Wheelies Rule. Period.
Is it the coolness/radness factor? For sure.
Fun and thrilling? Yep.
Firstly, start with the right gear.
- Knee, shin and elbow pads = just in case.
- I find that having my Osprey Raven on full of water/gear is also a helpful cushion (in addition to great hydration pack) if things go wrong in the backwards direction.
- Flat pedals and sticky shoes with no cleats make the process 100% easier to learn without the fear.
- Helmet (of course).
- a fun squishy full suspension bike, like my Juliana Roubion (6 inches of travel front and back) certainly doesn’t hurt.
- Grab a sunny “can do” attitude, a smile and you are set to start!
Lots of folks talk about dropping the seat about an inch or so, but many gals will find that because of our lower center of mass, keeping the seat at regular height often makes it easier.
When I was learning, I thought it was all about “loading and exploding” the front wheel/shock. While this is an effective way to get the front wheel off the ground for an obstacle, it is counter productive. A true wheelie involved 99% pedal torque, with the arms just guiding the handlebars into the air.
Start in a low resistance gear, maybe third from easiest or so, and keep an index finger on each brake at all times. On a slight incline, in a grassy park or parking lot, pedal like you are in a slow race, braking to slow even more. Ratchet your pedals like a madwoman, so that your dominant foot stays almost at 12 o’clock. While ratcheting away, pick a focal point about 10-20 feet ahead of you. When you have achieved super slowness, feel the torque and have the guts, slam that pedal down while you guide the handlebars into the air gently.
If you have a fear of falling, like I do, learning to “loop out” is often a huge confidence builder. While it is truly a failed wheelie, knowing that you can safely fall off the back was my dream come true. Here is what that looks when you start to go over:
DH Champion Wendy Palmer of Moab Mountain Bike Instruction demonstrates the final stepping off, while 4 months pregnant, no less:
If you are having issues getting your wheel to pop, there can be several problems – too high a gear, pedal not at 12 o’clock (even 11 sometimes doesn’t work), not enough torque/force/abruptness, not looking ahead, using too much arms, or not being aggressive enough.
Still feeling totally lost? Consider joining me at one of my KEEN Rippin Chix MTB Camps/Clinics with Osprey Packs for some tips and tricks, where you can demo an Osprey Hydration Pack or win one in my Osprey Green Trivia contests.
Coming up next, we can talk about other types of front wheel lifts – such as “load and explode” using the arms/front shock to get over an obstacle, and the manual front wheel lift which is a better way to get your front wheel off the ground in a downhill situation or jump.
ALISON GANNETT is a self-sufficient farmer, World Champion Extreme FreeSkier, pro mountain biker, award-winning global cooling consultant, and founder of the multiple non-profits. In addition to her busy careers as an athlete, athlete ambassador and keynote speaking, she runs her KEEN Rippin Chix Camps – women’s steep skiing, biking and surf camps around the globe, featuring Osprey Packs. She has starred in many movies, TV shows, and magazines receiving many awards for her work including National Geographic’s Woman Adventurer of the Year, Powder Magazine’s “48 Greatest Skiers of All Time” and Outside Magazine’s “Green All-Star of theYear” next to Leonardo DiCaprio and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Always an advocate of walking the talk, she has reduced her carbon footprint in half and has also spent half a lifetime working to make the world a better place. In 2010, she and her husband Jason bought Holy Terror Farm, beginning the next chapter of personal health and self-sustainability.