The Wheelie is very cool but also quite an essential skill to learn.
Now there are two varieties of wheelie, the long, balanced, gloriously flashy wheelie that just screams “I’ve got skills” and then there is the get the job done wheelie.
Fortunately for us, the Get the job done wheelie is all we need in most cases and ALOT easier to learn than the fine balance we need for the extended wheelie.
The wheelie is about picking up the front wheel of your bike and possibly putting it down somewhere, exactly where you want would be nice.
The wheelie is the foundation for
- Log hopping
- Pivot turns
- Obstacle negotiation (getting over a small creek for instance or a large rutt)
- Vertical climbs
- and others.
So lets break it down, as to how to lift your front wheel and then talk about what you do once you can lift it.
So the first thing you need to do is compress the front suspension and upon it rebounding, remove your body weight from the equation, helping the front suspension lift the front wheel.
Ok, this sounds too easy and its not really that easy on a level surface, but we are going to start doing this as an exercise on a sloping hill, with room to recover when it all goes wrong :-).
Start by coming to a stop on a steepish hill with your front wheel pointing up the hill. The hill should be steep enough that you need the rear brake to hold the bike on the hill.
Ride very slowly up the hill with your right foot on the peg and ready to apply the back brake. You left foot and leg should be ready to lift off the peg and place on the ground.
Then bring the bike to an abrupt stop by applying the front brake and back brake, allow your body to move forward and push down on the bars to stop your forward movement, compressing the front suspension. Then without taking your foot off the back brake throw your weight backward and pull on the handlebars, swinging your left foot back if need be.
If the front wheel really does come up, you can use that left leg to stop the bike from toppling over and your stopped, so don’t panic.
The goal is to learn about weighting the front suspension, de-weighting it and getting the front wheel light. If you can lift it, great, if you can’t, don’t worry at this point just be happy that you are in balance and getting that weight off the front.
With some practice you will be lifting the front, even if its just a little, but feel free to play around with steeper hills once you have a good feel for the effort needed, which is actually not much and you’ll learn this.
Now let’s learn another skills and we can put the two of them together to create your first wheelie.
On the same hill ride up slowly, come to a stop using just the clutch against throttle to hold you on the hill. You can put your left foot down if need be and use the rear brake when needed, but the goal is to balance the bike on the throttle and clutch.
if you also move your weight off the bike, using that left leg, or way back on the seat you’ll start to find the front wheel wants to go light when you use the throttle against the clutch to hold your bike on the slope.
Once you have those skills, you use your front brake, weight and balance to lift the front wheel on a slope and you can use your throttle and clutch, together with your weight/de-weight to also lift the front wheel… its time to put these together.
Right, here is where people fall off and flip out. So get used to using the rear brake (your right foot that has always remained in place during these exercises) to bring it all under control again. This is easily accomplished, just pull in the clutch and press the back brake.. simple it’ll all be grounded quickly.
Ok.. once you can lighten the front with the throttle and your body weight, lets combine them to make it all easy.
Ride up the hill slowly, stop and compress the front suspension using the front brake, let it rebound and where you would normally pull back with your body weight and rear brake, do the same but using throttle against clutch to stop the bike from rolling backward.
What you will find is that the front comes up easily and quickly, so easily and quickly it might surprise you so just feel your way into it.
The goal is to lift your front wheel quite high, at standstill and immediately put it back down using the rear brake.
Do this until you can lift it easily and under control on the hill.
Then migrate onto a flatter and flatter hill until you can use your body weight, a throttle blip and clutch slip to pull your front wheel up right from under you without moving forward, catching it all if need be with your left foot on the ground. This is the start to a pivot turn BTW.
From here you need to practice two different things, lifting the front on a slight hill and riding forward a small way with it up, using the throttle and clutch to balance. Start small and simple and extend into longer and more complex… but the goal is NOT LONG WHEELIES but control of them and where you put down the front.
The second one is lifting the front wheel really high at a standstill and holding the bike balanced with one foot on the ground and one foot on the right peg….. you’ll find as you do this the bike wants to topple to one side or the other, usually the left and you will turn the bike naturally to try to keep balance.
This is a pivot turn.
You’ll also become aware that you can walk the bike forward in this position with just a little balance and you’re immediately in a position of being able to lift the front wheel, at an almost stop if not stopped and place it over something, like a log.
The first way to get over a log is exactly this, get the front over and you can usually push the rear up onto the log using your feet and then ride over. expending very little energy.
So practice lifting the front and putting it down where you want it to be, both statically on a level surface and moving forward up a hill.
Slowly you’ll get more confident and be able to lift and put down your front wheel when and where you want.
The punch and blip to get over bigger logs or vertical climbs starts with this manoeuvre, so get this sussed and your own your way to hard enduro skills.
The joy of learning this way is when you drop your bike, which you will do, it will be stopped and easy to handle or stop from doing any great damage. It is the foundations for flashy long wheelies too…… so you never know where you might end up.