Many people will tell you that it is extremely difficult to wheelie on a road bike. However, most of these people have never had the courage to attempt wheelie, let alone put in the time and effort required to master this stunt.
Daniel J Canary, the bicycle stuntman performed the first wheelie in 1890. Nearly 150 years later, it remains a coveted maneuver amongst amateur and pro-cyclists alike.
You don’t need to be superfit or a professional to perform the arguably most impressive trick in the cyclists’ book. However, it does require loads of practice to master. After all, that is true for most things.
Is It Hard to Wheelie a Road Bike?
Learning to wheelie a road bike is challenging but by no means is it impossible to achieve. While it may look like a daunting task at the outset, persistence is key in rising up into a wheelie and maintaining it for longer periods of time.
Once you have learned to perform wheelies, it’s not hard to shift into them with ease.
Is It Harder to Wheelie on a Road Bike Than It Is on a Mountain Bike?
Although some cyclists believe that the thin tires and the geometry of a road bike make it harder to wheelie on a road bike than on a mountain bike, this is by no means the rule.
Other cyclists agree that it’s not the type of bike that matters, rather it depends on the rider’s skill and technique.
Which Tires or Gears Should Be Used to Wheelie on a Road Bike?
Thicker road bike tires make it easier to keep your balance once your front tire is lifted off the ground.
If you are in too hard of a gear, it’s difficult to achieve enough torque to lift the front wheel of your bicycle. However, if your gear is too light it becomes harder to control the balance of the bike once your front wheel is in the air.
The idea is to find the gear that is in the middle, not too heavy and not too light. You can try to wheelie in different gears to find the one that works best for you.
What Are the Best Places to Practice Wheelies?
1- It’s safer to practice wheelies on the lawn (like your backyard) as the grass provides a softer landing than tarmac if you fall off your bicycle. It also reduces the impact on your bike.
2- You should practice your wheelies on an incline because it is easier to raise your front wheel off the ground if you are moving uphill.
3- You shouldn’t practice wheelies on the road, rather in an empty parking lot, where there is no traffic. Since you will be focussing on your technique, you don’t want to be avoiding vehicles and potholes while cycling.
Can You Learn to Wheelie a Road Bike in Just 1 Day?
You can learn to lift the front wheel of your bike in less than a day.
However, keeping the wheel up while cycling and landing smoothly, is harder to achieve in a single day, especially if you want to do controlled, impressive wheelies that cover a greater distance.
This is because popping the front wheel up just requires the right method while finding the correct balance point is more intuitive and requires more practice to accomplish. You will notice that you can maintain a wheelie for longer periods of time with continued perseverance.
How to Wheelie a Road Bike (4 Steps)
STEP 1: While cycling at a comfortable speed, shift the pedal under your stronger foot into a two o’clock position and the other pedal into the eight o’clock position.
STEP 2: Push down hard on the pedal using your stronger foot while pulling up on the handlebars and shifting your weight back into the saddle to allow the front wheel of your bicycle to rise up into the air.
STEP 3: Find the balance point of this position and continue cycling. The bike should be at a 45° angle while your head and body are upright, not leaning forward. You have to maintain both the horizontal and vertical balance points to sustain the wheelie. (Read the tips section below on how to achieve this.)
STEP 4: Use the back brake and shift your body weight to bring your front tire down. This lands your bike and completes the wheelie.
Make Your Road Bike Wheelies Safe!
You can employ these tips to ensure your safety while practicing wheelies:
1- Always wear a helmet. This is obvious!
2- Don’t clip your feet into the pedals, rather use flat pedals, so you can jump off the bike if necessary.
3- Learn how to get off the rear of the bike by jumping off the pedals with your feet on either side of the bike, while you slide backward off the saddle. You should practice and master this maneuver before attempting a wheelie.
4- Keep your hands wrapped around the hoods of the handlebars with your fingers covering the rear brake.
If the front wheel comes too far up from the ground and you feel like you are losing your balance, this hand position will make it easier to depress the rear brake, which will bring the front wheel down.
5- Make sure that your brakes are in good condition. Do not attempt wheelies if your brakes are worn.
Do Wheelies Damage Your Road Bike?
Wheelies don’t necessarily damage your road bike, even if you wheelie often.
Whether your bike sustains damage or not largely depends on your technique during landing and the quality of your bike.
Which Parts of the Road Bike Are Most Vulnerable to Damage?
The suspension, tires, and spokes of the front wheel of the bike are the first parts that absorb the shock during hard landings. The entire frame of your bike also experiences this shock. These are the components that are most likely to be damaged from repeated wheelies.
However, if you purchase a good quality bike with decent front suspension and a durable frame, you decrease the risk of damage significantly.
What Is the Best Landing Technique to Avoid Damage to the Bike?
Instead of throwing your weight forward and pushing hard on the back brake to land your bike, rather land gently and smoothly to reduce the impact on the front wheel.
To do this, distribute your weight evenly while squeezing the back brake slowly for a controlled landing.
Tips for Doing Wheelies on Your Road Bike
1- Lower your saddle and raise the handlebars of the bike if possible, to make it easier to shift your center of gravity.
2- It’s important to push down on the pedal at exactly the same time as you pull up on the handlebars, and shift back on your saddle in order to lift the front wheel.
3- Your lead foot pushing down on the pedal and shifting your bodyweight should be emphasized more than the strength used to pull up on the handlebars.
4- Once your front wheel has lifted off the ground, keep your head up and your arms outstretched from the handlebars to maintain your center of gravity on the back wheel of the bicycle.
Focusing on a point in the distance will make it easier to stay upright, as it is natural to want to look at your front wheel. However doing this drops your head, shifting your weight forwards.
5- Maintaining Vertical Balance: To keep the wheel from falling too far forward and back to the ground, increase your pedaling speed. You should not be pedaling too fast as this decreases your ability to control your bike.
Feather your rear brake to keep your front wheel from falling too far back. To feather or modulate your break, give the rear brake a gentle squeeze then push and release the break in tiny motions from this depressed position.
Don’t depress the brake fully, as this will bring the front wheel of the bike down, so you land prematurely.
6- Maintaining horizontal balance: If you feel your bike falling to the left, counterbalance this by steering right with the handlebars or sticking your right knee out to the side. If your bike is falling to the right, use your handlebars to steer to the left or stick your left knee out to the side.
Remember to return the handlebars and your legs to their original position to avoid overcompensation.
A wheelie is a riding stunt performed on a bicycle in which the front wheel of the bike is raised off the ground while cycling. It consists of 2 important components; lifting the front wheel and maintaining it in this position while cycling.
You may have seen children wheeling with ease around the neighborhood, but it is a trick that even pro-cyclists struggle to achieve immediately. Practice is key because it allows you to hone your technique, increase your confidence and build muscle memory. It’s not about the type of bike, it’s about the rider!
This article has laid out exactly how to do a wheelie and over time it becomes easier and easier to perform until it’s second nature.