Riding wheelies!

Hi Lee,
I am a great fan of your book and website. I think you are genius in explaining and putting the right photos.

I have been practicing wheelies, following your book’s advices. The problem is that I can’t lean back to keep the wheelie going. I can only do 5 or 6 pedal strokes and that’s it. Very sad… I have a feeling that this is probably due to my fear of falling back on my back??? not sure. Do you have any advice or trick to conquer my problem? I really appreciate anything you can advice me. Thank you!!!!

Small rider riding Titus Motolite
Los Angeles, CA

Hey Naoko,

Thanks for the kind words.

Everyone: We’re talking about a pedaling wheelie, as opposed to a coasting manual.

The good news:
If you can loft your front wheel for 5 or 6 pedal strokes, that’s plenty for real world riding. You can easily get your front wheel over trail obstacles — a handy skill on technical climbs.

To ride your wheelie:
It sounds like you’re not leaning back far enough. This stems from two causes: 1) You have never gone back that far, and it is a foreign place. 2) You are afraid of looping out. When you approach the balance point — the Point of No Return — you tense up. You cannot find balance when you are tense. You must make friends with that place.

Put on some flat pedals or at least some flat shoes. Go somewhere safe and loop out on purpose. Yes: Sit down, lean forward, shift your weight back, straighten your arms and pedal hard. When you reach the balance point — and you feel that jolt of fear — just step off the back of the bike. Do this over and over until you simply lift the front end, rotate backward then walk it out. (Thanks to Steve Wentz for this trick. He used it to help me with my manuals.)

When that fear is gone, start playing with your balance. Rock into your wheelie at a moderate speed; you must leave room to slow down or speed up.

– If you start to fall backward, give it a little brake. At first you’ll give it too much, and your front wheel will slam down. As this fear starts to subside, get more subtle with the lever. It only takes a tiny bit.

– If you start to fall forward, pedal a bit harder. Again, it doesn’t take much.

– Maintain balance by alternating brake and pedal pressure. Good wheelie riders do this constantly, and very subtly.

OK, sweet!

— Lee

Coming soon: How to do awesome skid-outs!

8 replies
  1. robyn@ProExotics says:

    don’t forget to start in an EASY gear. biggest rear cog, or maybe the second largest. the front end will come up much easier than a heavy gear, and it is easier to maintain the balance point in an easy gear. also practice on a slight uphill, easier to maintain the balance point.

    man, i love wheelies. i can’t ride a bike, any bike, without popping wheelies. be cool, pop wheelies.

  2. zracing says:

    the cool thing about wheelies is it turns a boring ride down the boardwalk into a 2 mile wheelie session!! Wheelie on and when you think you are good do them one handed.

  3. Julian says:

    I can get a wheelie popped up but I end up falling to the left or to the right 🙁 How does that not happen???

  4. leelikesbikes says:

    You’re probably pulling harder with one arm.

    Make sure both arms are completely straight. Don’t pull on the bars; just hang off of them.

  5. leelikesbikes says:

    Skid-out: When you get a bunch of speed and lock up your rear brake, leaving a long skid mark. That was the COOLEST in 2nd grade.

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