“Martyn was riding as well as I’ve ever seen him riding, and as committed to a project as I’ve ever seen,” agrees videographer Robin. “He was riding so well and loving the bike: what the brakes bought, the frame stiffness, and even just the look of it – it lit up his face every time he looked at it. We were so excited about what he could do on it.”
For well over a year, from the autumn of 2012 to December 2013, he planned, planned, and planned for his career swan song, a fitting and dramatic finale to a life lived on the limits of traction and nerve. His vision for Road Bike Party 2 was to leave an indelible mark on the viewer via a visual onslaught of shock and awe by “punching viewers in the face” with jaw-droppingly incredible riding, again, and again, and again. And all on a road bike. To ensure that the cat wasn’t let out of the bag, he kept his riding powder dry for many of his new and unique tricks: from the world’s first front flip on a road bike to open loops, he’d planned, practiced and perfected these and more key “big banger moves,” as he describes them, in secret to be documented exclusively in his new film. All the ‘big banger moves’ were scheduled to be shot in what became the week after his accident; sadly, some of these will now never be committed to celluloid.
“Immediately I thought, ‘Oh f–k, that [the video] was the first goal [gone]’,” he remembers of his realization in the seconds after his fall; a reaction that both he and Robin shared. But despite both the severe physical and emotional shock of his injury, Martyn knew that he would finish the video: “It was like, ‘How are we going to do this?’ Not, ‘We can’t do this,’” he explains. The video never had a chance or an opportunity to rest: “It got like, ‘I have to finish the video.’ I was training so hard and becoming so…” he trails off for a split second, before regrouping: “The evidence was that I was riding the best I ever have.”
After the results of his MRI scan were known and when he knew that everyone – his wife, son, and friends and family – were all safe, his first night in hospital brought him some of his first moments alone and the time to regroup. “I thought: ‘I’ll forge a plan for what I’ll do,” and the very next day he set about doing it. “‘Right, I know how to do it, but it’ll be pretty different [to his original plan] but that’s how to do it. I knew that I needed more footage – it’s pretty obvious really,” he explains simply, “I need more footage and I need a level of footage that’s absolutely the best it can be so I have to go to my ‘competitors’ for it.” He smiles at the absurdity of using the word ‘competitors’ to describe the two riders who are and have become strong friends, “So I have to go to Chris [Akrigg] and Danny [MacAskill] – who else could I ask? There is no one else.”
He texted them, “Like a coward!” Martyn says self-deprecatingly, “I wanted to make it easy for them not to reply or to say no.” He needn’t have worried as, within seconds, Danny replied to say that it would be an honor to help – a response that touched Martyn deeply: “He really humbled me actually. I was, as I still am, really choked by it.” Within a further 30 minutes, Chris had responded with, “I’d heard you’re hurt,” to which Martyn replied: “Yes, actually Chris, I’ve got a big favor to ask,” and sent the text, followed immediately by another saying, “I need you to help me with my road bike video.” When Chris got the first text, he was, “Like, ‘Oh no, right’” and was beginning to write back with: “I’ll do anything but I’m not riding that bloody road bike!” “‘Cos he saw through me immediately,” explains Martyn with a wry chuckle, “he knows me very well! I basically got the text saying ‘I need you to help me with my road bike video’ text to him before he could send it [his initial reply]. So that was Chris f–ked – he was in!”
“It was a no brainer for me,” explains Chris, “I would’ve done anything for Martyn as I’ve known him for a long, long time. And Danny were involved. It was one of those things that should’ve happened [riding with Martyn and Danny in one video] but [under the circumstances] it’s not the way I wanted it to happen,” he pauses briefly, “It’s an honor to be riding with them boys in there.”
The three then swiftly came together to plot the bike equivalent of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble at Martyn’s hospital bedside.
“We planned what each of them wanted to do and we decided that they should do what they would naturally do when they go out and ride,” says Martyn, “they shouldn’t do the scenes and the riding that I had planned [as] I wanted them [Chris and Danny] to do what they do – not try and be ‘me’,” he explains. So although they dress similarly, they’re in different clothing and they’re themselves, “They’re not ‘doubling’ for me,” he confirms, “I didn’t want them to double for me. Chris is very much off-road, very gnarly, and doing things you wouldn’t expect a road bike to do,” he continues. “Danny is much more street, a bit more tongue in cheek I’d say, and more like Danny is in his videos.”