How to Wheelie a Sportbike?
The wheelie-the granddaddy of all street freestyle stunts-can be both the simplest and the most complex trick in a professional stunt rider's routine. While a standard sit-down wheelie is almost elementary in execution, the more incredible variations-skyscraping High Chairs, 12s, creeping No-Handers-leave us mortals tugging our chins and wondering, "How'd they do that?" Keep reading to find out how to wheelie from an expert.
Never ones to tug (chin) in vain, Super Streetbike asked Team XMX ( ringleader "Crazy Dan" Jackson to give us a peek behind the curtain and expose the mechanics of his [gravity-defying wheel stands](wheelie]( An accomplished freestyle motocrosser and street freestyle prodigy (his 2002 CBR954RR was his first-ever streetbike), Crazy Dan is just the man for this job. The 25-year-old Jackson came out of nowhere (Kansas City, if you're looking for it on a map) to finish third in the '02 XSBA Street Freestyle Championship, and at press time was leading the '03 series. In addition, Jackson has posted wins at numerous non-XSBA-sanctioned stunt competitions, and also recently launched his own stunting school ( see page 16 for more details), further cementing his credentials. Read on as Jackson, in his own words, lays bare the secrets of mono-wheel mayhem so we can all learn how to wheelie.
"Sit-downs are the easiest wheelies to do, but the hardest to explain. There are so many different ways to wheelie a sportbike, and some methods work better than others depending on the rider and machine. I'll explain what I do-but keep in mind, other riders might be lifting it up differently.
"There are two kinds of wheelies: power wheelies and clutched wheelies. A power wheelie uses the bike's motor to get the front wheel up. You get the revs up near the bike's torque peak and goose the throttle to snap the front end up. On a 1000cc bike this is easy-just snap the throttle at around 6000 rpm and it wheelies. A smaller bike such as a 600 needs a little help. On these, I'll roll the rpm up higher, then chop the gas and snap it on again. Chopping the throttle will cause the front end to dive for an instant, and the rebounding of the fork will help the front end come up when you snap the throttle back on. On a 600, you almost have to open the throttle all the way to the stop to get the front end up under power. A literbike takes much less throttle-snap my CBR954RR to the stop and you'll be on your ass instantly. That's why I don't like power wheelies-you're dealing with a lot of power, and the possibility of looping the bike is greater.
"I prefer clutched wheelies; the front comes up quicker and you're lower in the rev range when you bring the front end up, so you're not going as fast and you've got more time to find the balance point before you hit the rev limiter. For a clutched wheelie, I'll pull the clutch in, just enough to cause the rpm to rise up to the torque peak, and then let it out quickly. I'm pulling the clutch in just slightly, just into the friction zone. The revs rise for a split second, and then I drop the clutch-don't ease it out-and back off the throttle incrementally as the front end comes up. The higher the front wheel goes the less throttle is needed to keep it up. Backing off keeps the bike from going over.
"Either way, on power or with the clutch, I keep my arms stiff, squeeze the tank with my legs and always cover the rear brake. If things get ugly, you just tap the rear brake and both wheels are back on the ground. If you're looking straight ahead, when you can't see over the bike you know you're getting close to the balance point."
"Same as a sit-down, you can do this one either on power or on the clutch. I'll also bounce the bike a bit to help it up. Bouncing down on the handlebars preloads the front suspension. The energy of the fork releasing, combined with the throttle input, pops the wheel up. I'll stand up first, then lean forward and bounce it by pushing down on my arms, causing the fork to compress. When the fork comes back up I'm on the gas (not as much as a sit down-standups take less power to lift up!) and pulling on the handlebars to bring the bike up.
"As the front wheel comes up, I'll drop my butt back a little bit to help it along. I bend my knees when I'm pulling the bike up, and once it gets up to about 10 o'clock I'll straighten my legs and lean back. With a standup you can hold the throttle in one spot and use your body language to control the wheelie.
"Because body language makes it so easy to balance a standup, it's easy to ride one through the gears. To shift during a wheelie, I'll blip the throttle just a touch right before the shift. When you fan the clutch to shift, it kills power to the wheelie, and if you don't blip the throttle a touch this can cause you to drop the front wheel. So I'll blip it, causing the front wheel to float a bit higher for a split second, then shift as quickly as possible. Preloading the shifter and just nudging the clutch lever will help you shift faster. I generally shift as early as possible. If you shift when you're hard on the gas or your revs are up, you're more likely to miss the shift. The sooner you shift, the less likely you are to miss the gear. But not too soon, so you don't bog the revs! Incidentally, these shifting rules are the same for a sit-down wheelie."
"To do a Can Can, I start just like I would [with] a regular standup wheelie, and as soon as I get the wheelie to where I'm comfortable, I take my right leg off and stick it between the tank and my left leg. You have to be careful getting your foot through there. There's not much room between your leg and the tank, so you have to know where you're going without looking and get it through there quickly.
"During a Can Can most of your body weight is to the left side of the bike, so you need to counterweight yourself by rocking your shoulders over to the right side of the bike. It's all about keeping your balance centered. Whenever I'm moving around, I make sure to do it slowly, so I can feel which way it's going to go. Moving around really fast will cause the bike to get out of control.
"If I ever do get out of control, or to where I feel like I'm making a mistake, I just let off the gas or tap the rear brake and put the front down-it doesn't really matter where I'm standing on the bike, once both wheels are on the ground I'm safe."