How to do a Wheelie

bicycle wheelie
To perform a wheelie on a bicycle, put the bike in low gear and pedal forward while pulling hard on the handlebars. This can most easily be done from a starting position. Experts with sufficient experience and strength can, using the proper gearing, execute successful wheelies while moving.

While the front wheel is in the air, maintain an upright posture and lean around to control balance – do not hunch over the handlebars. For added control, tap the rear brake (forward balance) or pedal forward (rearward balance).

A wheelie can be maintained indefinitely most easily by finding a 50/50 balance between amount of back brake and speed of pedaling. It is possible to hold the back brake on constantly with very small adjustments in pressure, relating to how hard you are pedaling. This gives a more stable feeling as the balance point is more consistent. To complete the move, lean forward and gently squeeze the back brake if needs be to allow the front wheel to slowly drop back to the ground. Ensure it is straight on contact, or control of the bike may be lost.

Once the wheelie has been conquered, the manual wheelie can be attempted. This is the same as a wheelie but without pedaling. The bike is balanced by the rider’s weight and sometimes use of the rear brake.

Distance wheelies

motorcycle wheelieTo travel farther on the back wheel of a bicycle, put the bike into a higher gear with your body weight leaned forward (over the handle bars if needed) and the stronger foot highest in the pedaling cycle. Kick hard with the stronger foot, throw all your weight backwards and land your backside on the seat, then straighten out your arms and put weight and tension on them. Keep pedaling, and when the wheelie feels too high up, feather the back brake slightly.

To lower the “balance point”, put the saddle higher up, which will mean that the “maximum height” of the wheelie is brought down, and it will also be more comfortable to go for long distances on the back wheel. There is a skill to being able to stop on the back wheel, and then keep going more slowly. This can be done by striking a balance between the back brake and the pedalling.

Corners

It is possible to navigate corners while doing a wheelie; it requires much the same behaviors as cornering on two wheels. When approaching the turn, it is best to look through the turn towards your exit, as on a bike you go where you look effectively and small adjustments are what is required to maintain balance and a smooth curve as you ride the turn.

Turning the bars in the direction you want to go is the initial stage and only requires minimal movement. Couple this with slightly shifting your upper body wieght (mainly your head and shoulders), again in the direction you want to turn; the bike should start to lean over and turn. This is not an easy maneuver because the bike now is very biased toward the side it tends to fall over on to, and you will need to concentrate on keeping the wheel off the ground and countering the sideways balance. Turning the bars outwards and shifting your body weight to the outside will help keep the bike on a smooth path around the turn. That said, if you start shifting your weight around from side to side while in a turn to counter the balance problems, the turn is more than likely not going to be made, or certainly not as easy or as effective as it could be. Practice will see one fluid motion through out the turn, enabling you to straighten up on the exit and stay on the back wheel as normal.


Leaning back too far (i.e., as a result of pedalling too hard) will cause the bike to fly out from under you. Although most riders will instinctively hit the ground running, practice recovering from this event before attempting an actual wheelie. Balancing left to right can easily be controlled in the air by moving the knees and handlebars back and forth.

Safety

Avoid injury by keeping speeds down and learning to use the rear brake. However, higher speeds are often necessary to master the wheelie, as more balancing skills are necessary with decreasing speed, and these skills are usually not present without sufficient practice.


For this reason, beginners attempting wheelies on bicycles should tune up their rear brakes and aim for an eight to twelve m.p.h. wheelie for maximum safety.

Although a wheelie or manual can be easily achieved without the use of the back brake, it is always recommended that you cover the lever. Never have your entire fist closed around the bars, because if the balance point starts to become too far back, there will not be enough time to grab the brake; at that point it’s more than likely that you will fall off backwards. You do however need to keep a grip on the bars, so only one finger (or at most two fingers) are required to use the bake brake lever.

The seat height will determine the result of going over the back. The higher the seat, the harder it is to land on your feet. By the time you are able to get your feet to the ground you will have already passed the point at which this would have helped. Beginners should use a low seat height until comfortable with the balance point and back brake. It is harder to maintain speed with a low seat height, so wheelies may be short; but once comfortable, raising the seat height will make the front wheel more eager to come up and make maintaining speed a lot easier. It will also make the balance point easier to fine tune, as there is more weight above the back wheel to move back and forth.

Motorcycle Wheelie

A wheelie is also a common motorcycle trick. The principle is the same, but the throttle and rear brakes are used to control the wheelie.

On more powerful motorcycles (usually above 500 cc) the front wheel is lifted into the air by accelerating, but on smaller bikes the clutch may be used and/or “bouncing” the forks (using the rider’s weight to compress the front suspension, so that the recoil will help lift the front wheel on accelerating).