Learning to do a wheelie is not only a great way to improve your bike control and balance but it’s also a cool skill to have. It can even make you YouTube-famous if you’re looking for attention! However, it’s important to note that the wheelie is different from the manual, as the front end stays up from pedaling in a wheelie, whereas in a manual it stays up from shifting your weight back.
To start learning how to do a wheelie, you need to lower your saddle and choose an easy gear that’s not too easy. You should begin your wheelie at around 5-10 mph. If your mountain bike has rear suspension, lock it out to prevent bouncing that could negatively affect your balance.
When you’re ready to initiate the wheelie, keep your head up and look forward while lowering your torso and crouching down over the handlebars. With your most powerful foot at the top of the pedal stroke, simultaneously pull up on the handlebars while pedaling down hard. You’ll need to start with a hard, steady pedal stroke to get the wheel up. Once it’s up, keep pedaling, but not as forcefully.
Riding the Wheelie
Quickly lean your weight back and allow your arms to straighten as the front wheel comes up. Keep pedaling and keep a finger over the rear brake lever to tap it if the bike comes up too far. Feather your rear brake as needed to prevent the bike from flipping over backwards. Manage the balance of the bike by leaning back more if the front starts coming down, or sticking your knee out or turning the bars to regain balance if the bike leans right. Always correct the balance as soon as needed to prevent unrecoverable loss of balance.
Make sure the front wheel is straight as you bring it back down to the ground. It’s easier to learn this skill with flat pedals than with clipped pedals. It’s also recommended to practice on a slight slope, preferably on grass. Additionally, it’s important to practice dismounting off the back of the bike so you know what to do in case you go over backwards.
Keep in mind that the wheelie is never perfectly balanced, so you need to constantly add balance corrections to keep the bike in the wheelie and going in the direction you intend. With time and practice, you’ll master this skill and see your hang-time increase to the point where you can wheelie across, over, down and up anything you choose.
While a wheelie is different from a manual, there are many similarities between the two. Practicing body positioning and balancing will help with both of the skills. A manual trainer like the Ninja MTB Hopper Balance Manual Trainer will help you practice that sweet spot to master both the manual and wheelie.