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Learning to ride a wheelie

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start bringing the front wheel up, figure out the throttle control and how to load the suspension to help you pop it up. Start finding the balance point. Get used to riding at the balance point. Learn to up and down shift while wheelie'ing Always cover the rear break.

IMO sitting or standing, with or without clutch, what gear is all personal preference.

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What is the best way to learn to ride a wheelie

There’s no doubt about it wheelies are cool; they’ve always been cool. Not only are they cool but they also have benefits in motocross racing which we’ll see later in this riding tip. Just about anyone can master the wheelie if they understand the correct techniques and get a lot of consistence and frequent practice in. Of course the key to mastering the wheelie is balance. There is front to back balance and side to side balance. The front to back balance is controlled with body movement and the throttle and rear brake, even the clutch at first in order to get it up, the front wheel that is. Once you have it up (in the balance point range, more on this later) it’s a matter of keeping it there and keeping it straight.

Techniques for keeping it in the balance range (the balance point).

What exactly is the balance range and point? The balance range is the range relating to the angle of the height of the front wheel. If the angle goes too high (the front wheel gets too high) the M/C will go over backwards. This is why you have to be able to control the rear brake. If the angle of the M/C is too low it will fall back down and out of the balance range. The latter is where you would have to lean back and give it more throttle. The balance point is where you and the M/C are at the perfect angle in the balance range. This is where the M/C doesn’t try to go back anymore or forward anymore. You don’t have to slow down with the rear brake in order to lower the front or you don’t have to pick up speed in order to raise the front. You are in the wheelie’s perfect balance point. Of course this is much easier to accomplish on smooth ground (such as pavement) but when the ground in uneven it takes an uncanny amount of balance and control with your body movements and throttle and rear brake.

Doug Demokus who in my opinion was the original one and only Wheelie King was the grand master of rear brake control in order to keep from going over backwards. During most of the 70s Doug was hired by the National and Supercross Promoters to attempt to wheelie around the entire motocross or supercross track without letting the front wheel come down. He actually did this several times. Some riders thought Doug had a special wheelie bike that made this a lot easier. Although Doug did have a bike set up for him doing wheelies it was no easier to do a wheelie on as many of us found out after attempting wheelies on his bike. The doubters were soon silenced. And besides, what professional doesn’t have a special bike set up just for them?

Doug and I were both riding for Kawasaki back in the mid 70s, Doug as the Wheelie King and myself as a motocross and supercross racer. One afternoon some of the mechanics and I were taking a little lunch break in the parking lot just outside the mechanics shop. Doug hopped on a stock KX 250 in his regular street clothes (tennis shoes, T-shirt and no helmet). He started doing wheelies across the relatively empty parking lot. He was doing a bunch of cool tricks but the one that amazed me most and that I’ll always remember was this one. I guess you’d call it a bump start wheelie. He went across the parking lot in fifth gear, pulled in the clutch and pushed the kill button, he processed to coast there at the perfect balance point for about 20 yards, pulled back a little on the bars as he let the clutch back out to restart the engine and continued on a perfect wheelie. All of us standing there were awe struck as we tried to pick our jaws up off the pavement. This was nothing for Doug, just a little lunch time entertainment. The late Doug Domokus who died in an Altra-lite crash at Lake Ellsinore around 2000 was the true Wheelie King. Doug did write a book titled “The Wheelie King”.

Whether you want to follow Doug’s footsteps, do wheelies for fun or master wheelies in order to benefit your motocross skills you’ll have to understand the proper techniques, be able to do them correctly and do them correctly repeatedly over a period of time that allows you to program it all into your automatic reflex reactions, here’s how.

Now let’s get a good understanding of the nuts and bolts and all the proper techniques. It helps to have a smooth engine, you don’t want a pipey power band that kicks in and loops you out. Another thing is a relatively short swingarm. The longer the swingarm the narrower that balance range will be. Another thing to remember is that it’s easier to do wheelies on an up hill rather that flat ground or especially downhill. An uphill keeps you from picking up too much speed and it also makes the balance range wider.

Getting the front end too high and not controlling the rear brake is the worst thing that can happen. This mistake will cause you to go over backwards (loop out). Since nobody wants to do that they end up not getting the front end high enough, they are too low in the wheelie range and have to do a power wheelie in order to try and keep it up. This is known as a power wheelie since the power is what’s keeping it up. Soon you will run out of power and speed. This is why doing wheelies on up hills is much easier. So you see to master the art of wheelies you can’t be afraid to get it way up there in the balance range and then you will find the balance point. You won’t be afraid of this if you have control and confidence in the rear brake. The rear brake is your savor from looping out. Make sure your brake is adjusted up high enough so it’s easy to reach.

Starting the wheelie

When you want to start the wheelie sit about half way back on the seat use second or third gear from a relatively slow speed for that gear. You want to be in the bottom of the power range so the engine has a long way to make power before it revs out. Pop the clutch out and pull back on the handlebars hard enough to bring the front end up into the balance range. This next clip will show you how to start the wheelie. I’m using 3rd gear on my RM 250.

Once you have it up

Now that you have it up in the balance range it’s all a matter of body movement and throttle control. The throttle control is most important. Unless you are really, really good at wheelies you are going to be doing a power wheelie to some degree. This means you will continue to pick up speed as you go along. The less speed you pick up the better but that is easier said than done. As you pick up speed your going to have to shift to the next gear if you want to continue to awe the by standers with your wheelie skills. Make sure you shift at the right time and make it a very smooth shift; nip the clutch as you upshift. How do you know the right time to shift? You have to feel when the angle is right. The correct angle is about a quarter of the way to the front of the balance range. When you make that beautiful upshift that allows the front end to continue to fly you’re going to pick up more speed. So you don’t want the front to be too high, if it was you wouldn’t need to upshift and pick up more speed. And of course you don’t want the front to be too low or you will loose the wheelie. As that gear runs out upshift to the next and so on until you’re in 5th looking for 6th and the fat lady is standing and singing.

Standing Wheelies

Standing wheelies are very similar in technique as sitting wheelies. The major difference is that the only thing keeping you on the bike is pulling back on the bars and of course the footpegs. When you do a sitting wheelie you have the handlebars, footpegs and seat. I would say the degree of difficulty is about the same.

Keeping the M/C straight (side to side balance)

Besides getting the front in the balance range and ultimately the sweet spot balance point there is also keeping that sucker straight. There are basically three things you have control of in order to accomplish this, 1 side to side movement with your upper body 2 turning the handlebars and 3 moving your knees and sometimes even your feet out to the side for extra balance. These movements have to be subtle, smooth and fast. You have to maintain that center of balance because once it gets too far off it’s too late to bring it back. Of course, if you want to turn while you’re doing a wheelie you just lean it the way you want to turn but you still will be using the 3 control methods just mentioned. An interesting and very helpful effect relating to turning the handlebars is the gyro effect of the front wheel. The faster the front wheel is spinning the more of this beneficial gyro effect you will feel. This is so important that Doug Domokus had a special very small battery operated motor on his wheelie bike that would continue to spin the front wheel for those ultra long wheelies Doug did. Doug has the Gneiss Book World Record Wheelie. I think its 144 miles. He did it around the parking lot of one of the Supercross Stadiums. I remember him telling me he finally had to stop because he was getting board and his arms were getting so tired.

Learn how to use that rear brake right from the get go. It’s an important, healthy point to remember. Make sure you have your foot already on it as you begin to bring the front end up. You don’t want to go over backwards now do you? I know I’ve done it several time in my days. Although it ain’t as bad as going over the bars it’s still not a positive experience.

The art of wheelieing is more than just cool, it’s also faster.

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cool input gary. one thing yoiu forgot is how to grip your hand on the handlebars once you are up there. and im talking about the throttle hand so as not to over rev it and get you over backwards.

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There must be a 100 threads about learning to wheelie. Searching will probably yield you all the info you need.

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cool input gary. one thing yoiu forgot is how to grip your hand on the handlebars once you are up there. and im talking about the throttle hand so as not to over rev it and get you over backwards.

Yea, you don't want to get too much over grip and run the risk of whisky throttle.

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hard to do it man. im not having problems with me being up there. its the right hand im being carefull at. when ever i attempt to loft the front, i always expect the worst. that way im more ready to bail out. LOL

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hard to do it man. im not having problems with me being up there. its the right hand im being carefull=👍 at. when ever i attempt to loft the front, i always expect the worst. that way im more ready to bail out. LOL

Honestly, its really a lot easier to learn wheelies on a small bore 4 stroke.I learned wheelies on my drz125L, could do them forever.I now wheelie my sisters crf80f, which is harder but when you get it up it doesn't want to go down.

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i kind of disagree when im on a snappy 250 i think that torque is nice if your crusing becuase how i do i can pop it up in 1st or 2nd and keep it goin an once in 3-5 range its just throttle control just a crack here or there keepin it up i havent been able to do a smooth throttle one

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Yea, you don't want to get too much over grip and run the risk of whisky throttle.

i know i should be carreful not to over grip the throttle, how do you grip the throttle then? what angle? strength? should i go left on the handlebar or right? should i use the full lock on left/right on the handlebar as a support?

how about leg control? how do i ready the rear brake if im busy to balance myself at the same time, get a good grip on my legs to the bike (sitting wheelie)?

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