Skills: How to wheelie

Get your wheelie on!

Many riders I work with at my skills clinics ask about wheelies…. “How do you do it? The front wheel keeps dropping. I feel like I’m gonna loop out. What gear should I be in?” The truth is the wheelie is pretty tricky, in the beginning. Follow these simple steps and apply the golden rules listed below and you’ll eventually get your wheelie on!

Skills: Learn to wheelie
Only bend the elbows to make corrections to your balance and direction, like here, where I am steering away from photographer extraordinaire Gary Perkin.

To get the wheelie dialed you’ll need patience and you’ll need to practice — a lot! It’s also important to always seek progression, never seek immediate perfection. The most common mistake I see with riders learning to wheelie is that they use their arms, shoulders and back muscles [instead of their body weight] to hold the front wheel up. You’ll need to straighten the elbows and lean back into it to keep the front wheel up. Firstly, it’s important to understand the dynamics and rules of the wheelie.

The Golden Rules

1. Squeezing the back brake will stop you from looping out
2. Applying more watts to the pedals will stop the front wheel from dropping
3. Once the front wheel is up you should rely more on your body weight and balance to stay in the wheelie
4. Gently turning the bars will help you maintain side to side balance
Skills: Learn to wheelie
On an eMTB, because of the extra weight involved, I recommend using between 60 and 100% of the maximum assist.

When coaching, I prefer to simplify the amount of data or thoughts occupying my athlete’s headspace. So, for wheelies – I’ve simplified the process down (as much as is possible) to the following:

How-to Wheelie

1. Find a mild uphill gradient to work on
2. Select a gear that you are not going to ‘spin out’ in but that’s also not too low a cadence
3. Put your finger on the rear brake (and front if you like)
4. Bend your elbows, lowering your chest to the bars before pulling up on them
5. Help get the front wheel up by adding watts to the pedals – a single powerful pedal stroke should do it
6. Once the front end is up, straighten the elbows and lean back into the balance point (this is the hardest part)
7. Look about 3-5m ahead, keep the arms straight and keep pedaling
8. Try rely mostly on your body weight to find the balance point – as opposed to limb strength
Skills: Learn to wheelie
On a road bike, the process is exactly the same as an analog mountain bike.

Common mistakes include

1. Not pulling hard enough on the bars in the start process
2. Not straightening the elbows once the wheel is up
3. Not looking far enough ahead
4. Seeking immediate perfection – it takes time to get it right

It’s also a good idea to spend more time playing on your bike and building your skills, rather than simply chasing PR’s.

Dedicate time to play. It’s good for the soul too. Peace.

| IMAGES: Gary Perkin + Retroyspective |

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