The Scottish mountain biker sat down with GearJunkie for the launch of his latest film.
Danny MacAskill is a treasure. If you didn’t think it before now, you will after you see “Do a Wheelie.”
What’s more, he hopped on a Zoom with us to tell us where these ideas come from, what the hardest trick was, and best of all, how to do a wheelie ourselves!
Runtime: 6 minutes
Danny MacAskill Interview: ‘Do a Wheelie’
GearJunkie: How was this video, “Do a Wheelie” to make?
Danny MacAskill: It was a lot of fun — I was given free rein. I always try to come up with a concept that gives me freedom. I thought doing a film that revolves around wheelies and celebrating them would be fun to tackle.
Honestly, It was a little more difficult than I thought it would be. I thought with my trials skills, I could add something to the world of wheelies, which has been progressing for half-centuries. But it turned out to be a really challenging but fun film to work on.
What is the significance of the wheelie?
The wheelie for me is an all-time classic maneuver to be done on any bike with two wheels. Right after skids on the rear wheel, the wheelie is the next aspirational maneuver.
Some of my friends’ older brothers did some wheelies in the street when I was a kid, and I thought it was just the coolest thing. So in my garden, I tried to do what they were doing — and that’s when I learned it was part of a whole larger sport — in Trials.
Especially in mountain biking, it’s a pretty handy technique to have dialed up. If you’re going up some technical trails, you can use it to go up and over obstacles. But at the end of the day, it’s really just about impressing your friends and family, isn’t it?
Do you have a tip for mindset or mechanics — what’s the best way to do it?
We actually made a “how to wheelie” tutorial to go along with the film release. But in general, my top tips are:
- Start on a relatively light gear.
- Put your seat halfway down — not really low or high.
- Ride with flat pedals, in case you need to jump off the bike.
- Find yourself a very mellow gradient of a hill — between 2 and 6 degrees — because it’s easier to wheelie up a hill. Plus it will naturally slow you down, so you can keep pedaling.
- Wear a helmet!
- Cover the back brake — you’ll use it to tip you forward and bring the front end down.
- Don’t get disheartened if you don’t learn it in one session. For most people, it will take a number of sessions — if you really dedicate yourself, you might pick it up in a few weeks.
What was the hardest stunt in this video?
Wheelie to flip to wheelie. It turns out that was really hard to execute — wheelie into something, and then land while wheeling.
There’s a certain amount of energy you need to make a rotation — the physics were against me. So we resorted to building a deck over a garden, and we put a trampoline at the end of this runway. I did a front flip off of this trampoline and managed to land it without my arms ripping out of the socket.
Are you really always smiling?
I’m generally a pretty jolly person. But frustration can definitely kick in. If you’re trying something and it takes taking you 300 tries — or especially wind!
This wheelie film, I really didn’t factor the wind into my vision for the riding. The slightest crosswind would cause big issues — especially if you’re riding up high or on something precise. But I’m getting to do wheelies as a job, so my inner 8-year-old would have been pretty stoked
Have you ever had to abandon a trick because it was just too difficult?
On a given day, you might stop working on a trick. But I’d say 95% of the time, I’m able to follow through with the idea and get it on film eventually.
Where do these ideas come from — are you spitballing ideas in a boardroom with FiveTen?
The wheelie film, I’d like to say, was very well storyboarded throughout.
But … it really wasn’t. Most of the riding concepts come from me and my idea of what I’d like to achieve on my bike. The first thing I do is scout out locations in my local town. For this film, I looked around a lot of Scotland — at old dams and bridges and such. I gathered all those ideas together into a big list, then whittled those down into the ones I thought were worth spending days filming.
There was a lot of effort put into this one — especially with the extra cast, which we knew we wanted: different characters with different disciplines.
Do other folks push, or do you push yourself?
Over the years, I’ve kept a big list of ideas on my phone. Big dreams keep rising to the top each year, so roughly one idea each year you want to go after.
Sometimes injuries come along and change that, but the good ones are always at the back of your mind.
This wheelie film was one of those — a solid concept that could be wider-reaching than a super-core riding film. I’m lucky — I get to dream this stuff and then go do it with my friends.
Lucky, but also a bunch of skill …
For me, the internet came along at just the right time. My heroes have been doing what I’ve been doing for years — Hans Rey, Martyn Ashton, Ryan Leech — they’ve all had amazing professional careers. But it was all centered around magazines, VHS, and DVDs.
The internet came around for me. But it’s almost too much — you go on Instagram or YouTube now and you’re bombarded. I feel like the internet used to be a little classier, you know?
I do feed the beast, obviously, with little bits of bite-sized content for social here and there. But I like to try and put a lot of effort into a one-song video part — something that stands the test of time a little more.
Are you a trials rider that makes films, or a filmmaker that rides trials?
Filmmaking does take up a lot of my day-to-day thinking — next trick, next location — but I’m a trials rider at heart.
I spend most of my time on my e-bike — it has changed my life completely! It is the coolest, funnest thing that I do in my day to day. I have to ween myself off the e-bike to get back on the trials bike.
It’s opened up this whole new world that wasn’t there before. The world that was there before involved walking up a lot steep, hard hills — even if you were a world-class XC rider.
The e-bike, meanwhile will take you to whole new places — it’s already big here [in Scotland] but give it a few years and you’ll see it, too, in North America.
Is there downtime for you?
I’m very much on my own schedule. I’m part of a show team called Drop and Roll, we do shows all over the world. And I work with a number of different brands and producing content for them.
But I’m also left to do my own thing, and I’m self-driven for my projects. It’s not to feed algorithms or feeling pressure of contracts. I really enjoy what I do and dreaming up these different ideas.
And like I said, the rest of the time I’m really just riding my e-bike in the hills. The last 2 years, I’ve done maybe 17,000 km — 10,000 miles — riding e-bike on really big hills to watch a sunset, for example, is pretty cool.
How do you pick the music for these?
I’m listening to music on my bike from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed — music is a huge part of what drives me.
You always try to find the right track that suits the vibe you’re going for. Stu Thomsen was the director on this one and he showed me the track from Mint Royale — ”Show Me.”
We were shooting for a feel-good track for folks that would motivate them to maybe, go out and try a wheelie for themselves.