The wheelie is really a useful riding skill, particularly for getting over trail obstacles, as well as a great way to practice balance and bike control. But maybe even more importantly than that (for all the attention-seekers out there) it looks cool. Wanna be YouTube-famous? You gotta learn to do a wheelie.
This skill is often confused with the Manual which is similar in the fact that the front wheel is in the air in both skills. The primary difference is that in a wheelie the front end stays up from pedaling, and in a manual it stays up from just shifting your weight back. Also, a manual is a standing maneuver and a wheelie done is seated.
Ok, so know you know what it is — here’s how to do it:
1. Lower your saddle, you’ll need to be seated for this skill and the lower your saddle, the lower your center of mass will be and the more stable you’ll be.
2. Select an easy gear, but not the easiest gear. Usually 2 or 3 from the easiest is a good place to start. Begin your wheelie at about 5–10 mph. Using a gear that’s too easy will result in too fast of a cadence which will result in you loosing your wheelie because of excessive pedaling.
3. If you have rear suspension on your mountain bike, lock it out. A bouncing rear shock will negatively effect your balance.
4. While keeping your head up and looking forward, lower your torso and crouch down over the handlebars to prepare to initiate the wheelie.
5. With your most powerful foot at the top of the pedal stroke, simultaneously pull up on the handlebars while pedaling down hard. You’ll have to start with a hard, steady pedal stoke to get the wheel up. Once it’s up, keep pedaling, but not quite as forcefully.
6. Quickly lean your weight back and allow your arms to straighten as the front wheel comes up.
7. Keep pedaling and keep a finger over the rear brake lever. If the bike comes up too far, you can tap the brake to bring it back down.
8. Continue to feather your rear brake as needed in order to prevent the bike from flipping over backwards. (Some people drag their rear brake the entire time, just to have some resistance to pedal against.)
9. Mange the balance of the bike. If the front starts coming down, lean back more. If the bike leans right, stick your knee out, or turn the bars to regain balance. Make these corrections as soon as needed, if you wait to long, your balance will be unrecoverable.
10. Make sure the front wheel is straight as you bring the front wheel back down to the ground.
1. It’s easier to learn this skill with flat pedals vs. clipped in.
2. The wheelie is never really perfectly balanced, you need to constantly add balance corrections to keep the bike in the wheelie and going in the direction you are intending.
3. It’s easier to learn this skill on a slight slope, preferable on grass.
4. Practice dismounting off the back of the bike so you know what to do in the event you go over backwards.
This is another one of those skill where you’ve got to put the time in in order to really master it. Keep at it and over time, you’ll see your hang-time increase to the point where you can wheelie across, over down and up anything you choose.
Richard La China is a Professional Mountain Bike racer, USAC Certified Cycling Coach and a IMBA Certified Mountain Bike Skills Instructor who coaches beginner to pro cyclist. Currently working with mountain bike XC, Endurance and Enduro racers and other competitive and non-competitive mountain bike riders seeking to become their best.
I felt so confident that I recently signed up for the Catalina MTB Gran Fondo!
I participated in the beginner skill clinic at Malibu Creek last Saturday, because I'm truly a beginner who couldn't stop...
I participated in the beginner skill clinic at Malibu Creek last Saturday, because I'm truly a beginner who couldn't stop falling down during each mtb ride. The class was small and super fun...and the instructors (Richard and Kris) were informative and dynamic. The clinic was small enough for each member to practice each learned skill and receive immediate feedback. I learned many new skills on that day and felt much more confident with my bike-body connection. I felt so confident that I recently signed up for the Catalina MTB Gran Fondo...the 55 mile route! Woohooo!! The next day, as I was road biking (training for the Solvang Double Century), I dodged a bullet on the Snake/Mulholland by applying my learned mtb skills--a long towing truck went over almost half of our lane on a blind turn as we were descending. Instead of fixating on the truck, I remembered the importance of looking for a clear path and keeping my eyes on where I want to go....Now I understand what people meant when they said that mtb will help improve my road riding skills too! I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn, and I look forward to the next clinic! ~ Uyen N.
I was so happy I could transfer what I learned in Sedona to my own trails.
I just rode on my local trails today after taking the Ninja clinic in Sedona. I was so happy I...
I just rode on my local trails today after taking the Ninja clinic in Sedona. I was so happy I could transfer what I learned in Sedona to my own trails. There is one drop and one off camber downhill section I never have had the courage or skill to ride until today. It was so fun to ride them and not get off and walk. Richard La China and Courtney Cowan were fantastic instructors. Not only did I up my technical skills in Sedona it was also a ton of fun! ~Patty Elliott
Took the mini clinic on jumping skills because I can't resist the urge to get in the air even though...
Took the mini clinic on jumping skills because I can't resist the urge to get in the air even though I always knew I didn't really understand the mechanics of it, so it was a kind of "huck and hope" affair. The result was that I didn't land about 1 in 5 attempts. The clinic with Aaron was great! He explained the mechanics of how the bike is handled coming into, through and out of the jump and starts with individual small skills progressing step by step in a very manageable way (even for me, and I started this stuff at 45 and I'm not very coordinated). What I feel sets Aaron apart is his ability to communicate his explanations and demonstrate movements in a way that makes them easy to learn even for someone with little experience. He is also very patient and encouraging, which helps when one is starting out and struggling a little with some movements. I definitely intend to do more clinics with Ninja MBS. I feel like it will save me a lot of time and frustration as well as possibly a lot of money in medical bills! ~Jill M.
I would encourage anyone of any ability to take a class with these guys.
I recently attended one of the Intermediate/Advanced Efficiency and Flow clinics. Even though I have been riding for many years...
I recently attended one of the Intermediate/Advanced Efficiency and Flow clinics. Even though I have been riding for many years I learned a lot from this clinic. The techniques covered ranged from reviewing basic skills such as basic body position to practicing more advanced techniques like switchbacks, bunny hops, and cornering. I was able to recognize, get instruction, and practice some skills where I was weak and instantly improve them. Even skills I thought I was pretty good at I was able to pick up useful tips. I also realized that deliberate skills practice is not something I incorporate into my riding, but now that I understand what I should be doing I will make sure to add this in! After taking the course my comfort on the bike has improved and I am more aware of my body position and movement of the bike. I would encourage anyone of any ability to take a class with these guys. The instructors are knowledgeable and easy to work with. There is a lot of one on one help and they will make sure you understand the skills being taught and are able to perform them successfully. Plus the clinic was lots of fun! I highly recommend and hope to work with these guys again soon. ~ Michelle A.
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