How to do a Wheelie on a Dirt Bike – Clutch, No Clutch, Sit, Stand?
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So, you want to do a wheelie on your dirt bike so that you can crash less, get through sticky situations, and ride faster?
Sure, those are all legitimate reasons to learn how to wheelie a dirt bike, but we both know why you’re here. You want to look cool and impress your buddies.
Hey, no judgement here. That’s why I learned to ride wheelies.
The good news? Riding a wheelie isn’t really all that hard.
However, as with any skill or “trick” on a dirt bike, the more you practice – the better you get.
Since most non-beginners know how to ride a wheelie, the following is intended for beginners. If you aren’t technically a “beginner” dirt bike rider, that’s ok… as long as you’re a beginner wheelie-rider, this will help.
How to Wheelie a Dirt Bike (Step by Step)
Here is how I recommend beginners learn how to do a wheelie on a dirt bike.
- Find a long, flat (slight incline is even better) straight section.
Make sure there are no obstacles ahead and look for good traction. Gravel roads aren’t the best unless the gravel is mostly gone and you have hard-pack/dirt under you. Pavement works great, but I don’t recommend it for starting out. 😉
- Start riding in second (or third) gear.
The trick is to maintain a speed that keeps your RPM right before your bike’s optimal power hit. When you roll the throttle, you want a little pep from your bike. You don’t want to completely lug it and you don’t want your bike towards the top of the RPM range. Let’s say, you want to be 1/3 of the way through your gear.
- Stand up and bend your knees slightly.
See the guy in the picture above? That is a great starting position for learning to pop (and ride) a wheelie. What you might not notice though: his FEET POSITION. Make sure you’re not on the balls of your feet. You want the pegs in the middle of your feet so that you can hit the back break if needed… and this helps you balance better.
- Lean slightly back by dropping your hips.
What you are not doing, is trying to POP a wheelie like you used to do on your bicycle. If you jerk back on the bars, lean back and goose it… you’re going to end up on your back. Please, don’t ask me how I know. Dropping your hips and almost pushing the bike out with your feet will help you balance throughout the process.
- Hesitate and then accelerate.
Although it sounds a little counter-intuitive, you actually want to let off the gas and and lean slightly forward all right before popping a wheelie. This will preload the suspension and will help you get the front tire off of the ground with less throttle and less jerk.
- Maintain & feather the throttle.
Getting the front wheel off the ground is the easy part. Now that you’ve smoothly and gradually got the front tire up, balance and throttle control come into play. Ideally, you don’t want to have to use the bikes acceleration to keep your tire up. You want to find the balancing point so that you can MAINTAIN speed. If you start in second, you may end up shifting up to third mid-wheelie before you find that balance. That’s OK – heck, that’s actually pretty cool.
Tips For Beginners
- Don’t start out too fast. The bottom of second or third is a great place to start.
- Don’t sit/lean too far back.
- You’re not pulling the handle bars up with your arms, you’re using body position and throttle.
- You’re not going to get it right the first try. You will, however, get better the over time.
- The more you practice, the better you get.
- I recommend working your way up to the balancing point instead of trying to hit it right off the bat. You’ll go over backwards a lot less (read: you still may go over backwards).
- Wear good gloves, boots, helmet and even knee pads and riding pats… maybe not your favorite pair though, cuz they may get a few scuffs .;)
Popping a Wheelie WITHOUT a Clutch
Most dirt bikes have plenty of power. The days of needing to pop to generate enough power have come and gone.
Sure, there are situations where you would pop the clutch to get the front tire up – coming out of a corner and flipping the front tire up over a rock, or other situations like that – but for learning how to do a wheelie, the clutch isn’t required.
In fact, the clutch can get you into trouble real quick if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Although there’s a decent argument for learning how to wheelie using a clutch, I would save that until you’ve got your positioning (foot on brake) and balance down.
How to do a Wheelie With a Clutch
If you want to learn how to use a clutch to do a wheelie, that’s cool too. In fact, you should learn how… eventually.
In order to do a wheelie with a clutch, much of the same tips listed above come into play. Positioning is key. Popping the clutch, however, will (eventually) allow you to work less hard to get the tire in the air.
Before trying to wheelie your dirt bike with a clutch, make sure you have your balance is on point and make sure you have solid throttle control. Know your bike’s power band, RPM range, gearing, and sweet spots for feathering and maintaining power and speed.
How to do a Wheelie on a 4 Stroke OR 2 Stroke
In case you haven’t read my back-story, I actually learned how to ride on four-strokes. Having said that, I (personally) find riding a wheelie on a four-stroke is MUCH easier than on a two-stroke… probably the easiest dirt bike to wheelie.
The power is more gradual. More controllable. Better… for us beginners 😉
Seeing some dude actually riding a wheelie on a two-stroke, I have to admit, is impressive.
Doing a good wheelie on a two-stroke isn’t as easy.
In order to pull off a wheelie on a four-stroke, just follow the advice above. That’s actually more accurate for a four-stroke rider than a two stroke rider.
In order to ride a wheelie on a 2 stroke dirt bike, again, follow the advice above… but plan on more patience. Also, there’s this one caveat: you’ll need to learn even a little better throttle control and balance.
Either way, the goal is to learn the balance. Once you get it, it’s less about using the throttle, and more about positioning and balancing.
Oh yeah, that leads me to the next section of this article…
What’s the “Best” Way to Wheelie a Dirt Bike?
Go to the dunes. 😉
The dunes provide the perfect setup for practicing wheelies. Not only are there more-than-enough flat, open spaces with gradual inclines; it’s the perfect place to crash!
Sure, you still have to worry about your rear fender (and dunes flag), but overall a much softer landing and less damage.
Putting a paddle tire on your bike and heading to a decently-packed section of the dunes is ideal. That’s how I eventually learned to wheelie my YZ250.
Unfortunately, the first time I rode my my brand-spanking-new 1999 YZ250 I hit a tree and pinched the head-pipe flat… because I tried doing a wheelie. I approached the wheelie with the same throttle expectations as if I was riding my 1993 XR250.
Big difference. Not a good idea.
Yeah, I got a new Pro Circuit pipe out of the deal, but it cost me some $$ and my pride.
Trust me. If you can, go to the dunes. If not, just try the tips above.
Gradual, steady progression will get you there… along with a whole lot of practice.