“It was weird because there was no color lines,” says Craz. “We were Black. There was Spanish. Jason and Jeremy were white.” But they all shared one thing: a symbiotic relationship to adrenaline. The speed gene. They were stunt riders. Wheelie zealots who morphed death wishes into MPH. People for whom the bike was an extension of self, and all the ways it could be contorted.
Even among a crew like that, everyone remembers Yayi as fearless.
“We’d be slowing down waiting for her, thinking she’s gonna get hurt,” says Musk. “And she’s speeding past us, doing 100 miles an hour on the highway. We was like, ‘Yo, this girl really know how to ride!’ Everyone’s feeling bad, but Yayi’s outshining us all.”
Then, early on the morning of March 10th, 1994, her husband, Supreme, a member of the 84th Precinct basketball team as an auxiliary cop, was shot and killed in front of a Brooklyn club. Newspapers reported accusations of his involvement with a ring of robberies of drug-dealers and the killing of an armored-car guard. But Yayi doesn’t mention this. “He ran a construction company,” she says. “He taught me everything I know about fixing up a house.”
“After they killed my first husband, everything crumbled.” She rode into her grief. Through spring and summer and into the early dark of fall, she rode. In rain, snow, or sleet, she rode. Any time on her bike was time not at home, alone, thinking. It was winter when she convinced Wink to teach her how to pop a wheelie. He set an early-morning meet time at Brooklyn’s Pier 4, a wide concrete lot jutting out into the East River with a view of the Manhattan skyline.
“I wanted so bad to learn to ride and do tricks, that I would do it under any condition,” remembers Yayi. “Fuck it, if it’s one degree, I’m still gonna go.”
With bones cracking and snot dripping into frozen stalactites, Yayi circled the Yamaha around the lot, trying to heave it into the air.
“When you hit the throttle,” Wink instructed. “You can’t let go.”
But she couldn’t keep her grip. Her fingers curled into icy claws.
For two full tanks of gas, he made her circle around. “Again, AGAIN!” he bellowed like a trainer working his boxer into a lather, the Miyagi to her Danielson. Pushing her to see where her breaking point was, to see if she had one.
Lips chapped, tears dried on her cheeks, she went for hours, heaving her body into the air until finally in one clean motion, she yanked the wheel back so hard the machine bucked. She felt her ponytail swinging behind her, a pendulum marking her transition to true rider.
“Once I had that,” she says, “no one could take it away.”