The wheelie is really a useful riding skill, particularly for getting over trail obstacles, as well as a great way to practice balance and bike control. But maybe even more importantly than that (for all the attention-seekers out there) it looks cool.  Wanna be YouTube-famous?  You gotta learn to do a wheelie.

Instructors Jeremiah Stone and Phil Yates are wheelie fun guys

This skill is often confused with the manual which is similar in the fact that the front wheel is in the air in both skills. The primary difference is that in a wheelie the front end stays up from pedaling, and in a manual it stays up from just shifting your weight down and back.  Also, a manual is a standing maneuver and a wheelie is done seated.

Ok, so know you know what it is — here’s how to do it:

1. Drop that S…. Saddle

Lower your saddle, you’ll need to be seated for this skill and this will lower your center of mass to help keep you more stable. You still need some leverage through your pedal stroke, so don’t lower it all the way! 2-3 inches should do the trick.

2. Easy Now

Select an easy gear, but not the easiest gear. Usually 2 or 3 from the easiest is a good place to start. Begin your wheelie at about 5–10 mph. Using a gear that’s too easy will result in too fast of a cadence which will result in you losing your wheelie because of excessive pedaling.

3. Lock it Out

If you have rear suspension on your mountain bike, lock it out. A bouncing rear shock will negatively effect your balance.

4. Get Ready

While keeping your head up and looking forward, lower your torso and crouch down over the handlebars to prepare to initiate the wheelie.

5. Power Stroke

With your most powerful foot at the top of the pedal stroke, simultaneously pull up on the handlebars while pedaling down hard. You’ll have to start with a hard, steady pedal stroke to get the wheel up. Once it’s up, keep pedaling, but not quite as forcefully.

6. Weight Back

Quickly lean your weight back and allow your arms to straighten as the front wheel comes up.

7. Stay on the Gas

Keep pedaling and keep a finger over the rear brake lever. If the bike comes up too far, you can tap the brake to bring it back down.

8. Use Your Brake

Continue to feather your rear brake as needed in order to prevent the bike from flipping over backwards. (Some people drag their rear brake the entire time, just to have some resistance to pedal against.)

9. Stabilize

Manage the balance of the bike. If the front starts coming down, lean back more. If the bike leans right, stick your knee out, or turn the bars to regain balance.  Make these corrections as soon as needed, if you wait to long, your balance will be unrecoverable.

10. Bring ‘er Down

Make sure the front wheel is straight as you bring the front wheel back down to the ground.


1. It’s easier to learn this skill with flat pedals vs. clipped in.

2. The wheelie is never really perfectly balanced, you need to constantly add balance corrections to keep the bike in the wheelie and going in the direction you are intending.

3. It’s easier to learn this skill on a slight slope, preferable on grass.

4. Practice dismounting off the back of the bike so you know what to do in the event you go over backwards.

This is another one of those skills where you’ve got to put the time in in order to really master it. Keep at it and over time, you’ll see your hang-time increase to the point where you can wheelie across, over down and up anything you choose.

Have fun!

5 Responses

  1. This past spring, at (a very athletic) 55 yrs old I gave it a try. I wheelied across a car park for about 80 ft when I leaned a bit far back.
    As I went to put my feet down I realized I WAS IN MY CLIPLESS pedals!
    I couldn’t escape and as I fell backwards I saw the blue sky. I landed with a very audible thud on my spine.
    My back slammed into the ground. I thought I’d broken my back.
    I still did my 20 km Fat Bike ride and in 3 days I’d recovered 🙂

    1. I did a 40 mile ride and at the end, I pulled a wheelie on my road bike while clipped in. I went too far and landed on my back. I fractured my T4 vertebrae. Had to sit out the entire summer. Fortunately no surgery was needed. Now I only do wheelies on my mountain bikes with flat pedals. I was 51 at the time, and in very good shape.

    2. I love hearing about people older than me (46) having fun on MTBs. I started riding MTB about 15-16 months ago as a way for me to spend time with my boys (12 & 10), stay in shape, and have a scary good time doing it. Strangely enough, I am finding myself far more daring and adventurous than my boys… for now. ?

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