How to Wheelie a Mountain Bike

How to Wheelie a Mountain Bike

You want to know how to wheelie a mountain bike because tearing up dirt paths just isn’t enough anymore. We don’t blame you.

Wheelies can help make your brief time riding on pavement more enjoyable, and of course, it doesn’t hurt to add a little flair to your arsenal of tricks, either.

Because these can be relatively dangerous, we’ve compiled a guide that directs you through the steps, and it can be scaled up depending on your preferences.

You don’t have to stay at this level; we’re just showing you the basics, and then you can run wild with the concept and make it your own. Let’s get started.


Is a Wheelie Dangerous?

Is a Wheelie Dangerous?

A wheelie is technically more dangerous than just simply riding your mountain bike, but it’s not inherently dangerous on its own if you know what you’re doing.

The mistake a lot of cyclists and mountain bikers make when they pop a wheelie is that they pull too far back and tilt themselves over.

Wheelies are all about controlling your mountain bike. Simply tugging backward is dangerous, but if you use your arms and core muscles to control the bike when you put it into a wheelie, you’re actually improving your dexterity on a mountain bike.

Yes, wheelies are an unnecessary danger, but they can be fun, and minimally dangerous if you do them properly, as we’re going to show you in this guide.

Is a Wheelie Difficult?

Is a Wheelie Difficult?

At first, any new skill on a bike is going to feel difficult, but no. Wheelies are not difficult and don’t take a lot of time to master.

If you have a few months of experience on a bike, typically you can start performing wheelies within a few hours or days (depending on the age range).

Some mountain bikes will make it more difficult to perform if they don’t have even weight distribution.

While it’s easier to pull the front tire up if you have more weight on the back, it can cause a jerking motion and be unsafe, so you want the bike to be balanced and act as the counterweight, giving you more control.

How a Wheelie Actually Helps With Mountain Biking

How a Wheelie Actually Helps With Mountain Biking

When you pop a wheelie with your mountain bike, you pull the front end of the bike up in the air. Having this level of control over your mountain bike is important because you never know what’s on the trail you’re riding.

There could be inclines, bumpy roads, and obstacles abound, and having this skill (even though it’s mostly for flair/showing off) actually comes in handy.

Just be sure that if you’re using it to help you climb over an obstacle, you’re extra careful not to tilt too far back with the momentum from riding.

How to Wheelie a Mountain Bike

How to Perform a Wheelie on a Mountain Bike

#1 Begin Riding Slightly Uphill

You’ll learn to pull a wheelie on flat terrain, but going at a slight incline can help you learn.

When you ride at a slight incline, your front tire is already trying to come up in the air, and your bike rear is sturdy against the ground.

#2 Man Your Brake

You want your hand at the ready over the rear brake on your handlebar. Have your pinky, ring, and middle finger firmly on the grip, and your index finger over the brake handle like a trigger.

Your thumb should still be on the handlebar grip as well. This is important to save you from a crash or from going completely backwards and flipping onto your back (which would really hurt on anything beyond grass).

#3 Pull Up, Not Back

Watch any video of someone doing a wheelie and you’ll find that they don’t use their entire body to begin the wheelie. In fact, they don’t even use most of their torso to pull a wheelie.

You want to use the muscles in your biceps and forearms to pull the handlebar straight up, like you were trying to raise it up. The front of the bike is what we want to come up and actually lift off the ground.

#4 Pedal Pop

As you pull your arms upward to raise the front of the bike, and you have your hand hovering over the brake, you want to time your pedal. The bike should feel like it “pops” when you pull it up, like a small explosive movement to get it off the ground.

This is the difficult part about mastering wheelies: you want your pedal to rotate over the top of your revolution just as you pull up off the ground. These two motions need to work in sync with one another for a flawless wheelie.

#5 Watch Your Momentum

When you start a wheelie, you already have momentum going to propel you forward. When you pull up, that momentum doesn’t just go away. If you pull up too fast or with abandon, you can take a spill.

Make sure that when you pull up you’re aware of your speed and how much power you have. Tilt your body forward ever so slightly to maintain control over the bike while you’re doing the wheelie.

#6 Pull the Trigger

Your momentum will guide you if you pull up properly. One popular method to get off a mountain bike wheelie, if you feel that you’re losing control, is to simply jump off.

The problem is, not all of us are using flat pedals. You want to gently pull the brake trigger to prevent the back tire from going too fast and flipping you over.

Another Trick in Your Arsenal

Now that you know how to do a wheelie on a mountain bike, there’s nothing stopping you from continuing your set of tricks and stunts to impress your friends and see how well you can master control over your mountain bike.

We’ve seen how it can be helpful to give you an advantage over rough terrain, and now that you have this useful trick, you’re a more skilled mountain biker.

Be sure to check out our guide on how to bunny hop on a mountain bike to expand your arsenal of tricks and never forget your bike helmet for safety.


Last Updated on July 27, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic

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