Biker Glen: Why the Highlands is a 'hot bed' of cycle talent

By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter

Image source, Drop and Roll
Image caption,
A Drop and Roll show in full swing

Inverness' Duncan Shaw is a co-founder with Skye's Danny MacAskill of the Drop and Roll street trials tour. Ahead of a show at next month's Belladrum festival, he explains why the Highlands is a "hot bed" of cycling talent right now.

Street trials is not for the faint hearted.

Its participants are usually found performing rides and jumps on urban features, such as iron railings and concrete walls.

At the highest level of the pursuit, the stunts are executed high up on rooftops or from the top of a van.

Among the world's street trials elite are Shaw, MacAskill and their fellow members of Drop and Roll, a show that tours the globe.

But while often on the road, for Shaw and MacAskill their Highlands home is always close to their hearts.

Image source, Drop and Roll
Image caption,
Duncan Shaw performing during a show

"I really do hope that we have been at least a help on promoting cycling in the Scottish Highlands," says Shaw.

"But there are so many other factors and reasons for the remarkable hot bed of talent that is going on in the north Of Scotland.

"We even have two UCI World Cup downhill racers hailing from Inverness in Greg Williamson and Kenta Gallagher, who are doing an amazing job travelling the world with factory race teams.

"Downhill is a very different discipline to the trials riding we do on the Drop and Roll Tour so we can't take credit for the amazing success they have had in recent years, plus they have been at it long before Drop and Roll was even a thing."

Image source, Drop and Roll
Image caption,
The Drop and Roll team during one of its tours

Shaw believes the support for cycling in Inverness is key to the popularity of the pedal-pushing pursuits' various disciplines.

He says: "I think having a really good selection of cycling shops owned and run by people who are cyclists themselves and have a genuine desire to help grow and develop the various disciplines of cycling that we see so many Highlanders excel at today.

"I also think the great facilities we have now have been massive in the development over the last few years.

"The city's new Skatepark and Pump Track have been huge in boosting the participation rates and level of the young riders.

"We have some great young street trials and BMX riders who have been honing their skills on the streets of Inverness as well as the Skate Park.

"There is a young trials rider called Max Brown who is showing some really potential. Maybe we will see him on the Drop and Roll Tour in a few years."

Image source, Drop and Roll
Image caption,
Skye's Danny MacAskill in action

And Shaw, who says he would likely have gone into finance or running a business if he had not carved out a career in street trials, has some advice for other young cyclists.

He says: "My advice would be just to go out and ride for fun and not get too stressed out about how many followers you have on Instagram and getting sponsored.

"If you ride enough for the love it, and these things are meant to be you will get noticed and take things to the next level, if not, who cares, as long as you are having fun riding with your friends and keeping fit, that's the main thing."