Who wouldn’t trade wet British weather with plenty of high fives, sandy beaches and street trials on a tropical island? Yeah right, stupid question. After a long season the Drop and Roll crew received a surprising call, which led to an adventure over 10,500 kilometers away from cosy but cold Glasgow in Scotland. Street trials pro Duncan Shaw gives us his account of those few weeks and takes us for a spin through the streets of Manila with his fellow riders Danny MacAskill, Ali C and Fabio Wibmer.
It’s October 2016 and I am taking full advantage of the fruit buffet in our quaint Amsterdam hotel ahead of a Drop and Roll Show later that day. My phone rings. It’s Tarek Rasouli, our manager: "Would you guys like to go to the Philippines? There is an event wanting to book you guys. We need to know right away, if we want to make it happen." Having never been to The Philippines, I immediately imagine white sandy beaches, sweet surf and most importantly, riding bikes in the sun. “Do you guys want to go to the Philippines?” I asked and was greeted with a unanimous yes. It was on!
As with all of these things, they seem to come around at an alarming rate and a quick six weeks later we were at Glasgow Airport. Our photographer and filmer, Dave Mackison, and our stand-in MC, ex professional MTB rider, Ricky Crompton, joined Danny, Ali Clarkson, and myself. The departure hall temporally turned into something reminiscent of the EVOC EUROBIKE stand and £1000 of excess baggage charges later we were through departures and bound for Dubai on the way to Manila.
20 hours later, Tena, Banz and Arjuna, who turned out to be the best local hosts we could’ve asked for, greeted us! We had been brought out there by Ayala INC, a company that develops large pieces of land. Their most recent development “Vermosa” is a yet to be constructed residential development with a focus on outdoor active living. This was the connection that made them feel it seemed fit for us to come and perform at their launch. After a couple of days “rest” we were taken to the show venue. Not quite sure what to expect, we found a massive tent, that had been erected specifically for our show; complete with full lighting set up and the biggest PA system we have ever used.
Because we couldn’t travel the distance with our usual rig, Tena, Banz and Arjuna’s team went to the trouble of employing local builders to make a replica rig. Yeah crazy, right? It looked just as good, if not even better than the rig we had been touring Europe with for the past year. After two days of test riding the new rig, it was show time. As our first show was scheduled for 4pm on the Saturday, we were getting some last minute warm up on the rig which is basically a tight rope balance of trying to get yourself up to speed without giving away all the moves and tricks in the show. Suddenly, we were told, we would have to push the show back. We had caused a traffic jam! The roads leading to the venue couldn’t cope with the numbers of people in cars wanting to see the show. It was a huge surprise to us. We really didn’t think there would be many Danny and Drop and Roll fans this far round the globe. We couldn’t believe it!
The show eventually kicked off and we were all completely blown away by the numbers and enthusiasm of the crowd. Over the next two days we did three more shows, all of which exceeded our expectations and left the whole team on a high. We decided to stay for another couple of days and see the country after having had such a great experience with the people at our shows. Unfortunately, Fabio had some university commitments and had to head home to Austria, leaving myself, Danny, Ali, Dave and Ricky behind for this adventure short before Christmas.
Before leaving Manila, I was keen to have at least one ride in the city center. Our guides recommended against it, because the danger was too great our not so subtle bikes may attract some interest and be taken from us. However, we decided to go for it and embarked on a fairly treacherous mission through the streets of manila infamous for its “loose” traffic system. The capital of the Philippines turned out to be one of the friendliest cities I have ever visited: tricycle taxi drivers and old ladies on the street were waving, smiling and showing a real interest in what we were up to.
There is something unique about exploring a city on your bike. You get a far more intimate experience than if you were travelling by bus or car but at a pace that allows you to cover a distance impossible by foot. We cruised around the area of Makati, finding a few good spots and Dave managed to capture a couple of clips of myself and Danny before making the dangerous trip back to the hotel through the now dark streets of Manila.
We hadn’t made any further plans, but after some advice from our newly found friends, the decision was made to take a 7 hour over night transfer to La Union - the surf spot closest to Manila. After some literally “breath-taking” driving from our local driver, Hansel, we made it. After a day of relaxing and a few failed attempts at surfing, myself and Danny were already itching to get back onto two wheels. So, the search was on to find some sweet trials spots. After a couple of fairly fruitless missions, we eventually stumbled on what turned out to be a bit of a gem at the neighboring surf and fishing village of Tabot. We were very lucky to discover a local games area next to the village school complete with walls, steps and rails. In short, a tropical street trials paradise and more than enough to keep us occupied for our weeks stay.
As soon as we started riding, the local kids came out in their droves to come and watch. It was amazing to see how excited the youngsters got. Every day we returned to ride there, the number of locals coming to watch seemed to multiply and by Sunday, there must have been over 100 kids watching us ride. After an hour of riding and filming at the local school, Danny – always the show-off – decided it was the right time to send a front flip onto the beach, that he had been eyeing up all week. We grabbed our bikes and kit and made the 100-meter journey from the school with the excited kids in tow. After about ten minutes of axing it up and getting the cameras in the right place, we parted the crowds of kids for the run up. Danny took his usual two or three “bitch runs” and nailed a perfect front flip onto the sand and another front flip over the bars followed by a run and dive into the sea. To say the kids were stoked would be an understatement! To see these kids, who had never seen or heard of Danny or the Drop and Roll Tour before, show such a genuine stoke for bikes is something I will never forget.
Text: Duncan Shaw
Photos: Dave Mackison