Stephane Roch | Pro Rider, Team Ninja
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.