'As seen on YouTube' says the logo on the cover of Danny MacAskill's autobiography, At The Edge. There is a story behind the claim, because without the arrival of that website MacAskill would not be able to do what he does today.
We first announced the book here, and it provides everything that you would expect of a good biography: as well as the life story, we discover how Danny MacAskill became an 'internet sensation', and the extent of his commitment to being the best.
MacAskill had a pretty adventurous outdoor upbringing in a remote area of Skye, and it turned out to be good preparation for the rigours of his 'trick cycling'. He received his first bike at age four, which was a Raleigh that his father retrieved from a skip. For much of his youth he found himself on a bike that was too small for him, which he used to his advantage as it allowed him 'to throw it around quite easily, much more than I'd be able to on a bike that was suitably sized for my age'.
His interest in 'stunt cycling' was boosted by seeing Chainspotting, a film produced by Mountain Biking UK magazine in 1997. MacAskill had already been 'creating stunts from my own imagination. Seeing other people doing it, I was mesmerized'. That was back in the days when videos were produced on VHS tape or DVDs, and an audience was considerably harder to reach than it is today – so it is fortunate for MacAskill that he did not have to rely on such technology when he wanted to show off his own work.
MacAskill classes his art as 'street trials', which rather than being competitive or timed 'involves a mountain biker being creative on objects that people use every day'. The resulting videos are 'creative projects that showcase trials in a new and exciting way'.
MacAskill had initially wanted to become a mechanic on the World Cup race circuit, and his first step towards that came with a job as a mechanic at Bothy Bikes in Aviemore. He later moved to MacDonald Cycles in Edinburgh, and suddenly he had a greater variety of everyday objects and street furniture to work with. You soon realise that he looks at the world in a different way to most of us!
Inspired Bicycles was the film that set MacAskill on a new career path, back in 2008. Not only did he have his first serious sponsorship courtesy of Inspired Bicycles (hence the title), it was created with the aim of YouTube exposure right from the start.
By contrast, his first film, TartyBikes ('named after an internet store that had given me a few discounted parts'), only appeared on the fledgling YouTube website in 2006 thanks to the intervention of a more internet-savvy friend: 'the idea of it going beyond our circle of mates had never struck me'.
The book gives the story behind all of MacAskill's videos, and most are collected together on his own website if you have missed any. However, Concrete Circus is missing, because it was commissioned by Channel 4 TV, and you will have to go elsewhere for Road Bike Party 2, where he steps in to replace the injured Martyn Ashton. The former introduces MacAskill to the pressure of TV deadlines, and the latter required him to shave his legs and wear Lycra for the first time – and he enjoyed neither experience.
MacAskill recognises that he has been fortunate to have the support of some very understanding sponsors, including some big names from outside the industry (such as RedBull and GoPro), and normally any pressure to deliver or perform well has come from him alone.
As his public profile rose, MacAskill was asked to participate in numerous mainstream TV shows, adverts, events – and no doubt the odd supermarket opening. It is interesting to read about how he assesses each one, and he accepts that he misjudged some of the opportunities. After one in particular he 'knew my integrity had taken a slight dent': the notorious Playboy Mansion film.
MacAskill always manages to raise our interest in his films, and we all look forward to seeing how far he has pushed the boundaries each time; much of it comes from the quality of the actual stunts, of course, but he also looks for the latest technology to help him show his work in a different way – such the use of a drone in The Ridge.
It does not always work out as planned of course: broken bones and other serious injuries don't really feature until his later life, and it should come as no surprise to discover that what he does can be dangerous – even with all his skill and practice. As a warning to anyone becoming inspired by the book and attempting to emulate him, there is an 'alternative contents page' that simply lists each major injury and its page number. That cyclists' favourite of the broken collar bone appears three times, but there are also some more unusual injuries to make you wince.
If you still want to have a go, there is a revealing chapter about 'the formula' that MacAskill and his accomplices use to create a successful video: it takes a lot more than being accomplished on a bike, and it probably helps to have his 'Commitment Switch' – 'a trigger that takes me from an anxious state into a more positive mood'.
What's next for MacAskill? No doubt the relentless schedule of lucrative shows and appearances could continue for many more years, but he also wants to 'end his personal riding career with a bang...that final video has to be a monumental achievement, just so that I can give the new riders on the scene something to aim at'. So watch this space.
Everything you wanted to know about what makes Danny Mac so good, so driven, and so successful
road.cc test report
Make and model: At The Edge - Riding For My Life by Danny MacAskill
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The cyclist is legendary for his YouTube viral videos like The Ridge, Cascadia and Imaginate: nerve-racking montages of stunts which scale everything from mountain peaks, rooftops, ghost towns and movie sets. His life is one of thrills, bloody spills and millions of online hits.
It hasn't been an easy ride. Doubt, stress and the 'what if?' factor circle every trailblazing trick, which require imagination, fearlessness, groundbreaking techniques and an eye for a good camera angle. He has spent his life pushing the extremes; somehow, he's still around to tell the tale.
In this unflinching memoir of mayhem, Danny shares his anarchic childhood on the Isle of Skye and early days as a street trials rider, takes us behind the scenes of his training and videos, shares never-seen-before sketches from his personal notebook, and reveals what it takes to go the next level - both mentally and physically.
Join Danny for a nerve-shredding ride. Just be sure to bring a crash helmet.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: At the Edge
Author: Danny MacAskill
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
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It really helps you to appreciate the work that goes into Danny's videos.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding