Danny Hart: Going to the Top & Sending it Sideways
December 12th, 2010
At only nineteen years old, many unfamiliar with the name Danny Hart will presume the young Brit from the North East of England had a great break out year in 2010. Little do they know that they are right, Danny blew a lot of people’s minds in 2010, but this wasn’t his break out year. Danny has been racing mountain bikes since he was ten years old and winning races from the word go. It came as no surprise to many who have followed Danny’s career through the ranks to seniors and then being signed to the Giant Factory Race Team, that under the right conditions, Danny would make his mark on the World Cup circuit. Currently the highest ranked nineteen year old competing, Danny has done more than to mature as a racer.
His attitude and personality have shone through the various videos which stream across the web during the race season, not afraid to get on the banter box and give as good as he gets.
On the bike, off the bike, Danny is quick off the mark full stop, he lives and breathes bikes, going sideways, drifting and kicking the shit up! 2011 is knocking and it’s not long till the season kicks off in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Lying 8th overall in the world, the podium and truly hitting the ‘big time’ is getting closer than ever before for the fast lad from up North. With many of the young guns that have been making waves in the world of mountain bike racing, there is often a lot of ego going around. Danny’s just got raw speed and natural ability, and when you’ve got the results to do the talking for you too, there’s no point wasting your time with ego.
2011 is going to be another great year of drama, highs and lows, trials and tribulation and everything in between that makes the World Cups so entertaining. The chances of Danny Hart getting on that podium are pretty high right now, and everyone knows it. We can’t wait!
Interview: Olly Forster
Photography: Jacob Gibbins
Danny, for anyone involved with racing here in the UK, it must seem like your part of the furniture. You’ve been competing since before you weren’t even legally allowed. 2010 made a lot of people pay attention to you and your ability on a bike. How did you feel your 2010 season went for you?
Yeah it feels like I have been in the sport for a long time now, and to be quite honest I have, I mean I can go ‘back in the day’ with the best of them… I have been riding downhill at Hamsterley, for more years than most of the lads up there, and I am only 19. The 2010 season for me was phenomenal; I did not expect to be up there like I was… So yeah it was a great season, and I hope to have the same luck next year and stay in the top 10
Your old man has been an ever-present force in your rising career. Would you consider you dad a ‘pushy parent’ and did you ever feel frustrated when you were younger, or did you both have your eyes on the end goal?
I would have to say, I would not be where I am now with out any of my family; they have pushed me so hard because I think they obviously saw potential, I remember back when I was about 9-10 and I used to live in the skate park (not literally) and dad spent so much time in there with me, and yeah, I would say he was pushy but only because he wanted the best… he would never let me try anything that he didn’t think I could. Now I really appreciate what they have all done… They may not think it but I really do!
Before mountain bikes there was always MX and BMX in your life, and indeed today they are still big parts of who you are away from the mountain bike. Mountain biking and especially downhill is so influenced by its other two wheeled, off road cousins. Do you think downhill lacks an identity of its own or do you think having these outside influences helps to make mountain biking what it is today?
I think downhill, is coming into its own more and more every season… I do however think we still live in the shadow of MX… but that is only because MX has a cool image, and we need a lot of equipment etc, that they use…
BMX and MX bikes, what are you rocking this off-season and why?
Well at the moment I am riding a Giant Methord BMX, and a KXF250, my 2011 KXF250 is currently in the shop getting fixed, so I am riding a borrowed 2009 one, from the shop, BikeSport up in Newcastle…
Having a history and an avid interest in BMX and MX, where do you think Downhill can go in the future? We seem to be in their shadow, but every year downhill seems to get more exposure and the sports progression is sky rocketing right now surly the only way is up?
Well I think the sport as a whole over the past few years has gone off the scale, because of the live feet from Freecaster; I think it has a massive role in the explosion on our sport. I think a lot of people think DH should be in the Olympics and rightly so… I hope one day we can get to that level and with the rate of progression as it is now… I really don’t see why not. BMX is in the Olympics I don’t see why DH can’t be.
Watching you hold that drift at Val di Sole was unbelievable, and definitely looked like your MX background was helping you out there. Do you think the MX bike can be one of the best ways of cross training for downhill if you want to take it to the next level?
I think motocross is an awesome cross trainer, it is brilliant because when you are out there putting laps in, you are having more fun than you have when your out on your road bike, or in the gym on the rowing machine etc, and lets be honest you are wresting a 230lb motorcycle around, for 20 minutes, now lets be honest, if you can do that for 20 minutes, tickling a DH bike weighing in at 40ld, for a maximum of 5 minutes is going to be a walk in the park.
You’re a clipped in rider, which kind of goes against the grain with many of your peers who prefer the flat pedal. Clips are for ‘kooks’ right? Riding clipped in has some serious benefits and its refreshing to see someone standing out and doing something different, but have you ever considered going to the ‘light’ and sporting some flats and why do you prefer clips?
Me as a rider, coming through from racing clips on BMX from about the age of 10, is obvious that I am going to ride clips… I have tried flats on the downhill bike but I seriously cant get away with it… when I pedal I feel like a girl, just because I can put the power down as efficiently… I do ride heaps of BMX and I am not clipped in on that!
2010, new team and a new category. Big changes all round for you, straight out of juniors and onto a brand and indeed, a team synonymous with downhill racing. How was your first year on Giant and has Duncan tried to get you down the tattoo parlour?
My first year on Giant has been awesome, the guys behind the scenes are so cool, and just want the best… I couldn’t have asked much more from them, I didn’t really know what to expect at the start of the season, I defiantly didn’t expect to be where I was… Duncan, well he knows that his life wouldn’t be worth living if I had one bit of ink on me, the mother!
Can you tell us about how it feels to be making your mark in seniors and being a professional mountain bike racer? Every kid who gets a taste for bikes and dirt dreams of going pro, do you ever have to pinch yourself or is this just the end result of years of determination and hard graft?
Yeah I mean as a kid I have come through it all, MX, BMX, XC, it all, and every one of them I wanted to be the best! So to finally get to that level where you are at the top of your game is a special feeling. For me being a professional is the same as being an amateur, but obviously getting paid. I mean even now, every time I pull my bike out of the van to go riding, it is still like when I was racing juvenile and so happy to be riding!
You’re only nineteen years old, as great as it must be to spend your summer months travelling the world doing what you love, do you ever feel like your missing out on the usual activities of a nineteen year old?
Yeah don’t get me wrong travelling around the world doing what I do is the best job I could ever as for, but it does get taxing and hard when you are stuck in an airport for a day on your own… Yeah there are some things that I miss out on, at home which I sometimes think or that looks cool… but I could not ask for a better job, I love it! Just need more days in the year haha.
So, back to the 2010 season, 8th overall in the world cup and then 8th at the world champs. Pretty good by anyone’s standard, but when you’re racing against the big dogs of the sport it’s especially good. What kind of response have you had from other competitors; they’ve got to be pretty stoked for you?
To be fair I don’t think anyone’s attitude changed that much because coming out of junior I was just a top 40 rider, so no one was expecting anything from me… so coming into 2010 everyone was thinking or just a top 40 rider, and then when I was doing much better, people, I think were just thinking oh he got lucky then I would do it week in week out… Then I was getting more respect I think.
Its winter now, great isn’t it? So what are you doing training wise to prepare you for the 2011 season?
Yeah I love coming home to winter, believe it or not. Because I get to ride motocross! At the moment that is not possible with the current snowfall. So just riding BMX and training in the gym really.
Is it too early or can tell us about your 2011 programme, who and what you’ll be representing at the races?
Yeah at this stage it is a little too early to be 100% on what races I will be attending.
I remember when Steve Peat was the only UK rider on a decent ‘Factory’ ride, back in the GT days. Now every big team has a Brit representing them. This is obviously a sign of the times as the UK is spitting out talent left, right and centre. Can this continue and where do you see the UK scene going?
Man, the younger generation right now are killing it… it is only a sign of things to come. The UK is so good because we are only a small country and we have a good racing scene that is why we can produce all the talent that we do.
Based on where the sport is now, where do see Downhill in five years and where would you like to see it?
Well I think it is really hard to say where it is going to go but I am really confident that it is going to keep on going up and getting much bigger. Like we said previous, the young talent is off the scale, No reason it can’t keep rising.
Its only five months now till Sea Otter and the first World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, how are you feeling going into your second season in seniors, are you apprehensive after such a good rookie year or you just ready to send it?
To be fair, I am going to train my hardest leading up to the season, and just give it my all, in a way just like last season, but I know what to expect a little more this coming season!
Time for the obligatory interview shout outs to sponsors, parents, and God if you’ve got one?
I would just like to thank my parents for sticking by me all these years, My coach Alan Millway, Oscar Saiz my riding coach, Joe Staub, Frank Trotter from Giant for giving me the opportunity to ride awesome bikes. Aaron Hay, Brode Vosloo from Fox Head Europe for sorting my kit out! John Smith from Fenwicks, Dave Francoisy for sorting out my website… Thanks guys could’nt do it with out you!
Thanks Danny and all the best for 2011! We’ll be looking forward to keeping up with you on your Factory Jackson blog in the new year.