Danny Hart has been called many things, but these two descriptions are what stand out the most. A challenge: Even if you’ve seen it 10 times, watch Danny Hart’s run from the Champery World Champs in 2011 and try to feel no emotion, it’s impossible. Perhaps your heart rate is speeding up. Maybe you’re shaking your head. Are you awestruck? Was it the whip? The cornering? Both?
No matter how loose he gets, he never seems to go down!
Look at Danny! He’s an absolute legend!
That is the most insane bicycle riding I’ve ever seen in my life!
And, of course… “How does Danny Hart sit down with balls that big?
Nigel Page and Rob Warner summed it up pretty well with their colorfully entertaining commentary during the 3 minutes 41.989 seconds of Danny’s race run. The mountain bike world had never seen anything like it, and Danny’s star was solidified that very afternoon as he took home the rainbow stripes that he’d been working for since age 4.
Danny’s talent on a bike was apparent at a very young age. His father, Paul, a super Moto racer, saw something special in Danny and had him racing local BMX events as soon as he was able to enter. With the bike handling that came from BMX, Danny eventually started riding cross-country and downhill. He raced all three disciplines as a Junior, and even enjoyed a streak of 10 straight victories in his 2007 season. In 2010 Danny was signed to the Giant Factory Off Road team alongside Duncan Riffle and current teammate Andrew Neethling. With the newfound support from a major sponsor, Danny quickly became a rider to watch.
Danny’s style has evolved throughout his seasons as an elite rider. When he first started making waves in 2010 with a top 10 finish at the Val di Sole World Cup and an 8th place finish at Worlds in Mont Saint Anne, he was loved for his loose, stylish racing. He was even called, “wreckless,” a term he is quick to dismiss.
“I may have ridden a bit loose, but I wouldn’t say I was wreckless” he says. “My bike setup wasn’t perfect back then, which caused me to ride a bit wild sometimes. But now, my mechanic Dave Garland and I have the bike setup really well.”
That set up has lead to a few very strong seasons on the World Cup circuit. He followed his infamous World’s victory with three podium finishes in five World Cups in 2012 and was looking to take down the field again at Worlds when he injured his shoulder at Crankworx Les Deux Alps on a training run. Danny came back with a vengeance in the 2013 and 2014 seasons though; amassing eight top 10 finishes in World Cup races. In spite of the consistency he’s shown, there’s still one thing lacking, a World Cup victory. Danny’s only aim is to win races. In fact, he’s so focused on training and competition that it’s all consuming in his life.
Being at this level, you have to sacrifice a few things, put number one first
This means his life off the bike is very regimented. He doesn’t drink often, he doesn’t party or go out to see bands play, even though he’d like to. He does go to the pub with his non-bike friends on occasion, though he usually doesn’t drink. He trains twice every single day. He writes down every single facet of his training: what workouts he’s doing, how his rides went, what he’s eating. Keeping logs has proven to help him stay on course for his riding, which he admits is all he is really able to focus on at this point in his life. While that’s what it takes for the elite to be elite, Danny admits that sometimes it gets to be a lot to handle. “Sometimes during the struggle, I wish I was sat at a desk,” he laughs.
Danny’s focus is something to behold. It’s a reason he keeps to himself at races and it’s something that he’s very comfortable with. “I’m there to try and win the race,” he says. “I’m not there to mess around and do stupid stuff.” Asked if he believes in superstitions at events, he shakes his head. “They’re bullshit,” he says. Teammate Andrew Neethling notes that one of Danny’s best attributes is that he’s just able to just do what he needs to do. “Danny doesn’t have to think much when he’s competing. He can just show up and get on with riding his bike,” he says.
While Danny may appear to be all focus and no fun, behind the face we normally see is a very laid back, approachable guy with a pretty great sense of humor. His rendition of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge had him wearing nothing but a sock, which left little to the imagination. He is a guy who wants to have fun, but understands that his priority now is to train and race. He’s still very young at 23, but when he does finally finish racing, he won’t have any issue figuring out how to enjoy his time. He even confessed (after a bit of prodding) that he would probably sing “Ice Ice Baby” after consuming a few pints at a karaoke joint…maybe.
Danny is also a great ambassador for the sport. He is constantly updating his YouTube channel with training runs of him riding with friends and teammates where encourages people to share and comment. He’s a regular at his local downhill track, Hamsterly where he’s still getting used to the fact that kids get excited to see him in person. And, in 2012 he rallied around Help for the Heroes, a UK charity that focuses on raising money for soldiers wounded in combat. His bike at the 2012 Ft. William race even had 400 names of wounded soldiers inscribed as a tribute to their dedication and service.
Danny’s career is young. He’s growing into his mind, and his results are only going to keep improving. While he may be less wreckless and more focused, the wild rider we all enjoy watching will be here to put on a show for years to come. Hopefully we’ll get to witness his ascension to the top step again in the near future.
Check out the other episodes of Beyond the Bike right here: