As a motorcyclist, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of pulling off your first wheelie. It can be immensely satisfying to master the art of wheelies. We’re here to help experienced bikers take their biking skills to the next level by breaking down the process into five simple steps.
Although a wheelie can be fun, you must ensure you’re doing it safely. Most motorcycle professionals would advise that you start learning the more basic form of a wheelie.
The following are 5 easy steps we take when wheeling in a motorcycle:
- Choose a Proper Bike & A Free Road
- Keep Yourself Safe & Check the Rear Tire for Damage
- Warm up the Motorcycle
- Go in First Gear
- Keep your Balance
In this article, I will take you through the steps you need to follow to perfectly and safely wheelie a motorcycle.
The motorcycle wheelie is the most fundamental step of stunting. However, this comes with risks of injury. Therefore, pulling the front wheel and riding only on the rear wheel is a skill. Of course, you master it with a lot of practice. It comes with risks of injury and some damage to the bike, so it requires basic precautions. So let’s do wheelies more safely by following the steps below.
1. Choose a Proper Bike & A Free Road
One major thing in doing a wheelie is choosing a proper bike. A slightly higher capacity powerful motorcycle is preferable. But you don’t need to get a super-bike to do a wheelie. A mid-level or entry-level motorcycle is adequate for the basic type of wheelie. Only for the power wheelie or rolling wheelie is a high-capacity motorcycle required.
So you can do basic wheelies even with your 125cc commuters, and some professionals can also achieve this with scooters. So don’t be disheartened if you own a low-capacity motorcycle. Just roll on and don’t stop practicing. One most important things when getting started is choosing the bike with which you plan to learn a wheelie. That’s the beginning step. So choose, according to your controlling capability, the proper bike.
Learning or doing wheelies on public roads like highways or city roads is not ideal. It’s unlawful. You can’t do it. It’s risky not only for you but also for others around you. Therefore, choose a place like your backyard, unused walkway, or roads which are not used often.
You can also commence your practice when people are not around the place, like morning or evening. Solid asphalt or concrete surface is chosen, but you can also do it on normal ground. Just don’t choose wet, muddy, or gravel surfaces. When you become an expert, you can try anywhere you like, regardless of the surface.
2. Keep Yourself Safe & Check Rear Tire for any Damage
This is the most crucial step not to neglect before practicing a wheelie. You should wear sufficient safety gear before attempting to do a wheelie. Learning a wheelie is a risky task. Before becoming an expert, you can crash, skid, or be thrown off at any time – you must have proper protection from injury.
Wear protective clothing. You never want to get onto a motorcycle without proper protective measures. This includes a thick motorcycle helmet, leather gloves, leather pants or long jeans, and a strong leather jacket. You will also want a pair of solid boots, preferably leather, with some proper grip.
When you’re just getting started, it’s also not a bad idea to wear ankle, elbow, or knee guards, as you’ll have a high chance of falling.
Look for a secluded street or road. Remember that learning this will require you to dedicate some time, and you’ll probably take some nasty spills. You don’t plan to harm any pedestrians around you or crash your bike into any parked or mobile cars. Your constant attempts to try again will also generate a lot of noise, so you don’t want to distract those around you.
It’s not legal to wheelie on a street bike, so finding a spacious isolated area to practice in would help you evade any trouble from law enforcement.
Choose to learn on a bike with enough power. If you’re planning to learn the power wheelie on a sport-bike, it’ll probably be advisable that you go for a 500 cc motorcycle, at a minimum. You’ll be lifting the front wheel mainly with your acceleration, so you will want to ensure that your bike has the required power to pull that off.
You can also choose to learn the power wheelie on a dirt bike. This is great if you want something a little more comfortable. A 100 or 150-cc bike should provide enough power to practice this stunt.
Remember that you’ll be spending a significant period on this back tire when you’re practicing wheelies, so make sure that your tire is in good condition and with no sign of bursting soon. Don’t expect any wobbling on that end. It’s also excellent to run your tire pressure slightly lower than you might naturally. This will make the wheelie more stable.
If your bike has a tip-over sensor, remove it, as this sensor might cause your bike to shut off if you slope too far backward. You will be tipping back a lot, and the fact that you’re just learning may tip even further backward than totally safe. Ensure that your bike doesn’t give out on your mid-wheelie by removing this sensor.
Depending on where it is located on your bike, your back exhaust may also hit the ground, so make sure that it won’t hit the ground while you’re on your rear wheel. If it eventually does, you may mash the ground and fall off the bike.
But is it true that it’s legal to do wheelies on a street bike?
Only a few states explicitly prohibit motorcyclists from practicing wheelies on the street. However, even in states where wheelie is not prohibited, wheelies are often regarded as stunting or hazardous driving.
Even if you don’t see an explicit anti-wheelie law on your state’s books, police officers have a preference for ticket drivers they feel are acting dangerously, and wheelies always fall into that category. So if you’re practicing on a street bike, do it somewhere isolated.
3. Warm Up the Motorcycle
Now that you are preparing for the wheelie, you must warm up the motorcycle. Be habituated with motorcycle size and weight. It’s ideal not to have the tank fully fueled, as it may spill out. So keep it half-filled or below half. That will also help to maintain your balance.
For safety purposes, you can disassemble extra body parts, such as panels, light, indicators, windshield, etc. Hence if the bike falls down or crashes, it will not damage those parts.
Again, you can also fix an auxiliary crash guard or another type of bike protection to protect the bike from damage.
Since you are fully prepared to do a wheelie, you should know it’s a job that requires practice. The essential thing to wheelie is to pull up the front wheel in the air and come in balance on the rear wheel, keep rolling. Secondly, landing the front wheel back to the ground safely and still in control.
Hence, pulling the front wheel into the air from quite a standstill position needs extra power delivery. So it should be done in low gear, like gear 1 or 2, depending on your motorcycle size and engine power.
This is the progression of wheelie:
- Start rolling in 1 or 2 gears at extremely low speeds, like 10-20kmph.
- Grab the clutch lever to let the bike move free.
- At the same time, accelerate the throttle over the mid RPM and fast free the clutch lever.
- During this short period, the rear wheel will get extra power and lift up the front wheel into the air.
- Keep twisting the throttle and roll on, balancing only on the rear wheel.
- In the process, don’t forget to keep your leg on the rear brake pedal, as applying the rear brake will help you to balance. Furthermore, you have to land the front wheel by applying that brake.
- So when you get used to that synchronization, try lifting the handlebar back by forcing your body weight. That helps fly the front wheel easily.
- Repeat the synchronization again and again.
As you can see, it’s a sequence you must perform in a few seconds and requires much practice. Be patient, and you will be able to do a perfect wheelie and roll for a long period of time.
Remember that in a higher-capacity motorcycle, it’s quite easy with less hassle, as it can easily lift up the front wheel. But while attempting to learn, you can’t take a risk with a higher-capacity motorcycle. It’s relatively easy and less hazardous to learn with small motorcycles. So start learning with a small bike and then go with bigger ones.
A Wheelie requires strong force from your upper body and some powerful pedaling to prepare you to pull up, crouch over your front handlebars, and don’t forget to look forward. Once the handlebars are in the air, lean your weight back and don’t stop pedaling. You may lose balance or not be able to keep it up for long, but you’ll eventually feel yourself sinking into the wheelie for a more extended period.
4. Go in First Gear
Though you can practice in any gear you’d like, the first gear is generally the easiest for beginners. If you have already learned clutch wheelies, you’ll have to know how to change gears within the wheelie. Because power wheelies are simply about utilizing your acceleration to jerk the bike’s front upward, you won’t have to bother shifting.
Your back brake and the handbrake on your bicycle will help you if you ever begin to slope too far backward than necessary. While most riders don’t regularly use the rear brake, it’s very beneficial in your first steps of learning the wheelie.
If you feel you’re moving dangerously far back, you can put some power on the rear brake, halting your back wheel. This will directly lower your front wheel. Be cautious when it’s coming down, however, as you’ll feel some pressure in your direction as a result of the impact.
Bring your motorcycle to a good speed. Ideally, you start learning wheelies at speeds between 10-20 KPH. If you’re going too quickly, you may lose some control, making you crank the gas in a hazardous way. When going too slowly, however, you’ll find it hard to pull the front wheel up with adequate force.
Let off the gas while still keeping your speed. You won’t want to slow down too much, but it’s reasonable to lower your speed right before accelerating into your wheelie. This gives you more of a kick when you hit the gas, and this extra power will help bring your front wheel up more smoothly.
Crank the gas to accelerate while attempting to bring the front wheel up. Once you’ve reduced your speed, put more pressure on the throttle. As you’re doing this, you’ll pull the front wheel up, just like you’re doing a wheelie on a bicycle. At first, these elevations will feel very small, almost like bunny jumps. As you become safer lifting the front, however, they will gradually become longer and longer.
When you lift the bike and come back down too suddenly, your front tire will shake due to impact. If you don’t come down straight, you’ll fall off the bike over the front, contrarily known as a high side. This tends to happen when you’re first starting, so ensure you’re landing your wheelies as straight as possible to avoid it.
5. Keep Your Balance in the Wheelie
When learning your balance point, stagger back on the rear side of the bike, making sure that the center of gravity of your system (you and your bike) settles in the center. This will enable you to ride the wheelie for a more extended period. Any sloping forward or backward will affect the center of your system, causing you to fall.
When getting started, you might want to try to hug the tank with your knees, helping you hold on when the bike’s front wheel lifts up. This will undoubtedly prevent you from slipping backward against your seat. If you find yourself stuck hugging the tank while your motorcycle is going back, the gravity of your system won’t be in balance.
Lessen your throttle when you settle into a relaxed balance. When you feel yourself easing into the balance of your wheelie, you can lessen the throttle just a little so that you are still in control when holding its motion. Reducing it more than necessary, however, will make your bike lose momentum.
Hold the rear brake to navigate yourself down. When you want to come out of your wheelie, you’ll use the rear brake to bring the front wheel of the bike back onto the ground. If you crank this too severely, however, your front wheel will likely crash down too quickly, and you may stumble or fall. To prevent this, you can raise the throttle as the front is declining, balancing your movement.
Where to maintain your balance:
If you’re leaning too much forward when you’re trying to pop a wheelie, you won’t find it easy to bring your front tire off the road because the weight of your body will keep it down. Your center of gravity should be further back than this.
Over the seat?
When you’re doing wheelies, your center of gravity (as well as that of your bike) should be much in the center of the bike. That keeps your balance and makes it easier to keep the wheelie as you ride.
Over the back wheel?
Almost! If you tip too far back while doing a wheelie, you’re liable to stumble over backward, so you need to maintain your center of gravity closer to the front of the bike than this. Also, leaning too far back can let your rear exhaust grind against the ground.
Advice: Practice on a Bicycle and Ride Uphill
Put on your protective gear. Though you might not need the same level of protection when practicing on a bicycle, practicing safely is always advisable. As stated earlier, ensure you’re wearing your helmet, at the bare minimum, and knee and elbow pads if you want to be careful. While starting wheelies on a bike may seem free of harm, things can go wrong when you take some terrible spills and hurt yourself.
Practice by riding uphill. Start with convenient gear. The best is probably two or three, so there would be no need for too much excessive pedaling. Don’t choose a hill that is too steep. Instead, learning on a nice, gradual slope will help you maintain your balance and front wheel in the air.
In your quest to learn a wheelie, your pedaling may become difficult, which may cause you to fall off the bike. The resistance to pedaling uphill will oppose those forces. That will help you maintain a straighter trajectory of motion when you practice on flat ground.
It’s unnecessary, but it can be easier to practice on a mountain bike compared to a BMX bike. Mountain bike back wheels are much more stable, and the front of the bike is easier to lift. The large wheelbase also can make you feel more powerful.
Maintain an easy and comfortable speed while practicing on flat ground. Though this speed will vary case-by-case, you can aim for a speed of 5 to 10mph. Moving at an extremely high speed might cause you to lose control when you’re only on one wheel. However, if you go too slowly, you may not have the momentum to lift the front into the air properly.
This keeps you in motion in the wheelie. Once your front wheel is in the air a few times successfully, you’ll want to start riding the wheelie for a longer period. Extend your arms and soften your grip when you’re in the air.
You will also want to use your rear brake to adjust your leverage while in the wheelie position. Some people hold the rear brake for the duration of the wheelie, while others just tighten their grip on it when they feel that the front wheel is coming too high into the air. The harder you hold on to the brake, the harder you’ll need to keep pedaling to maintain your front tire in the air.
You might want to ask why it is ideal for practicing your wheelie while riding uphill. This is because it helps you lift your front wheel.
This is not necessarily true, though. Regardless of how sloped the ground you’re riding on is, it can be physically hard to pull your front tire up into a wheelie. You must ensure that your center of mass is focused back toward the seat and not up toward the front wheel.
That makes it less taxing to maintain your speed.
Generally, it’s easier to keep your speed on a flat surface. Riding uphill tends to slow you down, and going downhill speeds you up more than you might want. It is advisable that you practice while going uphill, though. That helps keep you pedaling steadily.
Yes! It can seem easy to start pedaling erratically once you have your front wheel in the air. But the added resistance of biking uphill keeps pedaling stronger and steadier, which helps you to maintain your wheelie without falling.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I prevent falling when performing a wheelie? If what you mean is about looping the bike, as in going too far and going over backward, what you have to do is make sure you apply the rear brake. Applying the rear brake will bring the bike back to the ground. Be steady in the throttle.
How do I stop my bike from going left when doing a wheelie? You can prevent this by shifting your body or steering to the right. You will want to put more weight on your right side (it shouldn’t be too much, or you’ll fall).
Should I practice first on the road or in a softer place? If you have street tires, you must use concrete or asphalt to get enough grip to do a wheelie, even while practicing. Just make sure you’re wearing a helmet and padding should you fall.
We hope this article has helped you know the basics of doing a wheelie on a motorcycle. If there is any part we failed to discuss, kindly drop them in the comment section.
Disclosure: Gear Sustain is not a professional motorcycle teacher. We are not liable for any wrongdoing while riding or wheeling your motorcycle. We are simply sharing with you how we wheelie.
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