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Danny MacAskill’s VR Ride Experience

If you are a keen cyclist, visit YouTube frequently, or have come across ideos of Danny MacAskill on social media, you’ve probably been blown away by his trial biking skills.
As a brief explainer for anyone who hasn’t, to date the Scottish trials cyclist has racked up over 450 million YouTube views, travelling to some of the most picturesque locations in the world to demonstrate his mastery of the mountain bike. He’s a YouTube and social media sensation that shares his love for trial biking with millions around the world and has grown into one of the most recognised names in the cycling industry.

From Edinburgh to Cape Town, Taiwan and beyond, watching Danny on his bike is thrilling enough, but we were contacted by a company called REWIND who wanted to go one step further. Working with Cut Media, they wanted to create the world’s first motion platform VR bike ride to give fans the chance to sit in Danny’s saddle, allowing them to experience the thrill of off-road trial riding.
Audiences would be able to mount Danny’s new Santa Cruz bicycle, and using a VR headset instantly be transported into the mountains to enjoy the adrenaline rush of riding on the edge. At the same time, a simulator platform would move the bike and the rider, giving them a fully immersive visual and physical experience.

Two off-road experiences were to be made available: one travelling along the perilously high Collies Ledge in the Isle of Skye, Scotland, and the other along the equally nerve-shredding heights of the Landwasser Bridge in Switzerland.

Our task

The LUMA-iD team were tasked with designing and building the frame that would ensure Danny’s Santa Cruz bike remained securely in-place on the platform while in use.
User safety was of paramount importance as during the experience the bike would undergo a varying degree of movement as users attempted to avigate the VR world. With the rider naturally responding to the threat of falling off the edge of a virtual cliffside it was essential the bike frame was robust and fixed firmly into position.

The first step involved the creation of a complex CAD model that allowed us to analyse the movement of the bicycle, platform, training aid (which fed the computer information about the required bike speed) and the holding frame.
This played a key role in ensuring the frame did not cause any issues with the rider or the bike itself.
We had to make sure the rider was able to use the pedals without interference, which meant the rear of the frame had to be narrower to accommodate both their movement and the supporting frame.

Rather than build a complete replica frame using similar material – which would have been too expensive – we relied on our in-house 3D printing capabilities to manufacture key components instead. The frame did feature aluminium extrusion beams, and we used 3D printed connectors (polyamide 12 powder with SLS prototyping printers).
Using this method we were able to replicate the exact shape and fit of the bicycle frame to create a fully secure connection. We also connected a force feedback motor to the front forks to give a realistic steering experience.

Other important parts of the prototyping process included the use of load cells, which we used to calculate how far users could lean to the side of the bike. In-turn, this also affected the amount of tilt experienced by the simulator platform, so we focussed on striking the right balance between safety and a realistic virtual ride.

Project results

As you can see in the video of the virtual reality experience posted on Danny’s YouTube page, the finished version works perfectly. The finished frame is held securely in place, with the rider protected as they disappear into the VR world.

Launched in the Ride Out bike store in Amsterdam at the start of September 2020, the VR experience has proven to be a huge success, with the Unreal Engine technology creating an unique VR experience not seen before now. It’s a project we were proud to be part of and couldn’t be more pleased with the final outcome.