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Did the local kid ever ask you to "do a pop up wheelie?" Usually they ask this question after you just cleared a 40' stair gap. I swear, I could rear wheel a line of park benches and still be asked that question. I have to say to myself, "stay cool Yolinda, we're all gonna stay cool".
For some people the wheelie seems like an impossible trick. I have friends that still can't wheelie after practicing for years. If you seriously want to learn this trick then read on. If you lack the passion to learn and you become discouraged easily, forget about learning the pop up wheelie.
Step #1: You will probably hit the ground. Wear protective gear. Chances are, you will loop backwards, land on your tail bone, smack the back of your skull and spin a pedal into your shin bone.
Step #2: Practice with platform pedals. Leave the BMW Shin Burger Pedals in the tool box. A clipped in wheelie is a suicide mission.
Step #3: If your seat height is higher than your handlebars, lower your seat. Install a stem 100 mm long or less.
Finally, it's time to practice! This trick is much easier on a mountain bike than a BMX bike. Mountain bikes are very stable on the rear wheel. The front of the bike is fairly easy to lift up and the long wheel base inspires confidence. Bikes with chain stays less than 17" are easier to learn on.
Step #4: Try your first attempt pedaling up hill. Not up Pikes Peak, but up a gradual hill. If you begin to wheelie, you will spaz out and pedaling harder to keep the front wheel up. Pedaling up hill will add resistance. This resistance will counter your spastic pedaling forces and should help keep your front wheel up. After mastering the up hill wheelie, you can practice on flat ground. In order to wheelie on
flat ground, you'll have to slow down by modulating the rear brake. This is a tricky move, since squeezing the rear brake will force the front tire back down to the ground.
Step #5: Do not practice on a windy day. The wind will push your front wheel away from you. Even the slightest blow will affect your wheelie. It is possible to ride a wheelie in the wind, but it takes a lot of practice. I met a surfer kid in Clearwater, Florida who could wheelie his BMX bike on wet sand, fighting constant 25 mph winds, bare foot with no brakes.
Step #6: Stay seated; utilize a combination of the forks rebound, upper body strength and power on the cranks to loft the front of your bike in the air. Try using the middle chainring and the 32 tooth cog on the rear gear cluster. You need to choose a gear that will maintain the wheelie and is easy to lift the front wheel at slow speeds. You can shift gears while in a wheelie. It's very difficult to do. I've seen people carry 30 mph wheelies shifting and pedaling.
Step #7: Relax. Loosen up on the handlebars and go with the flow. Let your arms stretch out, look far ahead and breath. You will need to steer the bike with body English. Keep your feet to the outside of the pedals and apply pressure to each pedal accordingly. Try to not lean your body with the bike. Leaning in the same direction as the bike will cause you and the bike to turn. This is an advanced move. Try and ride a straight line for now. Eventually, you will feel the sweet spot. Riding a wheelie is almost effortless. If you're exerting yourself, you're working too hard.
The wheelie is the trick you will base all other tricks on. Once you have mastered it, you can practice "coaster wheelies". (A sit down wheelie while not pedaling, usually performed down hill). Once you learn the coaster wheelie, you should try "manuals". Manuals are easily mistaken with coater wheelies, but they're much harder. Basically a manual is a stand up coaster wheelie.