If you have ever pulled a mile-long third-gear wheelie only to have somebody roll up next to you afterward and say in a sarcastic New York accent, "Your wheelies is gaaaa-bage," you have one man to thank: the enigmatic Wink 1100. That classic stunter's put-down is an original Winkism, first uttered by the man himself somewhere in Harlem in the early 1990s when he was laying the groundwork for urban street stunting. Since those early days Wink has taken his game all the way from the streets of Harlem to big-league MTV videos and Hollywood sound stages, representing street freestyle longer than nearly any other rider on two wheels, with much more style.
Taking his nickname from the massive 550-pound Suzuki GSX-R1100s he rode to fame during the past decade, Wink 1100 is the seminal hardcore urban streetbike rider. Wink (whose real name, age and residence remain concealed as part of his elusive image) put freestyle stunting on the map with his groundbreaking appearance in the hit "Ruff Ryders Anthem" music video with rapper DMX in '98, thrusting stunting before mainstream TV audiences for the first time. Always rolling on a pimped-out Suzuki meticulously prepared by custom bike artist and clothing designer Scott Chester of New York's ACID Designs, Wink was among the first riders in America to bust out rolling stoppies, high-chair wheelies and other moves that formed the foundation of street freestyle. In addition to riding, Wink is also well known for his original sense of style. The next time you see a stunter wearing a chromed-out German WWII fighter helmet paired with Scott ski goggles, you have Wink to thank. Wink isn't afraid of face paint, either, and for a long time he only appeared on the streets wearing a purple sharkskin suit with a necktie wired up to look as if he was blasting along at 120 mph even when he was standing still. In other words, Wink has mad style.
As big as Wink 1100 was a decade ago, when his impromptu Wink Parades attracted hundreds of sportbikes for an insane, largely illegal romp through New York's five boroughs, he is practically impossible to track down today. We pounded the underground for months to locate the man for this interview, and even after we got the words in the can, Wink refused to cooperate with us on a photo shoot--the "underground legend" gig apparently suits him well. It's a bummer Wink doesn't hit the streets more often nowadays--we found him as crazy as ever, and maybe more influential now that he's leveraged his formidable skills (riding and promoting both) into a career as a Hollywood film consultant. Here's what Wink 1100 had to say.
Super Streetbike: When did you start stunting?
Wink 1100: We'd been stunting on the streets for years, but things really kicked off on TV with BET and MTV and all that in the late '90s. I did the "Ruff Ryders Anthem" video with DMX in '98 and that was what really set this whole urban stunt and sportbike thing off on a national level.
**SSB: **Where did you learn to stunt? Did you have a mentor or did you teach yourself?
**Wink 1100: **I've been a biker from way, way back. The first time I realized I could do my own stunts was back in, like, '91 or '92 on those old, heavy, oil-cooled Suzuki GSX-R1100s. Nobody was even doing wheelies and stoppies back then, so I'd bust out on the streets and people would be like, "Day-um, that brother can ride!" Looking back, it must have looked really wild to people because getting a big bike like that up in the air and holding it--and I mean holding it for blocks, or crossing an entire bridge without ever putting the front end down--there was nobody else doing it like that. People started talking, and there were people coming down to Harlem from all over just because they'd heard about this guy Wink 1100. Some people didn't believe you could ride a big bike like that.
**SSB: **What do you ride now?
**Wink 1100: **I got a lot of bikes now. I got a Honda CBR954RR, I got Hayabusas, I got just about every brand of the top-dog bikes out there.
SSB: **In the current freestyle scene, what riders really impress you?
**Wink 1100: It used to be everybody was kind of doing the same thing. But now I really enjoy watching all the new crews because most of the guys have really, really stepped the game up.
**SSB: **What are you up to nowadays?
**Wink 1100: **I represent a motorcycle shop from Brooklyn called Red Line Cycles, and I have a web site at www.scrapebar.com that provides the equipment people need to do all these crazy stunts. My scrape bar goes all the way around the bike, from front to back, so it protects the plastic, the frame, the engine covers, everything. I've been doing work in Hollywood, too, with movies like Biker Boyz and a new flick called Crime Partners that's about to drop. I've been busy working in a bunch of hip-hop videos and doing mostly high-end stuff. I mostly stay on the industry side of things now.
SSB: **How has the street freestyle game changed in the past 12 years since you were heavily into it?
**Wink 1100: It's more dangerous now because the cops are onto what's going on with the streets, but I'm still out there laying it down when I can. It has become more front page now with everybody doing videos and that, but back in the early '90s it was all seriously underground. It was a Saturday night thing where a bunch of riders would get together late at night and really get their groove on. You couldn't let just anybody know where we were gonna ride. Now, for a lot of people, the hobby has become a sport and a way to make a living. That's wild, because I never thought it would blow up front page like it has.
SSB: Why do you think mainstream media ignored street freestyle for so long?
**Wink 1100: **I don't think anybody at the motorcycle magazines or TV shows even knew it existed until the "Ruff Ryders" video came out. After that, you started seeing it bust out everywhere.
SSB: **Your fashion sense and wild riding gear created almost as much of a legend for yourself as your riding skills--where did that theatrical sensibility come from?
**Wink 1100: A lot of these guys roll out for a show looking like they just got out of bed, or out from under a car they were fixing [laughs]. No disrespect, but you need to have a style, you need to have an image to roll with so people remember you after the show is over. You have a look, a really original, distinctive look, and people remember you--it's like Batman just rode by or some sh*t like that.
**SSB: **We heard a rumor that your famous tag line, "Your wheelies is gaaaa-bage," was originally directed at Welsh stunt riding legend Gary Rothwell--is that true?
**Wink 1100: **Yeah [laughing], everybody's like, "Gary Rothwell invented stunting," but you have to remember that I was doing all those moves in Harlem four, five years before anybody even heard of Rothwell in the States. There're lots of cats claiming to represent stunting's origins, but look back at what was happening in New York back then, and it was Wink doing it. And yes, Rothwell's wheelies are gaaaa-bage!