This was posted on the old SBN message board. It was posted by f4rider. It's a really good read and covers some good stuff such as bike set-up and different techniques. I hope this helps some people out.
Following this advice wonít keep you from crashing, getting hurt, and breaking stuff; but it will, most likely, help you learn faster while crashing less often than if you figure everything out on your own.
Bike setup for wheelies:
Oil: Many bikes will become oil starved when riding long wheelies, and doing 12 o-clock wheelies. Gixxers and CBR 900s ('93-'95 893cc model) are the most notorious for this. To keep the bike from becoming oil starved, either move the oil pickup in the oil pan back, or overfill the oil. Myself, and some others on this forum, run 1 quart over. Overfilling doesn't seem to cause any problems with Hondas, but I have read of problems with Gixxers as a result of this. So the best thing for a Gixxer would probably be to modify the oil pickup. I've read about some companies that sell aftermarket oil pickups. People can buy modified oil pickups for Gixxers from www.stuntex.com
Gears: For learning, gearing the bike down is unnecessary. Almost every sportbike will wheelie in first gear without any problem (maybe the ex250 is an exception). Also gearing to make second gear come up easier is kind of pointless because it just becomes more like first gear with big sprockets. If it doesnít wheelie in first gear, it isnít the bikeís fault. For the most part, gears are unnecessary until you are ready to learn highchairs (on a weak 600), no throttle hand wheelies, and circles.
Tires: When doing high-speed wheelies make sure you have a good rear tire. A tire with a flat spot in the middle can cause wobbles. I learned wheelies on a rear tire that was almost down to the cords in the middle, and it would often wobble like crazy when doing balance point wheelies. A new tire almost completely eliminated that problem. Run the tire pressure lower than stock. For doing wheelies above 20 mph, have the tire pressure between 20 and 30psi. For doing wheelies slower than 20 mph, lower the pressure to between 12 and 20. 18-20 psi makes for a good all around psi. Lower tire pressure makes the wheelie more stable from side to side.
Tip over sensor: Most (or all, Iím not sure) bikes with fuel injection have a tip over sensor. This can cause the bike to shut off when riding wheelies high. This should be disabled. For Hondas this can be done by cutting the wires going into the sensor, connecting the two outer wires, and leaving the middle one hanging. For Gixxers, that method doesnít work. The brass ring in the sensor must be removed, or immobilized with something such as silicone.
Steering Damper: While it isnít imperative that you have a steering damper for doing wheelies, it might save your ass. If you come down from a wheelie with the front wheel crooked, it could cause a tank slapper. This shouldnít be a problem, though; if you make sure the front wheel is strait when you put it down.
Exhaust pipe: If learning 12s, the pipe may have to be shortened. The stock pipes on some bikes touch the ground at about the same time as the tail when doing a 12 o-clock wheelie. If the pipe hits the ground, it may cause you to crash. My friend just went down a week ago because of this. The pipe can be shortened by simply cutting a few inches off the end of the pipe, and then re-welding / re-riveting the end of the pipe back on. Short pipes can also be bought from www.starboyz.com
Cage: In the process of learning to ride wheelies good, you will most likely drop your bike. Crash cages provide the best protection. All of these cages will most likely save you a lot of money if you crash, but none of them will completely protect your bike in every crash. Here is a list of some crash cage websites in no particular order.
MXD cages http://eclipsebusiness.net/mxdcages.com/
Racing 905 Cages http://www.racing905.com
Powers Cages http://www.powersbikeworx.com/
Freestyle Ingenuity Cages http://www.freestyleingenuity.com/
Wicked Crew Extreme Team's Cages http://cantcuffus.com/cages_pics.htm
12 bar: Install a 12 bar if you plan on learning 12s. There was some debate as to whether or not to learn 12s with a 12 bar. I learned 12s with a bar and didnít have any problems. You just need to be more careful because a bar is less forgiving than plastic. However, I think tail sections cost way too much to smash on purpose. You can buy 12 bars from Racing 905 or Freestyle Ingenuity. They are also pretty simple to build yourself, at a fraction of the cost.
Protection: Wear a helmet, jacket, jeans, and gloves if you donít want to get messed up.
Before riding wheelies on a bike:
If you have access to a quad, a dirt bike, or a fiddy, learn wheelies on that first. What you learn about throttle control and the balance point will help you in learning to ride a wheelie on a bike. If youíre ready to learn on a bike then: 1. Make sure the rear brake works and adjust the lever to a comfortable height. 2. There should be 1in. of play in chain slack. A chain too tight or too loose will wear out the chain and sprockets faster than normal. 3. Make sure there are no cracks in the foot pegs, and make sure all of the bolts are tight. 4. I also recently found out from experience that taking the throttle assembly apart and greasing everything can help in making hwy wheelies smoother
Speed and riding position for learning wheelies:
I recommend that beginners learn wheelies if first gear. It is easier to launch the wheelie in first gear, and there is more engine breaking in first gear. This means that you can ride a wheelie higher without the danger of looping it. It also hurts much less and breaks less stuff when you crash in first gear. For that reason I don't think it is a good idea to do high-speed wheelies, until using the brake is second nature. It is also much easier to go from riding out first gear wheelies to second gear wheelies than vice versa. The only downfall to learning wheelies in first vs. seconds is that the wheelie wonít be as smooth. The throttle will feel much more sensitive. I think fifteen mph is a good speed to launch wheelies while learning; any slower and the wheelie may feel unstable to a beginner. I also recommend learning wheelies standing up with the left foot on the passenger peg, and the right foot on the front peg, covering the brake. While it may feel awkward at first to wheelie while standing, it will be easier after you get used to that part. Most people think it is easier to balance and control a wheelie standing up vs. sitting down. It is also easier to launch the wheelie from standing up.
Why clutching wheelies is the best method for launching wheelies
Clutching is by far the best way to get wheelies up, regardless of whether the bike has enough power to power it up. While it does wear out clutch plates a little faster than normal, the difference is not significant. I also have never read about any major problems as the result of the extra tension on the drive train. There are many advantages to clutching wheelies vs. powering wheelies. 1. It allows you to wheelie bikes that donít have enough power to power it up. 2. You can wheelie at lower rpmís, and therefore slower speeds. This allows beginners to keep a wheelie up longer, with out being at the balance point. 3. The launch is more predictable. When powering a wheelie up, the front end comes up relatively slow. Then when the front end is about 3 feet off the ground, the front end jumps up very fast under full throttle, making for a scary and unpredictable launch. When clutching up wheelies right, the front jumps up close to the balance point. From there you just play with the throttle to fine adjust the height. After a little practice, clutching becomes very predictable and not frightening at all. 4. All of the pros that I know of clutch every wheelie. You want to be like them donít you?
How to clutch wheelies:
There are a couple different methods for clutching wheelies. I prefer the second method.
Method 1: First accelerate with the clutch engaged. Then, with the throttle still opened, pull in the clutch with one finger, to the point where the clutch disengages. With the engine still under throttle, quickly let the clutch back out as the tach is rising.
Method 2: Close the throttle, and then pull the clutch in all the way, with one finger. Then twist the throttle and dump the clutch.
When learning to clutch, only rev up the engine a little bit at first before letting out the clutch. This will give you the feel for clutching. Then gradually increase the rpmís before dumping the clutch, until the front end jumps up close to the balance point. Reduce the throttle as the front end comes up to the balance point. If it comes up too far, gently push the rear brake to bring the bike back forward. When clutching second and third gear wheelies, the bike may need extra help, depending on what bike it is. If clutching alone doesnít get the wheelie up, then bounce at the same time. This is done by pushing down on the bike (with your arms and legs) at the same time you open the throttle, and then leaning back slightly when dropping the clutch. It is not a good idea to pull on the bars. Pulling up on the bars may cause the wheelie to come up funny and wobble.
I donít recommend shifting gears during a wheelie unless you are good at wheelies, and are able to use the clutch in the process. Otherwise, shifting during wheelies is hard on the transmission. It is also hard on the fork seals if you miss a shift. My advice is to learn to ride wheelies at a constant speed. Then there will be no need to shift.
How to set a wheelie down:
When bringing down a wheelie, stay on the throttle until the front end is safely on the ground. If it is necessary to quickly bring down the front end, then close the throttle at first. Then as the front is coming down, open the throttle. In that way you will have a soft landing.
Step by step procedure to launch a wheelie for a beginner
1. Drop the tire pressure to about 15-20psi
2. Put the bike into first gear
3. Go about 15mph
4. Pull in the clutch
5. Rev up the engine a little and drop the clutch
6. Repeat step 5, increasing the rpmís, until the front end comes up close to the balance point.
7. Reduce the throttle as the front end comes up to the balance point.
8. Cover the rear brake.
9. Stay on the throttle as it comes back down.
Balancing the wheelie from front to back:
Balancing front to back is controlled by using the throttle and rear brake. It is a good idea to learn this on a quad, fiddy, or dirtbike first. If the wheelie is in front of the balance point, you must increase your speed to remain at that position. To get the wheelie back to the balance point, you must compensate with more throttle. This is the same, only in reverse, when the wheelie is behind the balance point. When behind the balance point, you must use the engine breaking/ rear brake to bring it forward to the balance point. The balance point is the position of the bike in which it neither has to speed up or slow down to remain at the same position. The height of the balance point is affected mainly by the speed of the wheelie. The faster the wheelie is, the lower the balance point. The balance point is also slightly affected by the weight distribution of the bike and the position of the rider. The object of riding a balanced wheelie is to keep the bike as close as possible to the balance point. This is done by rolling on and off the throttle, and pushing the brake if needed. With practice comes the ability to ride a smooth wheelie with out playing with the throttle/brake much.
Balancing the wheelie from side to side:
Balancing sided to side is done by adjusting your body position. It is a good idea to learn this on a dirtbike, bicycle, or fiddy first. When riding wheelies over about 20mph, the bike will balance itself for the most part. It is the slow wheelies that you have to consciously balance side to side. The principle is pretty simple. Quickly lean the same direction as the bike is falling. For example, if the bike is starting to fall to the left, you would quickly lean to the left. This movement would twist the bike towards the left, thereby correcting it.
Preventing / stopping wheelie wobbles:
From my experience, I think that high speed wheelie wobbles can be caused by having a squared off rear tire, not being smooth on the throttle, and/or making quick movements. Slow speed wobbles seems to be caused by high rear tire pressure, and/or not keeping the wheelie balanced from side to side.
To steer wheelies good, you need to either be at the balance poing, or behind the balance point. To steer wheelies, which are over about 20mph, you simply slowly lean in the direction you want to turn. However, to turn slow wheelies, you must first make the bike lean in the direction which you want to turn. For example, if you want to turn to the right, first, slowly lean to the right. Then quickly lean a little to the left / twist the handlebars a little to the left. This will cause the bike to start to fall to the right. Then, instead of completely correcting the lean, you keep the bike leaning at that angle. This will cause the bike to turn to the right.
Using the rear brake: Slowing wheelies down / 12s:
Wheelies are slowed down by riding the wheelie behind the balance point. This is one of the hardest parts of learning to wheelie, not because of skill, but because of the balls required. To learn how to use the rear brake, you basically need to grow some balls, bring the wheelie up behind the balance point, and tap the brake. Soon this process will become second nature. To slow a wheelie down, you must give the bike enough throttle to get the wheelie behind the balance point. Now if you get scared and push the rear break hard at this point, it will quickly bring the wheelie forward without slowing it down much. To slow it down, you must keep it behind the balance point by gently riding the brake. To 12, you just do the same thing; only you get off the rear break enough to allow the bike to lean back on the tail. Unless you plan on parking a 12, make sure you get back on the brake before the wheelie slows down enough to stall the engine.
Riding slow wheelies:
After you get good at slowing down wheelies, then you should be able to ride slow wheelies out. First of all, turn up your idle. I do slow stuff with the idle at 3.5k rpmís. The high idle allows you to ride slow wheelies much smoother. Be careful, however, when first turning up the idle, because you will have to use the rear brake, when going slow, to keep from looping. When riding slow wheelies with the idle high, with some practice, you should be able to ride the wheelie by using the brake, and only blipping the throttle if the wheelie starts to come down.
Once you have learned all of this, all of the wheelie variations will pretty much be self-explanatory.
Author - f4rider