I noticed quite a lot of people lately saying that they are clutching and their bike just wont wheelie, or they are asking what is the best method, etc etc. Make sure you guys are reading these how-to's and watch the video, and if still cant wheelie then ask your question.
WRITE UP #1
How to Wheelie
With all the stunt videos on the Internet and the amount of email we get asking for a How to Wheelie we thought it was time to address the subject. So we put the question to one of our Featured Riders. We went to Bryan Tooley to see if he could help explain the maneuver.
This is what he told us:
The first thing you need to understand is the different types of wheelies a sport bike can do and what those differences mean to you, the rider. There are several variations of wheelies that can be done on a sport bike however for all intents and purposes now we are going to cover the "at speed" wheelie. Basically the at speed wheelie is in my opinion better for learning and does not require any modifications to the motorcycle.
There are two types of wheelies at speed; one being the stand up wheelie and the other being the sit down wheelie. I also recommend the stand up position for learning, it is easier to get up to the balance point, which is generally higher than most expect as well as provides greater control of the bike once in the balance point. You must perform an action to get the bike up in the wheelie position before concentrating on riding the wheelie.
There are two ways to get a sport bike up into a wheelie. You can either clutch the motorcycle up into a wheelie or you can power it up. Powering the bike up simply involves a good twist of the throttle using the motorcycle's horsepower to pull the front end up off of the ground. This is generally the easiest method to both explain as well as perform. Depending on the size of your bike this can usually be done easiest in 1st gear however I would advise learning in 2nd based on the chances of looping the bike being much greater in 1st gear. 2nd gear on most stock sport bikes is the best spot to learn. The motorcycle is much more forgiving in 2nd gear yet should still have enough power to get all the way up. This is true for both power and clutch wheelies.
To power the bike up simply accelerate to the beginning of the power curve (around 6 thousand rpm's typically) and quickly close and reopen the throttle while pulling up and back on the bars. As the bike floats up come back off of the throttle with it avoiding looping or passing the balance point. Once you are in the balance point the rpms will no longer climb or fall. Also as the bike comes up higher and reaches the balance point it will feel lighter and lighter.
To clutch up a sit down wheelie again accelerate to the beginning of the power curve and in one fluid motion pull in the clutch with only 2 fingers, give the throttle a good whack and snap the clutch out. By snap I mean just let it slip right out of your fingers. This will take several attempts to find the beginning of the power curve and amount of throttle whack to use. Using this method the bike will come up much quicker so be careful with the throttle.
As the bike passes the balance point it will feel as though it is coming out from underneath you and your first reaction will be to panic. Don't. It is almost never too late to save it. Always cover the rear brake in case you experience this feeling. Applying the rear brake will save almost any wheelie from looping out or falling over backwards.
Setting the wheelie down is another maneuver in itself. If your bike didn't come equipped with one buy a steering stabilizer or damper. I can't tell you how important this little piece of equipment is when setting down a wheelie at speed. Of course always keep the front wheel as straight as possible but realize that after the wheel has been in the air for a while it will no longer be spinning which will make for some interesting set downs. Try to back off of the throttle just slow and easy enough that you actually have control over how softly the front end sets back down on the pavement. Then just as the front wheel is about to set down get back on the throttle to increase speed as the tire makes contact with the asphalt, this will smooth out the wobble caused by the tire returning to speed.
Never practice without a steering damper.
Always stay geared up and DO NOT practice in traffic or on surface streets where there may be traffic or vehicles entering traffic from side streets. When the motorcycle is in the wheelie the headlight is pointing up in the air making you almost invisible to cars entering traffic.
Performing the wheelie on a Sport Bike can be awkward and go against most general Sport Bike riding fundamentals and technique. It is always best to complete a motorcycle-training course and acquire the fundamentals before attempting a stunt as dangerous as a wheelie on a Sport Bike.
WRITE UP #2
Protection: Wear a helmet, jacket, jeans, and gloves if you don’t 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 you’re 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 won’t 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 don’t have enough power to power it up. 2. You can wheelie at lower rpm’s, 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 don’t 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 rpm’s 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 doesn’t 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 don’t 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 rpm’s, 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 rpm’s. 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.
WRITE UP #3
How'd They Do That?
By Dan Jackson
Photography: Joe Appel
The wheelie--the granddaddy of all street freestyle stunts--can be both the simplest and the most complex trick in a professional stunt rider's routine. While a standard sit-down wheelie is almost elementary in execution, the more incredible variations--skyscraping High Chairs, 12s, creeping No-Handers--leave us mortals tugging our chins and wondering, "How'd they do that?"
Never ones to tug (chin) in vain, Super Streetbike asked Team XMX (www.teamxmx.com
) ringleader "Crazy Dan" Jackson to give us a peek behind the curtain and expose the mechanics of his gravity-defying wheel stands. An accomplished freestyle motocrosser and street freestyle prodigy (his 2002 CBR954RR was his first-ever streetbike), Crazy Dan is just the man for this job. The 25-year-old Jackson came out of nowhere (Kansas City, if you're looking for it on a map) to finish third in the '02 XSBA Street Freestyle Championship, and at press time was leading the '03 series. In addition, Jackson has posted wins at numerous non-XSBA-sanctioned stunt competitions, and also recently launched his own stunting school (www.stunterschool.com
, see page 16 for more details), further cementing his credentials. Read on as Jackson, in his own words, lays bare the secrets of mono-wheel mayhem.
"Sit-downs are the easiest wheelies to do, but the hardest to explain. There are so many different ways to wheelie a sportbike, and some methods work better than others depending on the rider and machine. I'll explain what I do--but keep in mind, other riders might be lifting it up differently.
"There are two kinds of wheelies: power wheelies and clutched wheelies. A power wheelie uses the bike's motor to get the front wheel up. You get the revs up near the bike's torque peak and goose the throttle to snap the front end up. On a 1000cc bike this is easy--just snap the throttle at around 6000 rpm and it wheelies. A smaller bike such as a 600 needs a little help. On these, I'll roll the rpm up higher, then chop the gas and snap it on again. Chopping the throttle will cause the front end to dive for an instant, and the rebounding of the fork will help the front end come up when you snap the throttle back on. On a 600, you almost have to open the throttle all the way to the stop to get the front end up under power. A literbike takes much less throttle--snap my CBR954RR to the stop and you'll be on your ass instantly. That's why I don't like power wheelies--you're dealing with a lot of power, and the possibility of looping the bike is greater.
"I prefer clutched wheelies; the front comes up quicker and you're lower in the rev range when you bring the front end up, so you're not going as fast and you've got more time to find the balance point before you hit the rev limiter. For a clutched wheelie, I'll pull the clutch in, just enough to cause the rpm to rise up to the torque peak, and then let it out quickly. I'm pulling the clutch in just slightly, just into the friction zone. The revs rise for a split second, and then I drop the clutch--don't ease it out--and back off the throttle incrementally as the front end comes up. The higher the front wheel goes the less throttle is needed to keep it up. Backing off keeps the bike from going over.
"Either way, on power or with the clutch, I keep my arms stiff, squeeze the tank with my legs and always cover the rear brake. If things get ugly, you just tap the rear brake and both wheels are back on the ground. If you're looking straight ahead, when you can't see over the bike you know you're getting close to the balance point."
"Same as a sit-down, you can do this one either on power or on the clutch. I'll also bounce the bike a bit to help it up. Bouncing down on the handlebars preloads the front suspension. The energy of the fork releasing, combined with the throttle input, pops the wheel up. I'll stand up first, then lean forward and bounce it by pushing down on my arms, causing the fork to compress. When the fork comes back up I'm on the gas (not as much as a sit down--standups take less power to lift up!) and pulling on the handlebars to bring the bike up.
"As the front wheel comes up, I'll drop my butt back a little bit to help it along. I bend my knees when I'm pulling the bike up, and once it gets up to about 10 o'clock I'll straighten my legs and lean back. With a standup you can hold the throttle in one spot and use your body language to control the wheelie.
"Because body language makes it so easy to balance a standup, it's easy to ride one through the gears. To shift during a wheelie, I'll blip the throttle just a touch right before the shift. When you fan the clutch to shift, it kills power to the wheelie, and if you don't blip the throttle a touch this can cause you to drop the front wheel. So I'll blip it, causing the front wheel to float a bit higher for a split second, then shift as quickly as possible. Preloading the shifter and just nudging the clutch lever will help you shift faster. I generally shift as early as possible. If you shift when you're hard on the gas or your revs are up, you're more likely to miss the shift. The sooner you shift, the less likely you are to miss the gear. But not too soon, so you don't bog the revs! Incidentally, these shifting rules are the same for a sit-down wheelie."
"To do a Can Can, I start just like I would [with] a regular standup wheelie, and as soon as I get the wheelie to where I'm comfortable, I take my right leg off and stick it between the tank and my left leg. You have to be careful getting your foot through there. There's not much room between your leg and the tank, so you have to know where you're going without looking and get it through there quickly.
"During a Can Can most of your body weight is to the left side of the bike, so you need to counterweight yourself by rocking your shoulders over to the right side of the bike. It's all about keeping your balance centered. Whenever I'm moving around, I make sure to do it slowly, so I can feel which way it's going to go. Moving around really fast will cause the bike to get out of control.
"If I ever do get out of control, or to where I feel like I'm making a mistake, I just let off the gas or tap the rear brake and put the front down--it doesn't really matter where I'm standing on the bike, once both wheels are on the ground I'm safe."
"For this one I start by sitting on the gas tank with both legs out to the side. The easiest and safest way is to kick out one leg at a time; that way you still have at least one hand on the bars. But with cruise control you can do both legs at once, which looks better in competition.
"Starting out with High Chairs, it's a good thing to dig your ankles to grip onto the headlight so you don't go flying off the back. Denting in the tank here really helps too because it gives you a flat surface to sit on. I always clutch any tank wheelies up. High Chairs (or anything where you are sitting on the tank) take more throttle because you have more weight over the front of the bike. But because your weight is so far forward, and because you're using more throttle, you have to watch and be smooth on the clutch so you don't get wheelspin. Leaning back helps, too, and so does blipping the gas to bounce the bike a little bit.
"[For] my High Chairs, I don't even touch my feet to the fairing at all; I just try to stick my legs up in the air as high as I can, and all that touches is my ass on the tank."
"Frog wheelies are a lot like High Chairs--I get up on the tank first, then clutch it up. Just like the High Chair, you have to be smooth pulling it up because you've still got all your weight over the front. Plus, you don't really have anything to hold onto, so when you drop the clutch your body weight wants to go backward. That's going to make you wanna hold onto the bars even more tightly, which can cause you to twist the throttle more than you should. So to avoid unwanted throttle inputs, you have to grip tighter with your left arm than your right.
"The hardest part with a Frog wheelie is putting it down. When you set the wheel down it throws all your weight forward, and when you're standing up on the tank and just holding on to the handlebars, there's not much to keep you from just flipping over the front. Not for amateurs, this trick."
"For a Standup No-Hander, you're standing with your foot on the 12 bar and you've got your idle turned up, so you're basically using your foot to balance the bike and riding the wheelie with no hands, controlling the height of the front tire with your body and also with the rear brake.
"Sit-down No-Handers are a bit harder because you don't have the leverage of your foot out on the bar to balance the bike. Again, I'm doing this with the idle turned up. I get the bike up to about 11 o'clock, then let go of the bars and just lean back and control the front tire height with a combination of body lean and rear brake. To keep myself on the bike, I'll squeeze the tank with my knees and sit back against the passenger seat. If I work my body position just right, I don't even have to use the rear brake."
"A 12 O'clock is all about brake control. You bring it up in first gear, and you have to get on the gas really hard to get the wheel up as high as you can, and then use your rear brake to stop the bike at 12 o'clock. Once you get it up, instead of using the throttle to control the height of [the] front wheel, you're actually using the rear brake. You're on the gas more than normal, and using the brake to keep from going over.
"Twelves require a lot of body language, using your shoulders to rock the bike from side to side to keep it from tipping over sideways. I use my knees and legs like outriggers to balance the bike, and mostly hold myself on with my arms.
"On the scrape, a lot of people think you just fall back and ride the bar, but the bike still wants to sway from side to side. If you want to 'park' a 12 O'clock, you use the rear brake to slow down--but not too much. If you use too much, it's just going to cause the bike to fall down."
"Circles and other slow wheelies are the hardest to learn. I'm still learning Circles, in fact. These are all about trusting your tires and getting into a groove. Once you get into a groove, it's all brake and throttle control.
"There are three different ways to do Circles. Some guys ride on the regular pegs; some with the left foot on the left passenger peg; or some with the left foot on the 12 bar. I use the second method, with my left foot on the passenger peg. I haven't done too much with my foot on the bar, but I think there is an advantage because you've got more leverage on the back of the bike. You can use your body weight more to control the height of the tire.
"To initiate a Circle I clutch it up with my feet already in position, bringing it up like a 12 O'clock, using the rear brake. For Circles (and No-Handers, too) I'll turn the idle up to 3500 rpm, so I don't really have to worry about the gas. But with the idle up that high, and your bike so high, if you don't use the rear brake you'll loop out.
"Once you get the bike up there, you initiate the turn by bending the inside knee and shifting body weight into the wheelie. You want to keep looking into the wheelie because you go where you look. You keep it going by blipping the throttle and tapping the brake. The gas makes it run wide and the brake tightens the Circle up--the same concepts as with cornering on a roadracing track."