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The following how-to is something I wish had been available when I first attempted to learn how to wheelie. It is meant for the novice stunter (NOT novice rider) on most 600+ cc modern sportbikes (although I DO NOT recommend you starting out on a Gix 1K or similar extreme-power bike). While the following is most definitely not the only way to start, it is the way I learned, and, reflecting back, I feel it is the best for the beginner. Of course, that's just my opinion. Anyway' I hope this helps y'all out. Leanangle_750.
Two points to keep in mind when learning to Wheelie:
1. Keep things simple. You only have so much attention, and it's best to keep it divided by as few things as possible. Usually, when a beginning student is overwhelmed with trying to perform too many unfamiliar actions all at the same time, he or she tends not to perform any of them properly. The following approach to learning will stress using the fewest number of control inputs necessary to accomplish our goal' putting the front tire in the air.
There are, essentially, three basic factors you need to control when performing a basic wheelie:
1. Acceleration (throttle control)
2. Fore/Aft weight distribution (body control)
3. Side/Side weight distribution (balance / body control)
Any late model 600+ cc sportbike that I can think of, in stock form, will easily pull the front wheel up to 12-o-clock & beyond in 1st gear if you do nothing else than keep your body motionless and slam the throttle open once in the powerband. No shit. You may think this not to be the case, but trust me, unless your bike is malfunctioning, it's just that easy. The reason most people fail is due to the fact that they unwittingly shift their weight forward. We'll get to that later. The point being, there's no need to bounce it up, there's no need to clutch it up, and there's no need to roll off & on the throttle in 1st. Most of these techniques essentially fool the rider into committing him or herself to leaning their weight back - the rebound from the fork springs is, in my opinion, negligible. And the control that some people tout the clutch as offering you can easily be had with a well-practiced throttle hand. That means there's a lot less to do and think about when you're starting out, and that means you'll be a lot more likely to succeed, and a lot less likely to get hurt. Even using these 'other' techniques, you'll still need to control your throttle, your weight distribution, & your balance. There's just no sense in adding in more complication.
2. Keep things safe. That means finding a desolate stretch of straight road with good pavement(an old airstrip or race track would be best), wearing ALL your gear (gloves, leathers, boots, HELMET, HELMET, HELMET), having friends with cages present, and pre-ride checking your bike (tire condition & pressure, chain condition & slack, brakes, shift lever & position, etc.). It also includes using your head, thinking things through, and above all, not trying to rush your progress. There's no reason why you can't learn to roll nice wheelies without looping it. Remember, just because you know of or have watched people walk away from similar wrecks doesn't mean everyone does. The consequences of looping a hi-power sportbike are a serious matter.
Now, since I'm going to recommend starting out rolling first gear wheelies, let's address a few concerns.
Gearing and Gear Selection:
To begin with, you won't need to gear your bike down. Like mentioned above, in stock form, most any modern 600+ sportbike needs nothing more, in first gear, than for you to not use your body-weight to screw things up. So do not throw a bigger sprocket in the back or a smaller one up front if you can't get it up in first. It's your fault, not the bike. You're only making things more dangerous for yourself once you finally do stifle your survival instincts long enough to let the wheel come up. Next, there's the issue of 1st gear being too twitchy. Well, for the experienced wheelie expert, 1st gear can be rather dangerous, since the balance point (the vertical point where you have to hang the front wheel to keep the bike from accelerating), is so high, and 1st gear does offer up alot of torque. But for the beginner, who will inevitably slam the throttle shut the minute the front tire comes off the tarmac, it's not really an issue. And trust me, even as quickly as the front wheel can come off the ground in 1st, it's no match for your reflexes, unless you've just chased a few percosets down with a pint of Jack Daniels. The fact is, once you get 2nd gear & higher wheelies up past midway point (and past the point where you need a lot of torque), they want to come up and over a lot faster than 1st gear wheelies do, since the gearing is higher. Also, 1st gear offers up tons of immediate engine braking. That means that as soon as you let off of the throttle, the engine braking effect literally sucks the front wheel back down to earth. This will work for you even if you are unfortunate enough to end up going past 12-o-clock. While this effect is apparent in all gears, it is much more so in 1st, and seems to take effect 'right away' in 2nd, particularly, there seems to be a sort of 'time lag' before it kicks in. The main reason I like first gear is that it offers the power necessary to bring the bike up while doing nothing more than maintaining a static body positioning and controlling the throttle. It allows you to free your mind and allow you to concentrate on throttle control, height control, and balance. It doesn't force you to make extreme body motions (throwing your weight back) which, when coupled with everything else, could definitely loop you quickly. In other words, I feel 1st gear to absolutely be the safest gear to learn in.
Use of the rear brake:
This is a controversial issue. Many advocate it's use as another tool that one can use to avoid a loop (which, if used properly, it is); others doubt it's ever going to get used by beginners until it's too late. My feelings on the subject are mixed. Personally, I don't use my rear brake very much at all during normal, everyday riding. Because of this, the use of the rear brake would, for me, definitely not be instinctive when trying to save a wheelie gone bad. I have, unfortunately, learned this fact the hard way when trying to save a 12-o-clock. I believe I thought of hitting the rear brake as my ass hit the pavement. On the flip side, if you do regularly use both the front & rear brakes, you might want to keep that thought in the back of your mind as a last-ditch save attempt. The thing that worries me most about the rear brake, however, is that even if it is used in time, it is very likely going to be used in panic, which could easily lead to a wreck just as bad as if the bike had simply looped over backwards. Personally, I feel that the use of engine braking (a passive safety feature) to pull down 1st gear wheelies is safer, and of course, much easier, since all you have to do is let off on the throttle. Finally, especially if you don't use the rear brake consistently, but even if you do, keeping it 'in mind' does use up some concentration that could be spent elsewhere. So, think about the issue, and make your own decisions on this one.
Use of the Clutch
This has already been covered, but I want to say it again. For first gear wheelies, do not use the clutch, you don't have to. Sure, you can use the clutch to feather the power in and control your height, but this is also something you can do equally as well with the throttle, with less wear & tear on your bike, and most importantly, while spending A LOT less concentration. The only reason I would change my opinion on this point is if you're coming from a dirtbiking background where you're already WAY familiar with the use of the clutch, where it's become instinctive. Otherwise, I say don,t use it.
OK, Time to Pull Your First Wheelies!
So, with all these points in mind, you're ready to start. You have all your gear on, you're on a safe, modern sportbike (it could be any bike, but this tutorial only applies to modern sportbikes), you're on a safe road, and you have buddies standing by to help you if things to awry. Start out on your bike looking down a long stretch of open highway. Sit as you normally would on it' you might want to sit a little further back on the seat if you sit WAY forward during normal riding (like I do), but you don't have to go to any extremes. What you do want to do is to make sure to support your body with your stomach & back, rather than with your hands resting heavy on the bars. This is the way you should ride anyway, but is especially important for wheelying. You want to lock your legs down on the bike so that, as she starts to come up, you don't pull back on the bars to 'hold on', which could possibly cause you to open up the gas more than you want to. Also, you need to be loose on the bars to be able to modulate the throttle (though this will come later). Essentially, you want your hands, your throttle hand especially, free to move without supporting your body weight, and this can only be accomplished, at least starting out, if you're anchored down on your bike using your legs & torso. As you progress and gain more experience, you can always loosen up a bit on the bike later. But for starting out, stay locked down & keep your arms loose.
Now, start tooling down the road, in 1st gear, up until you reach the powerband, which will be anywhere from 4-8K, depending on your bike. I don't look at the tach when pulling up, and you shouldn't either. It's just one more thing to detract your attention that could better be spent elsewhere. You'll be able to feel the power coming in. Anyway, once you do feel yourself getting into the powerband, do only one thing, and this is important, ONLY ONE THING. Open up the throttle quickly to full blast. Do not move your upper body forward, do not move it back. Do not shift your hips. Be a robot ? just move your wrist! If you?re in the meat of the powerband, and you didn't subconciously shift your weight forward, the front wheel just came up! I guarantee it! And if it didn't, read back through this paragraph, think about not moving your body, and try again, possibly at a slightly higher RPM. Rinse & repeat.
OK, Time to evaluate your first wheelie:
If you got the wheel up, contratulations!!!! But - you probably set it right back down. Don't worry about it - this is natural. You probably either cut the throttle, shifted your weight forward as you felt the front end come up, or, most likely, a combination of both. But, you learned something for yourself. You learned that the bike WILL come up on it's own. You learned that, at this point, you don't have to do anything other than open the throttle at the right time to make it happen. Now it?s time to start thinking about how to keep the wheel up a little longer, and get it a little higher. Let's first think about what would happen if you just kept things the way they were, you didn't move your body, and you kept the throttle pinned. What do you think would happen? That's right, you'd loop it! But what would it feel like? Well, It would 'feel' like an exponential curve. The first 3rd or so of wheel lift would proceed relatively slowly (though it won?t feel that way to you!) The second third would go quite a bit faster, and the top third will be, well, you wouldn't know what hit you! Now, what if you kept everything else the same? kept your body stationary, but just started to roll the throttle off a bit once you got past the 1st third of travel? One of three things would happen here, you'd either roll off too much & drop back down, roll on not enough and keep ascending, or roll off just the right amount and, for a very brief time, stay put at that height. Because the bike is still accelerating (& therefore making more power), you can't just hit this magic point at this relatively low height & hold it. But you can stay there momentarily. And you can learn, through practice and experience, to roll on/off the throttle to maintain, increase, and decrease your height. And that's exactly what you need to go out and do now, practice holding your wheelies up a bit.
Practice adding distance
OK, You're back out on your safe road, with your safe bike, your safe gear, & your safety net of friends. Start out first as before, just pulling up little 'popcorn' wheelies to get the feel of things. Once your comfy, it's time to try to add some distance & height. There really isn't very much to explain here, it's mostly a matter of practice and experience. But basically, you want to try to start letting off the gas slowly, rather than slamming it shut, as the wheel comes up. Be prepared to spend a lot of time perfecting things. This is really all a matter of feel. Trust me, if you put some real time into this, you'll learn to roll on and off the throttle in order to keep the front wheel somewhere in the air until your bike runs up against the rev limiter. Of course, how quickly your bike revs out is determined by the height of your front wheel, as you approach the balance point (described above), the engine will accelerate less quickly. If you reach the balance point, it will stop accelerating entirely. Let me state, for the record, that I DO NOT recommend trying to ride 1st gear balance point wheelies, especially just starting out. But, as your height increases, you'll be able to ride out longer & longer wheelies. It's just that simple. And, as you practice, you'll find yourself getting higher and higher. It's just a matter of gaining comfort, which will come in time. Take things very slowly, adding in, through multiple practice sessions, a little more height and a little more distance, but no more than you're comfortable with, each time. If you're interested in how high you're going, it oftentimes helps to have yourself video-taped. It also helps, once you're comfortable managing your height and have some free attention to spare, to glance down at the tach and see how fast you?re still accelerating. Remember, as your height increases, your acceleration will decrease.
I mention running up against the rev limiter a lot, only because, if you do nothing other than maintain a non-balance-point height, and you keep the wheel in the air, you will inevitably run up against it, causing you and your bike to come crashing down to earth in a bone-jarring (& sometimes bike damaging) manner. And, starting out, you're almost guaranteed to hit it at least a few times. But, this is definitely something that you want to avoid. So, at the same time that you're trying to modulate the throttle to bring her up controllably, you want to practice monitoring your speed (via engine noise and/or watching the tach), and attempt to start rolling off the throttle before you hit the rev limiter. You also want to start practicing rolling back into the throttle as the descent occurs in order to soften your landings. All of these things, as mentioned above, will come with time and practice. There's no other substitute.
Advanced (for a beginner) Techniques
So, after a lot of practice and hard work, you're now consistently pulling up first gear wheelies, to a descent height, under power alone, and holding them until just before the bike peaks out. Now where can you go from here? There are a number of things you may want to work on. You may want to work on leaning your body back now, which can help bring up your wheel quicker, at lower RPM, and therefore allow you to ride out your wheelies for longer time & distance. This is good practice for 2nd gear power wheelies, where you'll have to use some body english to pull them up. You can practice using the clutch to pull them up, once again for the same reasons, getting them up quicker, at lower speed, and rolling them longer. Once again, this is also a good intro into 2nd gear clutch wheelies. You can continue to seek higher heights, and reach the illustrious balance point, but once again be warned, the 1st gear balance point wheelie will bite you quickly if you're not careful. You can start trying to pull 2nd gear power and/or clutch wheelies, or try shifting up into 2nd gear from 1st. It's all up to you. But, above all, make sure you lay down a firm, solid foundation of the basics before trying to attempt the more advanced manuevers.
1997 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 (The Black Bitch)
2005 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 (The Yellow Jacket)
2004 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 (Baby Blue, Stolen 07-10-04)
1999 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-9R (The Blue Cow, Sold, And Forgotten)
1991 Honda CBR 600 F2 (Sold, But Not Forgotten)