“Oh fuck. I’m gonna die.”
The backroad was as rocky as it was steep and I didn’t see any railings at the intersection ahead. Only a valley that looked like instant death. My guide asked if I felt more comfortable walking down instead, but I told him no. Because though my heart was beating out of my chest, the badass in me wanted a tiny taste of Bike Life. So I closed my eyes and held on tight as I waited for my death on the back of a dirt bike. By the time we reached the bottom, my feelings of fear were replaced with exhilaration.
“Damn, that felt good!”
I imagine that indescribable feeling of pure joy is what A$AP TyY experiences every time he gets on his ATV and tears the streets up. As a member of A$AP Mob — with rappers A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg — TyY is the fearless, rapping daredevil of the Harlem collective, often seen popping sick wheelies in New York City with his four-wheeler. While he doesn’t take credit for being the first to stunt, TyY is considered the current leader of New York City’s Bike Life scene, a youth-oriented movement that marries street culture and motocross.
The sub-culture emerged from the underground and to the masses by way of DMX’s iconic visuals for his 1999 classic, “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem.” The video featured real “Ruff Ryders” doing insane stunts on bikes and ATVs. One unforgettable scene even had a stunt man speeding down a flight of stairs while riding his bright yellow ATV without any hands. Daring tricks like that are what captivated TyY as a youngin.
“I grew up on Ruff Ryders, and people I saw doing it on my street,” the 27-year-old tell Uproxx. “It wasn’t something I initially started. It was something that was going on for a long time.”
The fearless stuntman, who credits BMX legends Dave Mirra and Mat Hoffman as inspirations, started biking when he purchased his first bicycle at just 11 years old.
“I finally saved up enough money to buy my own bike because my mom wasn’t willing to buy me one.”
With Harlem’s nearly four square miles as his playground, TyY immersed himself in BMX culture before branching off to motocross and finding influence in legends Jeremy McGrath, Travis Pastrana, Nate Adams and cultural icon Evel Knievel.
“I used to hang pictures and rip them out of magazines and put them all on my wall when I was a kid, so that’s where it sparked. Those are some of the pioneers that I’ve looked up to coming up.”
Now Bike Life enthusiasts are looking up to TyY as a godfather bringing that unique New York flare to cities across the country, the UK, and even Australia. But there’s no place like home for the born and bread Harlemite, who crowns New York City as the capital of the Bike Life sub-culture, boasting, “It’s raw. New York City is just a place that brings so much swag to the game, or whatever you want to categorize it.”
The Bike Life sub-culture often gets a bad reputation for appearing to be about a bunch of troublemakers barreling down city streets in ATVs and doing sick stunts with nary a helmet in sight. But A$AP TyY contends that there’s much more to it than that. For starters, it’s a lifestyle.
“Bike Life is when you leave your issues at home, get on the road, and just ride and forget about things,” the rapper was quoted saying to Complex. “Anyone can get on a nice, expensive bike, but if you on one wheel and start doing tricks, it looks more interesting.”
And A$AP TyY does make it interesting!
When he’s not ripping the booth and cutting tracks, the rapper can be found staring death in the face and laughing hysterically. The proof is on his Instagram page and multiple videos posted on YouTube dating back to 2012. The average person may be too paralyzed by fear to get on an ATV — much less without safety gear — and pop a few wheelies, but TyY’s clearly not your average guy.
“It doesn’t fear me at all,” he says. “That’s something that I’m passionate about it, so I really don’t see the danger to it.”
That fear-blinding passion is how A$AP can effectively do stand-up wheelies, sit-down wheelies, 12:00 wheelies, one-hand wheelies, standing-on-the-seat wheelies, hand-drag wheelies and various other tricks that give normal humans (this author included) significant anxiety.
But how does TyY do it? It all boils down to three things, says the daredevil, “acceleration of the gas, the balance point, and the brake.” The wheelies, however, take some mastering. “Sometimes I fall, but it happens.”
Thankfully, the A$AP member has never suffered any life-threatening injuries while channeling his inner Travis Pastrana, the first person to do a double backflip on a motorbike, a stunt that was previously believed to be impossible to complete. That’s not to say TyY hasn’t suffered his fair share of painful injuries, though.
“The pain was really bad when I broke my ankle,” TyY recalls of his most unfortunate injury. “I remember when I tried to stop and my leg kind of collapsed.” But it all comes with the territory with the thrill-seeker, adding, “That was probably one of the craziest pains I went through, but I’m still here [and] that’s what comes with the lifestyle.”
The philosopher might find a sort of Buddhist acceptance in TyY’s peace about his injuries, but the man is no fool. He recommends that novices and newbies gear up before working up to invincible stuntman/woman status.
“First and foremost you want to ride off-road,” he advises. “You want to have all your safety gear on you. I’m talking about pads, helmets, and probably a chest protector, too. All that before you even try to do anything. That goes for first-time riders or anyone learning how to ride.”
TyY’s mom might have been worried about his first BMX, but that piece of advice would surely make her proud.