How to wheelie

Step-by-step beginners' guide

A basic skill of mountain biking is knowing how to wheelie. Not only will you impress your mates with your new-found prowess on one wheel, it's an essential trail skill that will allow you to deal with pesky roots or logs in your path.

BikeRadar hooked up with downhill legend Tracy Moseley at Ashton Court, Bristol, to get her tips on how to do the trick. Check out the video below for her advice.

Step-by-step guide 

The keys to a successful wheelie are in the selection of your gear and your ability to deliver one well-timed power stroke through the pedals. You need to pick a good place to practise (flat grass is ideal), and flat pedals will let you bail out if needed.

Select the little ring at the front, and a gear three or four down from easiest at the back. Pedal along at walking pace while gently dragging both brakes. As your lead foot comes over the top of a pedal stroke (see picture below), suddenly surge down on this pedal and release the brakes. 

Don't pull back on the bars, just hold them in a relaxed, normal way with your body fairly upright and arms just a little bent. By the time your foot gets further round (see picture below) your front wheel will be in the air.  

By the bottom of the pedal stroke the wheel is going to be high, as long as you keep this sudden acceleration going, and the bike will be approaching the balance point (see picture below).

If you can’t get the wheel in the air you could be in too hard a gear, making it too difficult to suddenly increase your cadence and drive the wheel up. Or maybe you’re accelerating gradually rather than with one quick, snappy surge.

If you’re twisting the bars to the side then you might be relying too much on a pull up, rather than a pedal stroke lift. The thrust through the pedal stroke is coming through the centre of the bike so it’s inherently more stable than a tug on the bars. Try sitting higher and more upright so your weight is further back, and let the bars come up lightly with your hands rather than pulling them.

Advanced wheelies

One quick pop of the front wheel gets it over an obstacle, and then you can let it drop. But if you want to keep it high you need to hold that balance point as your next foot comes round the power part of its stroke. 

This is where some riders like to gently drag the back brake, so they have something to push against as they get their weight centred. If the bike starts to fall to the side you can throw out the opposite knee to counterbalance and keep you upright (see picture below). This is the way to steer when you wheelie.

Another exercise you can do to make sure you don’t pull back to lift the wheel but rely only on your pedalling is to wheelie with no hands. Just as you come to the moment of lift-off, release the bars and slightly pinch the saddle between your thights. This pinch isn't essential but can ensure you don’t slide off as the bike tilts backwards.

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