Wheelieing a dirt bike is super fun, and if you love to show off it's a great skill to have. But it's not only good for showboating, it's also important for getting through tough sections on the track, and over the many obstacles you'll encounter on the trails. In this post I'll teach you everything you need to know to wheelie a dirt bike confidently, and with the lowest risk of looping out and injuring yourself and damaging your dirt bike.
If you're riding a powerful dirt bike, chances are that you've opened the throttle and felt the wheel lifting off the ground. It's a great feeling, but keeping the wheel off the ground for a long time can be more tricky.
Wheelieing isn't that difficult, but believe it or not, I've got friends who've been riding for over 20 years, who still can't pop a good wheelie! When I started riding I was wheelieing really fast, so what did I do differently? I spent a whole 2 days practising until I had it dialled.
So with that in mind, realise that this will take time and lots of practice. If you don't spend the time practising, you may still be wondering what you're doing wrong in 20 years time.
Before we look at the correct wheelie technique, let's look at a few mistakes beginners always make..
Things to avoid when you wheelie a dirt bike
As demonstrated by my good friend above, things can go wrong if you neglect certain important points while wheelieing. If you loop out and flip the dirt bike you'll likely snap off the rear fender, and if you let go of the bike you'll be looking at even more damage.
Cover the rear brake
You'll want to get into a good habit of covering the rear brake. If my friend had done this he wouldn't have flipped the bike. So always keep your toe directly over the brake, and be ready to hit it if you feel the front end lifting too high.
As soon as you hit the rear brake, the front of the bike will instantly drop back down. But this may still fail to work if you have poor throttle control...
Practice your throttle control
Be precise on the throttle, if you drop the clutch to a fist full of throttle, the front of the dirt bike may lift too fast. This can flick you off the back before you have time to hit the rear brake.
The more powerful your dirt bike, the more precise your throttle movements will need to be. If you have access to a smaller engine dirt bike, start with less power before moving onto the more powerful dirt bike.
Use small throttle movements to start with, and work your way up until you find the correct amount of throttle needed to get the front high enough.
Don't sit in the wrong place
A big wheelie mistake is sitting too far forward on the seat, this makes it really hard to find the balance point. The balance point is the point where you need minimal throttle to keep the wheel in the air, but you're not so far back that you need to keep hitting the brake.
If you sit too far forward, you'll need to use a lot of throttle to keep the wheel off the ground. This will cause you too accelerate more and more into the higher rev range, until the wheel drops down prematurely.
Although you need to position yourself a little further back than normal, it's also easy to slide yourself too far back. Being too far back on the seat will make the front of the dirt bike very light, pushing the centre of gravity very far back. This is OK when you're a little more accustom to wheelies, but it will make looping out far easier when you're first learning.
So now you know the things to avoid, let's get to the fun part...
How to wheelie a dirt bike
There's two techniques we'll look at in this post: the sat-down wheelie, and the stood-up wheelie. I started with sat down wheelies, and I suggest you do so to.
Find yourself a nice smooth flat area to practice this on, wet or dusty ground may cause the wheel to spin which will make it more difficult.
1. Popping the clutch
You will need to be in first gear, and moving along nice and slowly. You'll start by popping the clutch, this means you will give the dirt bike a burst of power while quickly releasing the clutch. This will cause the front of the bike to lift quickly, so be sure to have your toe covering the back brake.
As you pop the clutch, you may also need to pull back on the handlebars and bounce the forks. This will help the front wheel lift off the ground.
Start by lifting the front wheel just a few inches just to get a nice feel for the wheel being off the ground. Do this several times until you feel confident to start bringing the wheel up even higher. Keep practising this until you can lift the wheel 3 feet off the ground.
2. Using the brake
You can now get a feel for using the back brake to bring the wheel back down. Use the same technique and pop the clutch to bring the wheel up, but this time bring it a little higher, around 4 feet. When the wheel reaches 4 feet, hit the brake to bring it back down.
When you hit the brake, the wheel will come back down very easily, so practice using different amounts of brake pressure. The less pressure you can use, the better. This will allow you to bring the wheel down just a small amount, rather than having it drop all the way back to the ground.
As previously mentioned, make it a habit of always keeping your toe over the brake at every stage of the wheelie. Just remember, if you loop out you'll more than likely damage the bike.
3. Find the balance point
Before trying this, be confident that if you go too far back, you'll be able to bring the wheel back down with your brake. When you're ready you can repeat stage 2, but bring the wheel even higher than before.
You're looking for the point that the front of the bike feels weightless. This is quite intimidating to begin with, as it feels like you're going to loop out. But keep practising over and over until you find this sweet spot.
4. Stay in the balance point
When you've found the balance point, and you're comfortable with the sensation, you can now try to keep the bike in this sweet spot. As the wheel begins to drop, very gentle bursts of throttle will keep the bike wheelieing in the balance point.
Throttle control is vital. Too much throttle and you'll need to hit the brake hard, but not enough throttle will cause the wheel to drop.
5. Hold the wheelie
When you're comfortable with staying in the balance point, holding the wheelie should begin to feel much easier. Put some markers on the ground, and set yourself a goal of wheelieing from marker to marker. Slowly move the markers further and further apart until you can nail a lengthy wheelie every time!
When you're wheelieing slowly, it's always best to opt for the sat-down wheelie. Slow stood-up wheelies can be done with the exact same technique as we just looked at above. You can also use the sat down technique for faster wheelies.
So why use a stood-up wheelie?
First off, they look awesome! Secondly, when you're riding faster it can be difficult to lift the wheel while sitting, especially on lower powered dirt bikes. A standing wheelie can be used to lift the wheel in any gear; but beware, a loop out at speed will be much more serious, so be very careful.
I also find stood-up wheelies very useful on the trails when I suddenly see an obstacle in front of me, like a log for example. You can simply lift the front wheel to get over it, and the back wheel will follow.
1. lifting the front wheel
3rd is a good gear to practice standing wheelies. The technique is similar to the sat-down wheelie, but you won't need to pop the clutch. Again, find a nice flat, smooth track, and you'll be lifting the front wheel with the engine running in the mid rev range.
With your toe covering the rear brake, bounce the front forks, and at the same time open the throttle to raise the wheel. Once the front wheel is up, your legs need to be completely straight, and your arms bent with your elbows out, as in the picture above.
Start by lifting the wheel just a foot or two, and slowly work your way up to the balance point.
2. Find the balance point
As with sat-down wheelies, you'll need to find the balance point. This can be done with the throttle and rear brake just like a sitting wheelie, and by moving your body forward or backwards.
I find locating the balance point during stood-up wheelies much easier because of the ability to move my body. If you go too far back, move your body forward to change the centre of gravity, if the wheel is dropping, move back while covering the brake.
When finding the balance point during a stood-up wheelie, it's super important to keep your rear brake covered. A loop out at higher speed will not only damage the bike, but you can bust yourself up pretty bad.
3. Hold the wheelie
With gentle throttle movements, and by moving your body for fine adjustments, you'll be able to keep the wheel up very easily. You can increase your speed by lowering the wheel slightly, and applying more throttle. You can also change gear while in a wheelie to reach top speed.
Go and practice your wheelies!
Wheelies tend to be much easier on a 4-stroke because of the smooth power delivery, and gentler powerband. If you're riding a 2-stroke dirt bike, beware of the powerband. If you hit the powerband during a wheelie, the front end can rise very quickly so you'll need to be quick on the brake.
With all of these tips you'll soon be able to wheelie a dirt bike like a pro! When you have your wheelies on point, check out some more great tips HERE.
And check out some awesome upgrades and accessories for your dirt bike HERE.
Extend legs: As the rear wheel leaves the top of the first mound, push down with your feet and extend your legs. Many people think you need to pull up here, but don’t – the motion of pushing your feet down will make it feel like the front rises, but it’s really the combination of the rear dipping and you standing upright that makes it feel like that. Extend arms: Push down the rear end to help pump the backside of the first mound for speed and help you reach the second mound – as you do this, let the front of the bike drop slightly by extending your arms.
Need to keep one finger each on the clutch and the front brake, and keep your foot on the rear brake to avoid being out of balance.