How to Wheelie a Dirt Bike On Your First Try

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Dirt bike rider doing a wheelie at the sand dunes.

Knowing how to do wheelies on your dirt bike is not only fun and looks ace, but it can get you through and over some tricky and otherwise very difficult situations. If you’re trail riding you will need to be able to pop the front wheel up to get over logs, cross streams and challenge rutted or uneven terrain.

The short answer is that doing a wheelie is not very hard.  It’s just a matter of balance.  All you have to do is scoot back on the bike so the weight is toward the rear wheel, get into a gear where you can really pop the throttle, and then pop the throttle very fast.  This sends the front wheel flying upward.  To maintain the wheelie, simply add throttle to put the wheel higher, or LIGHTLY tap the foot brake to bring the front wheel down.  That’s it!

I personally believe it is far easier to do wheelies on a four-stroke than a two-stroke as the power is more predictable and a lot smoother. But if you can wheel stand a two-stroke properly – you can wheelie anything.

Below are some tips that will help you master the art of wheelies – and may also prevent you from flipping your bike and busting yourself up.

There are two types of wheelies: (1) The standing wheelie, which is where you start from a stop and is the type of wheelie I recommend for your first time.  (2) There is also a power wheelie where you start your wheelie when already moving quickly and is better for long maintained wheelies over a distance.

  1. Grip your bike firmly with your legs and scoot back on the bike.  You CAN scoot too far back, which will make you fall on your back.  A good rule of thumb is to make the back of your butt hit the back of the pad of your seat.
  2. Keep one finger on the clutch and your foot over the rear brake. If you ever feel like you’re going to flip your bike, give the rear brake a light tap to bring her back down.
  3. Choose a gear. The safest way to start is to begin from a stop and go straight into a wheelie.  For this, be in first gear.  Rev up the engine with the throttle and the clutch pulled in so you’re still staying still.  Then release the clutch all at once while maintaining throttle.  This will pop the wheel up.  If needed, pull back lightly on the handlebars at the same time.
  4. It’s all about body position, balance and the right amount of throttle.  You’ll adjust those as you ride the wheelie to stay up.
  5. Practice. Practice. Practice! The only way I got good at this was by finding a nice long stretch of land (the beach in my case) and practicing. I started off by just lifting the front wheel for a second. Then learned how to hold it up for longer. After a fair bit of practice, you’ll find you can change through the gears as you go and hold the wheelie for as long as you like. There’s a sweet spot – or balancing point where the bike feels weightless. This is where you want to be.  It’s a great feeling.

Tips for Not Crashing Horribly While Doing a Wheelie

  1. You might try hanging your feet off the back of the bike and drag them on the ground instead of putting them on the pegs.  This puts the weight further to the back, and also means it’s easy to put a foot down if you’re going to fall over to one side or the other.  If you feel like you need to use your foot brake, you can just lift up the one foot onto the foot pegs.
  2. If you have a smaller pit bike or lower CC bike, you may want to use it for learning a wheelie.  These bikes are much lighter and easier to flip up, and also easier to manage if it starts to tip.
  3. Find a very flat surface to do a wheelie.  If there are any bumps at all, you can easily flop over because you’re focused on balancing front to back and you forget the side to side balance.
  4. Don’t sit too far back on the bike or you’ll end up on your back.
  5. Be certain to cover the foot brake with your right foot.  If you feel your center of gravity pushing you too far back, tap the brake and let go of the throttle a bit to bring the front tire down.

Try This to Improve Your Wheelie Skills

Here are some things you can try once you have the main wheelie down.  These tricks will help you improve your balance when doing a wheelie and also make you look cool.

  • In the seated position and using first gear, give her a burst of revs, drop the clutch and lift the front wheel. Using the clutch, accelerator and rear brake, try and hold the front wheel up for as long as possible but move forward as slowly as possible. This looks really cool when pulled off, but it is much harder than it looks!
  • Once you’re in a wheelie, try turning the front tire side to side with your handlebars.  This requires some extra thought to keep going straight while also maintaining the right throttle for the wheelie.
  • While it’s easiest and safest to start a wheelie from a stop, you can also move into a wheelie while you’re moving quickly in 2nd or third gear.  In fact, some riders find this type of wheelie is easier to maintain for a long distance because you have momentum on your side to keep things steady.
  • Try standing up on your foot pegs instead of dragging your feet on the ground.
  • Once you’re really good at a wheelie, you can actually stand with your feet on the back of your seat and reach down to the handlebars.

Be Careful

Obviously, doing a wheelie is more of an advanced dirt bike trick.  Don’t attempt it until you have the basic skills down.  Always do it with all of your protective gear on, and exercise caution.

Got Your Wheelies Nailed? Check Out Some More Dirt Bike Riding Tips

Jim Harmer

I'm the co-owner of Dirt Bike Planet. I live in Star, Idaho and enjoy dirt biking with my wife and two boys throughout the Idaho mountains.

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