Any skill I had for pulling wheelies vanished a long time ago. A lot is down to racing instinct, which makes you want to get your weight ‘over the front’ to quell any incipient wheelie because it simply wastes time. Of course the front wheel coming off the ground sometimes happens under hard acceleration, especially on particular bikes, but that’s not the same as deliberately doing one and controlling it.
Naturally, stunting about has no place on the roads. So why learn to wheelie? Apart from the fact that it’s brilliant fun, and you get some cool photos to show your mates, there are a few valuable lessons you can take away to improve your overall riding:
- Weight transfer. The technique we were taught does not involve the clutch. Instead, setting up the wheelie involves loading the rear suspension then transferring the weight quickly forwards then back using only the throttle. And the machines we were using were well-used Fazer 600s, so neither torque monsters or featherweights. Most riders were amazed at the effect of this and the relative ease with which the front could be lifted. And that should alert you to just how big an influence weight transfer is on machine control, in cornering, braking, you name it.
- Throttle control. Initiating and controlling a wheelie over distance requires very, very precise control of the gas. At first, achieving any kind of consistency seems damn near impossible. But with practice, and playing around with certain throttle openings at certain revs, it all comes together, giving a very precise sense of controlling the engine’s power.
- My day taught me once again the amazing value of training. Over six hours, including a lunch break, I became adept at something I was hopelessly erratic at beforehand. I could literally knock out 80m to 100m long wheelies like clockwork in my final session, as could almost everyone attending. Whatever kind of training you do, from race schools to road courses, the pattern is the same.
There may not be a wheelie school near you but there will be a Ride Forever endorsed training course. And every skill you practice will be directly applicable to your road riding.