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All DOWN Cycles MTB NewsMain MTB NewsLocal NewsTech Tips & Reviews
Tech Tips & Reviews
12/01/02
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Did the local kid ever ask you to "do a pop up wheelie?" Usually they ask this question after you just cleared a 40' stair gap. I swear, I could rear wheel a line of park benches and still be asked that question. I have to say to myself, "stay cool Yolinda, we're all gonna stay cool".

[More:]

For some people the wheelie seems like an impossible trick. I have friends that still can't wheelie after practicing for years. If you seriously want to learn this trick then read on. If you lack the passion to learn and you become discouraged easily, forget about learning the pop up wheelie.

Step #1: You will probably hit the ground. Wear protective gear. Chances are, you will loop backwards, land on your tail bone, smack the back of your skull and spin a pedal into your shin bone.

Step #2: Practice with platform pedals. Leave the BMW Shin Burger Pedals in the tool box. A clipped in wheelie is a suicide mission.

Step #3: If your seat height is higher than your handlebars, lower your seat. Install a stem 100 mm long or less.

Finally, it's time to practice! This trick is much easier on a mountain bike than a BMX bike. Mountain bikes are very stable on the rear wheel. The front of the bike is fairly easy to lift up and the long wheel base inspires confidence. Bikes with chain stays less than 17" are easier to learn on.

Step #4: Try your first attempt pedaling up hill. Not up Pikes Peak, but up a gradual hill. If you begin to wheelie, you will spaz out and pedaling harder to keep the front wheel up. Pedaling up hill will add resistance. This resistance will counter your spastic pedaling forces and should help keep your front wheel up. After mastering the up hill wheelie, you can practice on flat ground. In order to wheelie on flat ground, you'll have to slow down by modulating the rear brake. This is a tricky move, since squeezing the rear brake will force the front tire back down to the ground.

Step #5: Do not practice on a windy day. The wind will push your front wheel away from you. Even the slightest blow will affect your wheelie. It is possible to ride a wheelie in the wind, but it takes a lot of practice. I met a surfer kid in Clearwater, Florida who could wheelie his BMX bike on wet sand, fighting constant 25 mph winds, bare foot with no brakes.

Step #6: Stay seated; utilize a combination of the forks rebound, upper body strength and power on the cranks to loft the front of your bike in the air. Try using the middle chainring and the 32 tooth cog on the rear gear cluster. You need to choose a gear that will maintain the wheelie and is easy to lift the front wheel at slow speeds. You can shift gears while in a wheelie. It's very difficult to do. I've seen people carry 30 mph wheelies shifting and pedaling.

Step #7: Relax. Loosen up on the handlebars and go with the flow. Let your arms stretch out, look far ahead and breath. You will need to steer the bike with body English. Keep your feet to the outside of the pedals and apply pressure to each pedal accordingly. Try to not lean your body with the bike. Leaning in the same direction as the bike will cause you and the bike to turn. This is an advanced move. Try and ride a straight line for now. Eventually, you will feel the sweet spot. Riding a wheelie is almost effortless. If you're exerting yourself, you're working too hard.

The wheelie is the trick you will base all other tricks on. Once you have mastered it, you can practice "coaster wheelies". (A sit down wheelie while not pedaling, usually performed down hill). Once you learn the coaster wheelie, you should try "manuals". Manuals are easily mistaken with coater wheelies, but they're much harder. Basically a manual is a stand up coaster wheelie.


Video Links

39 Updates

Updates

Very instructive samples & text!!!! When learning a wheelie you always pedal to fast. The clips show how clearly that balance is the issue here and not forward speed.
Thx

Update from: taaske [Visitor] — 09/26/06 @ 03:04
Instead of me using brakes to slow me down or when the bike if falling backwards what else could I use. Cause my back brake don’t work very well.

Update from: Danny [Visitor] · http://Brakes — 11/02/06 @ 18:20
you should get your rear brake working properly.

You need a strong rear brake to help prevent flipping backwards, especially when learning to wheelie!

Good Luck!

Update from: ajdowncycles [Member] · http://www.downcycles.com — 11/02/06 @ 19:16
I keep getting all sort of mixed instructions. some guys keep telling me learning to manual is the easiest way, some people tell me I go too slow when I try to wheelie and that's why I keep falling to the sides (I try to use my knees to balance but it's not enough...) any advice? is this _really_ the supposedly easiest way to learn it?

Update from: Shachar [Visitor] — 11/30/06 @ 17:25
High speed wheelies are much harder than slow speed.

Manuals are much harder than sit down wheelies.

Sounds like you're going in the right direction! Just keep practicing.

Good Luck,
AJ

Update from: ajdowncycles [Member] · http://www.downcycles.com — 12/04/06 @ 23:06
i ride a bmx. i can kind of manual but because they are smaller, i cant keep up a wheelie.....help

Update from: chaz [Visitor] — 01/02/07 @ 16:08
My first question would be to you: How old are you?

I sometimes see younger riders struggling to wheelie simply because they have not developed the strength.

Assuming your older than 8 years old and you have tried all the tips, maybe try wheelies with a small mountain bike.

BMX bikes are much harder to wheelie, but easy to manual. The short chainstays make for a nervous bike on the rear wheel. BMX bikes have hardly any room for error and usually the brakes have poor stopping power.

Try to get your wheelies down on the Mountain bike.

If you're young, try stand up wheelies. That's all I did for years before I had the strength and weight to loft the front wheel up and hold a steady pace.

Good luck and thank you for checking out the web site!

Update from: AJ [Visitor] · http://www.downcycles.com — 01/03/07 @ 21:57
thanks....ive tried mountain bikes but no matter what gear im in it goes wrong...for instance- a lower gear makes the bike flip-out and with a higher/medium gear, i cant really hold them long. i only tried a bmx cause they are usually lighter and have a low centre of gravity. oh yeah im 12 nearly 13. i dont think it helps cause im short

Update from: chaz [Visitor] — 01/04/07 @ 15:23
Sounds like you have no problem lifting the front wheel up.

"Flip out" tells me you need to keep practicing. Find the sweet spot and drag the rear brake to prevent looping back.

Try baby steps. Ride a wheelie in an empty parking lot with parking lines. Hold the wheel up for as long as possible and count the lines as you go. Next day wheelie one line further.

You will win the battle if you're determined and never give up.

It takes time to perfect the wheelie.

Update from: AJ [Visitor] · http://www.downcycles.com — 01/04/07 @ 21:35
After no luck getting the wheel up for the my last 2 trial sessions, i've read this very informative advice and got it popping great! I wheelied for about 10' before i either chickened out or flipped backwards. I don't mind falling backwards - it's my bike i'm worried about.

Anyway, great advice. I will say the two main things that helped me and i think are important are:
1. go real slow like in the video. when i try modest speed, wheel won't pop contrary to what i believed earlier.
2. lower your seat and keep your butt on it! (at least until you have the wheelie dialed in)

Thanks AJ

Update from: Amir [Visitor] — 01/08/07 @ 18:08
kool. ill bear that in mind

Update from: chaz [Visitor] — 01/09/07 @ 12:18
hey, what bike is that guy riding in the video. its nice

Update from: chaz [Visitor] — 01/26/07 @ 16:34
That's a 2003 Orange 223

Update from: aj [Visitor] · http://www.downcycles.com — 01/26/07 @ 17:34
do you know any other methods of wheelieing e.g; seat height, gear, tire pressure? thanks

Update from: chaz [Visitor] — 02/21/07 @ 13:54

Hello there!

I've stumbled upon this thread while googling for some quality wheelie info.
Here's my 2 cents on the subject...
In my younger days, when I was 12 or so, I could do a wheelie on my BMX and never break a sweat. I could wheelie for miles if needed, do one-hand wheelies, even spin the handlebar and keep wheelin'...
I'm 33 now... I've been riding a GT Avalanche for 10 years now (just sold it, getting a 2007 Kona Caldera)... And NOT ONCE have I been able to pop even a 3foot wheelie... :((((((
I believe you understand my frustration... I've tried everything... longer stems, shorter stems, saddle way up high, way down low... nothing works! As someone noticed, one of two things keeps happening... If I'm in a certain gear, I get a wheel halfway up before it slumps right back down because i'm in a gear too low to sustain it. If I go up a gear, it takes too much to even get a wheel of the ground...
I'm at a loss here... I don't think the gearing is the problem, one of 3-9 combinations should do the trick :) The only thing I can think of is that my bike is too big for this, but then again I've seen kids 5 foot tall do impressive wheelies (even manuals) on 22' XC hardtails...
Dunno, just rambling here.... any input would be very much appreciated, 'cause I'm just about ready to throw in the towel...

Update from: MuddyFox [Visitor] — 03/03/07 @ 15:19
Hey,
Man,
It takes years to perfect "the wheelie". To be able to shift, circle wheelies, turning, riding against wind, etc. It all comes in time. I'm 15. I've been riding since I could walk. I think I could help you guys out on here by giving a few tips, while at the same time, not being repetitive with everyone else.
First off: The faster you go, the higher the gear. All of this stuff about tire pressure, seat height, certain gear placements, brands of brake pads, etc. is nonsense. Everyone is going to find their own rhythm. Obviously, you're going to want your seat at a reasonable height (probably at the height you usually ride at). Tire pressure? Make sure your tires are inflated..
Sooner or later, you're going to find that "sweet spot". With that going for you and a little braking, you're all set. Like with anything else, it's going to take time, effort, and most of all, practice.
Starting off, ride at a walking pace (whatever you're comfortable with), always keep two or three fingers on the brake. This will prevent you from falling back. Always have some pressure on them. If you feel yourself going back too far, just step off.

Like what AJ said, learning to wheelie uphill is easier because of that resistance. Also, what I do when I feel myself leaning towards one side, I counter my weight by leaning to the other side while bending my foot on the side I am countering on up; So that I am pedaling on the side of my foot. If anyone understood what I just was talking about...haha..yea. It is hard to explain. You just have to get a feel for it and learn your own ways of counter balancing whether you're leaning foward/backward or side to side.
-------------------------------------------------------------
For advanced riders:

Circle wheelies, Snake Wheelies, Around the corner wheelies, etc.

Basically, what I do is this:
For example:
If I was wheelieing straight and wanted to go around a left turn, I position myself towards the far right of the seat. As I am doing that, I lean the bike to the left slightly. Like as if you were about to lay your bike down to grab some water, rest stop etc. You always want to keep your center of gravity. So by doing that, you want to position yourself centered over your bike (seat), while at the same time staying perpendicular to the ground. Also...which ever way you want to go, turn the opposite. (e.j.: Turning left, you would turn your bars right; turning right, turn the bars left)
-----------------------------------

I hope that some of my information has and will help some of you out there. I know that some of it may be confusing, but just try and find your balances. Everyone has their own way of doing anything. Find your way and I hope that everyone keeps on enjoying getting out there a few times a week and riding. Whether you ride trials, freeriding, cross-country, on the road, or racing either one, stay true to yourself, know your limitations, and most of all, have fun.

-Nick
Habitat9200@yahoo.com



Update from: Nick [Visitor] — 03/07/07 @ 19:19

I understand perfectly what you're talking about. As I said, I've been able to do all kinds of wheelies on my BMX when I was a kid.

What I can't do for the life of me is get the front wheel up high enough while in the right gear. If I'm in a gear too low, no amount of pulling can get the front wheel up high enough. It just slumps back down. If I'm in a gear too low the wheel gets sort-of up, but I run out of speed to keep it up.

It is very frustrating because I used to be very good at it... well, I guess there's nothing left to do but keep practicing...



Update from: MuddyFox [Visitor] — 03/09/07 @ 08:40
Try compressing your front suspension and use the rebound to help pick up the front wheel.

I have a feeling you're pulling your upper body towards the handlebars as soon as the front wheel comes up.

You need to relax your upper body, keep your arms straight. Wheelies take very little effort.

DO NOT pedal with all your might to keep the wheelie going. The wheelie will be over as soon as you start smashing the pedals.

Try watching other riders carry a wheelie and mimic their body position. Ditch all your bad habits and start fresh.


Update from: AJ [Visitor] · http://www.downcycles.com — 03/11/07 @ 21:00
I have been practising for hours now and can manage to initiate the lift, but run out of steam once I have made a revolution of the cranks. I have been practising on a slight incline, I have tried having my arms slightly bent and also locked out, don't know which works best. Any other tips?

Update from: Connall [Visitor] — 03/28/07 @ 14:03
My problems is that after one rotation of the cranks I go off the back. If I try to feather the break to bring me forward it always brings me forward to fast ( to the ground). With my disc breaks the feather zone between no breaks and locked up is very slim. Any advice on the brake issue and how to not go too far back.

Update from: kirk [Visitor] — 03/30/07 @ 11:06
I can do a pretty long wheelie as long as i have the front wheel spinning. Once when the front wheel stops spinning i lose it. Is it possible to do an extremely long wheelie without the front wheel spinning or do you need a motor to keep it going.

Update from: austen nunes [Visitor] — 04/01/07 @ 13:18
the front wheel shouldnt make any difference

Update from: chaz [Visitor] — 04/02/07 @ 05:06
i have a bmx i'm thirteen and im pretty useless at wheelies i used to have a mountain bike but i could only do 5or 6 second stand up wheelies but now i want to do the real deal sitting down long wheelies but I cant stay up 4 any more than 2 seconds sitting down it either goes straight down or i fall back off it i want to find my sweet spot but i cant ive tried ajusting my seet height it helps a little by rising it up to my handle bar height but i need some tips on how to do a perect wheelie SITTING DOWN!!

Update from: monoe [Visitor] — 04/04/07 @ 07:03
KEEP ARMS STRAIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!DAMIT

Update from: jimmy [Visitor] — 04/07/07 @ 23:42
u guys rock... im learning wheelies, gonna try all your tips....
keep pumping good comments out.... gonna be back to check later... like anyone cares haha

Update from: vasyaka [Visitor] — 04/10/07 @ 01:45
wheelies are harder without the front wheel spinning, how is it possible for guys to do wheelies forever if the front wheel is not spinning? I have seen guys do wheelies with no front wheel, but i am not sure how they do it. do you just keep your back straight,arms out, and throw the opposite knee out if you start falling one direction. It is also difficult to keep the handle bars straight.

Update from: austen nunes [Visitor] — 04/15/07 @ 01:24
Yea Vasyaka!!!
Of course we care, that's why this tech-tip was started. And THANKS EVERYONE FOR ALL THE COMMENTS!!! RIDE

I've been riding DH now for about 6 years and come from a motocross background before i began DH'n. I've been riding DH with AJ now for the last 5 years and I still can't "sit down" wheelie on a mountain bike to save my life. Put me on a motocross bike and I can wheelie for miles. I think it takes some skills, but mostly determination and lots of practice, which i can say for sure I do not do and that is why I can't wheelie. So don't follow in my footsteps and Practice Practice Practice, before you know it, it will happen.

I can tell you guys this much. I have to take some more ADVANCED Wheelie / Trials videos of AJ and post them on here, we have been so busy lately, with AJ's brother leaving the shop to pursue his PRO Skating career and AJ's been training for the up coming DH races, yes he is out of retirement, its been tough for AJ to get online as much as he wants to.

Any requests on what you guys want to see AJ show, on video, related to wheelies and manuals?

dirtyrig
downcycles.com webmaster

Update from: visualmtb [Member] · http://www.visualmtb.com — 05/02/07 @ 19:18
hey,
for the guy that is trying to ride that trail bike kona, im sure it isnt freeride but catwalking has alot to do with your bikes geometry. like road race bikes, and certain bmx's they want the wheels to stay grounded as much as possible so it would be harder.

anyways i have been wheeleing for awhile now, and the gearing dosent matter, if you want to pull a crazy fast catwalk, go in a high gear get the speed then pull up and go a little faster and keep that speed, i can catwalk around 30kmish without wind on my freeride bike, i get funny looks from people that i caught up with or kept up with doing a catwalk. it dosent matter the gaer, just make sure you have the speed.

i would love to know how to keep a succsesful manual i can go for maybe 5ft but it takes me a pedal to get the bike upright and on the balance point, is this bad geometry? my friends all tell me once you got catwalking good you can manual but i cant, so i would like to know how.

also i want to do a endo and get going backwards and flip around to the front again. i can do it alittle but when i go to turn 90degrees my front tire starts to slip on the ground when i start going backward, and i have a 2.5 kinetic up front with plenty of tread left, am i going to fast? or when i go to stop i can pull my front brake and keep moving with my tail end in the air but i cant seem to get it, i can sorda do it down a slope but not even that great.

Update from: derrick [Visitor] — 05/26/07 @ 11:25
i have a garry fisher and i can get up into the weelie but then i start to pedall to fast and i cant hold that speed so i fall. Also to pull a weelie waill holdind the brake is hard im onbly 12 can somewone tell me how to slow down.

Update from: jonny [Visitor] — 06/15/07 @ 20:38
lean back more

Update from: chaz [Visitor] — 06/16/07 @ 04:33
if you wheelie too far bak you'll come off
just be aware how far u go bak and if u think u are too far bak just come off on purpose and land on your feet once u come off
thats what i do and im not injured yet

Update from: Josh [Visitor] — 06/26/07 @ 21:20
true, most people jump off with out thinking

Update from: chaz [Visitor] — 07/01/07 @ 03:39
i want to know if hardtail is better then full suspension for doing tricks in the road, like wheelies and stuff. im getting a new bike and i want to know wether to get a hardtail or not.

Update from: michael [Visitor] — 08/08/07 @ 00:02
i have a hardtail and it is much easier than full suspension because when doing a wheelie, the bike stays level and rigid and doesnt sag down. get a hardtail

Update from: chaz [Visitor] — 08/11/07 @ 11:55
um....my bike is really ghetto and i dont have brakes =P but i can ride a whellie while standing up. is that easyier than sitting down

Update from: brian [Visitor] — 09/12/07 @ 20:09
I am 14 and i can get a wheelie going for about 40 feet but as i get futher i pedal faster. then when i do it slow i can only go 10 feet

Update from: Josh [Visitor] · http://visitor — 09/27/07 @ 21:10
The tips have helped a lot! THX Yolinda.
I keep getting into an area just before the sweet spot and can ride that sometimes about 8 car widths but slowly accelerating.

When I manage to pop into the sweet spot straight off I seem to stop pedaling and in that time the front drops and I cant rescue it as the pedals arent engaging.

Oh and I fell off the back big style forthe first time ever!!!

Any tips?

Update from: stu [Visitor] — 10/06/07 @ 09:37
thnx it was very instructive ;)

Update from: tris [Visitor] — 10/13/07 @ 12:01
Here's my tuppence worth:
There's 2 stages to a pedalling wheelie
1. Popping the front wheel up
2. Keeping it there

Beginners start on a smooth incline with the bike in the middle ring up front and two or three at the rear. Lean back suddenly (with your arms straight) and kick the pedal at the same time, you need to explode to get up to the balance point as quick as possible. Like a few folk have said above KEEP YOUR ARMS STRAIGHT.

To start with don't bother trying to control with the rear brake, just let the bike flip over and land on your feet - this is the best way to learn where the balance point is. Once you can flip the bike over 10 out of 10 start covering the back brake with one finger and feathering it to stop the bike flipping. After that it's just practice, practice.

By the way, I'm 45 years old and I still can't wheelie that well, give me another 20 years I should have it perfected.

Update from: Speedmerchant [Visitor] — 11/29/07 @ 08:59

You are not authorized to write a update.


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