One of the most practical skills you can have as a trail rider is the clutch-pop wheelie. To be able to lift the front wheel off the ground on cue is very handy
Story Shane Booth | Photography Matt Bernard
This is not a power wheelie or even one you carry for any distance. It’s a small, sharp wheelie that lifts the front wheel either over or onto something on the trail. The skill itself can be learnt relatively easily; the toughest part is being able to implement it with accuracy in different scenarios and on different terrain with varying amounts of traction.
Stand for this one
Practise this exercise standing up because that’s what’s most likely to be required out on the trail. If you need to wheelie it, you probably can’t sit down into it, so get comfortable standing up for this one. Practise keeping your right foot over the rear brake pedal, too. If your front wheel comes up too high and you feel like you may loop out, the rear brake is what will save you, so be ready to use it if needed.
Pairing the Clutch and Throttle
Find an open area to practise this exercise to begin with; don’t worry about any sort of cue for the wheelie just yet. At this point it’s all about learning your clutch and throttle: how they work together and how much throttle is required. To do this, it’s a burst of throttle and a quick but controlled release of the clutch — not a build-up of rpm and a dump of the clutch. If you do the latter you’ll either just loop the bike out or get wheel spin and the front wheel will stay on the ground. Either result is a bad one. Each bike will be different and every surface will offer a different amount of traction, so this takes practice to build experience and confidence.
Less is More
Don’t think you need to do a massive wheelie every time. You’re best lifting the front wheel just enough to clear the obstacle; this lessens the pitch effect that happens when the rear wheel makes contact with the obstacle. So practise lifting the front wheel to different heights and learn what it takes from your throttle and clutch to make it happen.