Okay, you got the front end up.
Your friends are impressed, and
now you want to get it back
down. Follow these steps:
(1) By far the most gentle
and predictable deceleration
force comes from friction caused
by the engine when the
throttle is rolled off. Two-stroke
engines develop very little engine
braking, but you don’t need much of a
corrective force when you are
near the motorcycle’s balance point.
Four-strokes, on the other hand, have gobs of engine
braking—so much, in fact, that chopping the throttle can
auger the front tire uncontrollably into the ground.
If you want to extend the length of a wheelie, you can
feather the throttle to torque the front end up and lower
the front end in a continuous ballet at the balance point.
( 2) The quickest and most basic way to stop a wheelie
is to tap the rear brake. It should be noted that tapping
the rear brake isn’t as subtle as rolling the throttle off.
The front end will slam down with a sudden impact.
When you balance a motorcycle on its rear wheel, the
center of gravity is about 4 feet off the ground. This
creates a situation where the slightest acceleration or
deceleration will cause a violent rotation. Touching the
rear brake is a powerful-enough force to bring a bike
back to the ground quickly, even if it has started to loop
over backwards. Be careful, though, because merely
thinking about touching the rear brake pedal usually creates enough deceleration to correct a wheelie when you
simply drift behind the balance point.
( 3) A more sophisticated form of rear-wheel
deceleration is using the clutch. How many times have
you launched off the starting line only to have the front
wheel rise off the ground? In desperation, you shut the
throttle off to keep the bike from wheelying over backwards. Wrong! What you should have done was touch
the clutch. The clutch is a better way to halt a wheelie
than either the rear brake or throttle, especially when
speed is still of the essence. When you pull the clutch
in, you disengage the drive to the rear sprocket, which
slows the rear wheel down, bringing the front end earthward. The benefit of clutching a wheelie down to terra
firma is that you can do it with the lightest of touches.
It’s subtle but effective.
ABOUT THAT BALANCE POINT
Lofting the front wheel high enough to sustain a
wheelie requires an abrupt, dynamic action. As the angle
of the bike gets higher and closer to its balance point,
the rules of the game change. There is no exact point
where a motorcycle balances, because its human pilot
represents over one-third of its mass. Any movement
on the rider’s part will shift the balance point. To make
matters worse, the rear suspension may compress or
unload depending upon the steepness of your bike’s
angle. Novices, who move all over the place while
attempting to wheelie, introduce too many variables
into the equation to make it a consistently performed
act. Properly put to use, however, the rider’s body can
effectively widen the “sweet spot” and make it easier to
find the place where you can balance on the rear tire
using only gentle throttle inputs to keep rolling.
HOW TO FIND THE SWEET SPOT
To find the balance point, you need to choose a gear that
will magnify torque while lessening the possibility of wheel
spin or running out of gear. The best gears are second or
third (at speed, a racer will find that he can wheelie in any
gear if he has to). Once you’ve selected your gear, lean
back on the bars and use a deliberate handful of throttle
to get the wheel up. You want to give it enough power to
get close to the vertical balance point (but not too close). It
should all happen in one smooth motion—brrrrraaaap. You
need to get the bike vertical while still in the meat of the
powerband. If you rev the engine beyond the torque curve,
it will either loop out or drop back down. As the bike rises
precipitously, roll the throttle off a little to establish your
balance and to ensure that your bike is rolling straight and
level. As you roll the throttle off, gravity will take over and
your front tire will begin to drop slightly (this is good). At
this point, keep your body stationary and blip the throttle
one more time. Be careful! Blip it just enough to ease the
front wheel back up. You can judge how much throttle it
needs by how fast the front end is falling. If it is falling
fast, give up the ghost and start the whole procedure
over. At the first sign of weirdness from the bike (leaning,
wobbling or flipping backwards), chop the throttle, tap the
rear brake or feather the clutch.
Remember, bringing the bike smoothly up to the balance
point takes two distinct movements. (1) Torquing it up
and ( 2) keeping it up with judicious throttle use. It takes
practice to get the bike up to the sweet spot, which is
much higher than most riders think. For a long time you
will find yourself blipping the front wheel halfway up and
then trying to keep it up by holding the throttle wide open.