could not have been easy.
  • 4 0
 He says 200 time exactly on a FB post.
  • 2 0
 landed it on the 200th I believe- saw a post on fb about it
  • 1 0
 Thanks, impressive. I'd have given up after about 10 tries (actually wouldn't want to attempt it at all!).
  • 1 0
 @tremeer023: No worries. me too- have to say I've always been the kinda guy who gives up if something isn't obviously do-able. difference between pro's and novices I guess!
  • 6 1
 Hard to believe what Danny can actually do on a bike, no shortage of sick bike handlers out there but he is surely at the top, and that includes the bmx'ers
  • 5 0
 Danny is such an inspirational dude, and I find it really cool that he has been inspired by skateboarding.
  • 3 0
 I want one of these frames, hopefully they'll do limited run release....I always like the custom trials bikes the other manufs did in 90s, Cannondale, GT, Ibis, Etc...
  • 2 0
 the gt team trials was a wet dream! but a small zaskar frame was all we got. and monty of course.
  • 2 0
 @funkzander: remember the Monty rigid dual crown? Ot Pi was the man....
  • 1 0
 @RadBartTaylor: friend of mine had this bike before the one with the squared downtube came out...those were the days. ot pi what a legend
  • 1 0
 they should do on-demand frame sets,you make your order them they make and send it,it would be a win a win in my opinion but santa cruz would have to do this in a direct to consumer sell
  • 3 0
 I know buying a santa cruz or specialized wont make me ride like Danny or Fabio...... but these videos keep me thinking it just may!
  • 14 0
 Unfortunately now you have to trade in your Specialized for a Canyon if you want to ride like Fabio.
  • 2 0
 you need to buy a canyon now to ride like Fabio, be interesting to see his first project for them.
  • 1 0
 @kmreid66: Fabien Barel grammed something about a new video this month with Fabio
  • 6 2
 Since when is a 10 foot drop to flat on a 120mm trail bike "low impact riding"???
  • 4 0
 Compared to a 6 foot drop with a fully rigid trials bike it probably is.
  • 1 0
 My two daughters love watching Danny’s videos, and I love showing them. He’s creative, ridiculously talented, but always gives a nod to the fact that the incredible tricks come as the result of a LOT of trial, error, failure, and pain (though he’s even better at crashing than most of us will ever be). His creativity and work ethic make him a great role model.
  • 4 0
 Ghetto Tubeless is back??
  • 2 0
 they didn't really touch up on that :/
  • 1 0
 @mtbmaniatv: Its just regular MTB tubeless, which is a first for this type of bike. He had tubes before.
  • 1 0
 Richie Jackson>+×* PhsycodelicSoulSk8R!
  • 1 0
 Richie Jackson>+×* PhsycodelicSoulSk8R!
  • 1 0
 @parallaxid: It's not a "first" for street trials, Ali C at the very least has been running LB carbon wheels setup tubeless. I'm not saying Danny didn't go first on that mind you, just that this video is not the first use of tubeless for street
  • 2 1
 700 tries is about 23 hours straight at 2 minutes a try. They had four days of filming; maybe he’s exaggerating. In any event, I’m sure it was a shitload of tries and the result is epic!! What a video!
  • 3 0
 He said he had four days before filming - they were filming for a longer period than that. He mentions spending 2 and a half days on that trick alone, so it's possible.
  • 1 0
 So did you need your spare bike or are plastic Santacrus frames 700 ghost front flip approved?
I would need medical help just signing my name 700 times!
  • 1 0
 That's so cool, I like that he admits it takes him so many tries. When you watch the video, you're like, "damn he's a actual super hero". He still is though.
  • 3 1
 700 tries really ??? Seems a lot Eek
  • 1 0
 Probably in a lot of those tries the bike doesnt even bump off the springboard in a way that works. I am pretty sure that isnt 700 failed catches of the bike in the air.
  • 1 0
 Amazing video!! So refreshing every time Danny does a new edit... I voted for him as rider of the decade the other day.
  • 2 0
 Anyone else wondering where to get the cool signs in the background?
  • 1 0
 Any sign-makers will be able to do that for you. I reckon these were custom made for this project.
  • 2 0
 Yeah I love the low impact comments!
  • 2 0
 definitly not a 20 inches ... sorry PB
  • 2 0
 I would definetely quit at my 699 try, this guy is a beast.
  • 1 0
 700 times... Danny, the first ever Asperger syndrom patient of trial biking! ^^
  • 1 0
 I want to know if he really jumped from the ground to the top of the three box stack @ 5:50. That seems crazy.
  • 1 0
 I usually throw in the towel at 7 attempts at something these days ha
  • 1 0
 24” ain’t dead!

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