How to Do a Wheelie on a Dirt Bike

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Learning a few tricks here and there is almost mandatory for dirt bike riders. Popping a front-wheel wheelie will definitely get you a few stares and a round of applause, not to mention impress your friends.

All that is good and well, but you must remember that safety comes first. You might tip, slip and tumble, but how to do it without seriously injuring yourself is the key. The wheelie is arguably one of the most basic tricks a rider can learn. Popping a wheelie is not only a wicked trick, but it is a legitimate move to get you over certain obstacles on the road such as ditches and logs.

So how do you do a wheelie correctly and safely? Read on to find out!
photo of a man doing a wheelie

How to Do a Wheelie

on a Dirt Bike

Types of Wheelies

1. The standing wheelie

This one is a wheelie done when your bike is stopped. It’s also the safer choice and suggested for first-timers.

2. The power wheelie 

This one is the wheelie you do when your bike is moving forward and this option allows for a longer wheelie due to the speed.

Position

There are two different ways you can go about your wheelie. You can do it in the standing position or the sitting position. Standing gives you more strength and the ability to balance your weight and control your bike.


But for beginners, the sitting wheelie may be easier, especially when you have just learned proper balance. Similar to riding a bike, once you find the proper position and stability, you can graduate to the standing wheelie.

Balance

Of course, balance is the key when riding a two-wheeled vehicle. A dirt bike is quite heavy, so without balance, you are almost guaranteed to take a tumble. You might find you prefer sitting over standing or vice versa, but it pays off to be able to do both.


Standing wheelies can give the rider more control and easier navigation through rugged terrain. Sitting allows you to exert more control and power through your legs, while standing gives you more power through your feet and arms.


You don’t actually lift the bike up with your biceps (although congrats to those who can), your arms are used more for balance.

wheelie in a dirt bike track

Step-by-Step

  1. 1
    Don’t lean forward too much; your weight needs to be dispersed evenly on the bike. Scoot your pooter back until you feel your butt on the edge of the seat.
  2. 2
    Keep a hand on the clutch and cover the rear break. This is for emergency purposes. If you feel like you’re going to flip head over heels, tap the break.
  3. 3
    First gear is a good starting point for sitting wheelies. Turn your throttle, rev up the engine and pull the clutch to keep yourself in place. Keep your hand on the throttle while releasing the clutch to pop up the wheel.
  4. 4
    Everyone has a different neutral position on the bike. You’ll try and try again until you find the most comfortable body position and throttle amount. This can be done over time after you gain more experience.
  5. 5
    Last but not least, as the old saying goes, practice makes perfect! Remember not to attempt anything too daring on your first try. It’s ok if the wheel only leaves the ground for a second or two. You will eventually make it up to 5 or 10 seconds. Find the exact position to maintain your wheelie and your balance through consistent practice.

The standing wheelie shares similar techniques. The difference is starting in third gear is recommended, and you don’t need to pop the clutch. 


Once the wheel is lifted, keep your legs straight and your elbows out as you would usually. It might be easier to loop out with standing wheelies, but they are also very useful to get over obstacles.

Safety Tips

  • Keep a foot over the rear brake (especially for standing wheelies). This will save you from flipping over. Tap the break if you feel the wheel is lifting too high. If you drag your feet on the ground or try to lay a foot down, you will definitely flip because you’re putting more weight on the back of the bike.
  • Control your throttle. Don’t twist a full throttle or twist too quickly. Control the speed and be precise.
  • Don’t sit too forward and don’t sit too far back. You might need to sit further back than your regular riding position, but sitting too far in either direction will cause you to loop out.
  • Starting with a lighter bike or even trying on a bicycle could prepare you for a dirt bike wheelie.
  • The surface and location are important. Maybe attempt your first wheelie near a patch of grass in case you do tip over. Only practice on a smooth and flat surface.
  • Your mental state is quite important. If you go into it thinking you’re going to tip or fail, then you just might. It might be counterintuitive, but if you don’t go into with fear, you might get out of it safe and sound.
  • Don’t forget your safety gear! The proper helmet, gloves, and protective padding can end up making a world of a difference.

Slower speeds raise more of a risk for looping out. Engaging all the muscles in your body to control your bike is important at lower speeds.

person riding a dirt bike and doing a wheelie
Conclusion

Popping a wheelie is a common trick most dirt bikers learn. The fundamentals are pretty simple - balance, position, maintaining the position and the safety tips. Once you have got all that down pat, the next step is regular practice.

It’s important not to try a wheelie unless you have mastered the basics. Remember that learning how to do a one isn’t just for show, but it can be a skill required to get you out of tough circumstances and over obstacles on the road such as a fallen tree, or a large rock.

Start from the easiest sitting wheelie to prevent yourself from looping out and damaging your bike as well. And when you're a wheelie pro, try doing some jumps. See how you could do a dirt bike jump and expand your skills in doing tricks!

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