BELIEVE IT OR
NOT, THERE HAVE
BEEN LOTS OF
SEPTEMBER 2017 / MOTOCROSS ACTION 83
These are speed wheelies. They are most commonly used
by road racers on the final lap. Speed wheelies are the
most rudimentary form of wheelying—and for many racers
they are good enough to take them to the top of the sport.
SHIFTING ON ONE WHEEL
Once you get a feel for wheelies, you’ll be topped
out in second gear in about six seconds. If you plan on
impressing the crowd, shifting into third gear is your only
option. If you are pinned at max rpm, however, you’d be
better off starting over.
Once you get a balanced and comfortable wheelie going
in second gear, try to keep the revs low so that your
shift will happen about 75 percent of the way through
the power curve. You must short-shift without the clutch.
Time your shift so it occurs at the moment when you are
rolling the throttle off and the bike is slightly below the
balance point, then click into third. At this point, the front
wheel will probably be going down below the sweet spot,
but don’t worry; the torque of the new gear should power
the front wheel back into the balance zone with a quick
THE SECRET OF THE UPHILL APPROACH
Want to know the secret of learning how to wheelie?
Practice by wheelying up hills—not steep hills, just gentle
rises. Why is it easier to get a wheelie going on an uphill?
You’ll probably be surprised to learn that a bike’s balance
point remains the same regardless of the terrain. Your
balance point is dependent upon gravity, which points
directly to the center of the earth. Since most motocross
bikes balance close to 45 degrees above level, when you
are climbing a 30-degree slope, you are only a few degrees
away from your bike’s balance point. Thus, it takes less
effort to get a bike up to the wheelie point on a hill (and
the front wheel isn’t as far off the ground). It should be
noted, however, that when you wheelie over backwards on
an uphill, you have farther to fall.
HOW TO WHEELIE IN
10 EASY CRASHES
WHAT ABOUT WHEELYING ON A DOWN
Getting the front wheel up to the balance point when
the bike is pointing down is difficult. The bike’s balance
angle will remain exactly the same as for a wheelie on
level ground, but the downgrade creates the illusion that
a wheelying bike is pointing straight up. Since a downgrade transfers the bike’s weight forward, you will need a
more forceful burst of acceleration to get a wheelie going.
Wheelying down a hill is hard, and even though you won’t
fall as far if you loop out, you might not stop falling until
you get to the bottom of the hill.
WILD WHEELIE FACTS
Gyro effect: If you want to hold a wheelie for a long
time, you must try to keep the front wheel spinning. A
spinning front wheel creates a gyro effect that stabilizes
the bike. If you touch the front brake when the bike is in
a wheelie, it will do some weird things. Doug Domokos,
the late great “Wheelie King,” concealed an electric motor
on his bike to keep the front wheel spinning at all times.
Fork offset: The offset of the triple clamps allows you
to shift the weight of the fork and front wheel left or right
by turning the handlebars slightly. “Slightly” is the key
word. To keep the front wheel spinning, it must remain
close to vertical; if you over-correct, you instantly lose its
Knees out: Kung fu wheelie masters remain seated
most of the time so they can hang their knees out to make
small weight corrections. Standing wheelies are easier, but
the angle of the motorcycle must be steeper to achieve the
balance point, and body English is less effective in this
WHY BOTHER WITH WHEELIES AT ALL?
Believe it or not, there have been lots of AMA National
Champions who couldn’t wheelie more than 10 feet. By
that we mean they couldn’t do parlor-trick-style wheelies.
They could get the front end up if they had to but never
really mastered the show-off pit wheelie. The ability to
wheelie doesn’t necessarily make you a better racer, but
a racer benefits from learning these techniques because
of the need for an acute sense of balance. Balance is the
bread and butter of two-wheeled racing. ❏