How To Do A Wheelie On A BMX Bike

Author: Alex Bristol

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Ready for your first BMX trick?

When you’ve got yourself your first BMX, it’s only natural to want to jump straight in and learn some cool tricks to go with it. It’s easy to get lost in the world of BMX and bike tricks when you’re a beginner, but if you’re serious about BMX, it will be worth it.

Learning how to do a wheelie on a BMX seems pretty easy. After all, you simply pop the front wheel off the ground, and continue pedaling right? Well yes and no. Part of successfully doing BMX stunts is having the right bike, which for that you’ll need the best BMX bikes.

It gets better.

Once you’ve done your first BMX trick, you’ll be ready and craving for more. In this article, I will discuss everything you need to know about doing a wheelie, starting with baby steps until you’ll be confident showing off this stunt to your friends and incorporating it into more complex routines.

Here’s a tip- make sure you go for a bike with weight distribution on the back rather than the front, this will make the bike more stable and easier to manage wheelies.

Let’s go!

How to do a wheelie on a BMX

Follow these steps for a simple way to work up to a wheelie. It’s easier than you think!

Learn to control your bike

The first thing you or anyone should do when first getting a BMX bike is to learn to control it with both wheels on the ground before doing tricks. Test out its speed and stability, learn how to maneuver it, and feel comfortable and at ease on it.

Get yourself on an open, flat area with no obstacles, preferably smooth terrain like concrete if you’ll be doing park or street riding. Try riding uphill too.

Try gaining some speed, to the point that you can travel 12-20 meters without needing to pedal. Work up to this slowly, especially if you feel yourself losing balance or struggling to control your bike.

Put your dominant foot forward

Once you’re comfortable on your BMX, get used to positioning your feet right. Try first putting your non-dominant foot down, usually, that’s your left if you’re right-handed. Position it so it’s at the bottom of the pedal circle, leaving your dominant (right) for up, and ready to go forward.

It’s important for your knees to stay parallel with the pedals, don’t turn them outwards or you risk unbalancing the bike.

Pull the handlebars and lift the front wheel

Now here’s the fun part. With your feet in that same position, with the bike in motion, stand up from the seat and practice lifting the wheel off the ground by pulling back on the handlebars. Aim to do this a few times, even if it’s just a few inches off the floor.

Doing this will help you work on your balance and get a feel of the weight of your bike so you know how much force is necessary to get it off the ground.

Here’s a tip- just before you lift the wheel from the ground, put your feet into position and stop pedaling.

Practice doing manuals

Sometimes doing manuals can help when doing wheelies. All you need to do is pull the handlebars and shift your weight back so you can lift the back wheel a few inches. You can then push your feet forward so you counter the backward force of pulling, without pedaling. This is a manual, essentially halfway through to a wheelie.

Here are a few tips to help you through this:

  • Bend your legs slightly to push yourself backward and inwards for balance.
  • Keep your arms vertical
  • Keep practicing manual until you can travel around 3 meters
  • Try to keep the bike 40 degrees off the floor

Once you’ve mastered the manual, you’ll find doing a wheelie super easy.

A man doing tricks in the middle of the city street

Try popping a wheelie

Now it’s time to try your hand at doing a wheelie. Try shifting your weight backwards while riding in a straight line. Move your buttocks outward towards the back of the seat and try pulling the handlebars to pop a wheelie.

Remember, arms are vertical and straight, parallel to each other.

Push your dominant foot forwards

Now you need to push your dominant foot forwards and at the same time pull back on the handles. Your foot should already be on the top of the pedal circle created, so it would be just pushing your foot forwards and down as you pull back. Your non dominant foot starts down.

The key is to maintain a stronger pulling force than a pushing force, and enough forward motion that you don’t fall backward.

Make sure your knees are level with the pedals before you do a forward thrust. Maintain your arms straight with your elbows with a slight bend. While you pedal forward, you can move the handlebars forward or backward to stay balanced. For instance, if the bike goes to fall forward, then bend your arms backward and pull the handlebars towards you.

Keep pedaling

You need to continue to pedal and apply torque to keep the front wheel off the ground. While doing this make sure your back end is balanced and is in a straight position so you don’t tilt to the side. If you’re starting to feel yourself fall backwards then it’s ok to coast for a bit and stop pedaling.

If you want to bring your front wheel down a bit, just tap your rear brake, and if you start falling forwards, pedal harder and quicker.

When you want to stop, just slow down pedaling and the front wheel will lower to the ground smoothly, or hit the rear break in an emergency. If you find you’re falling backward, jump off from the bike seat and onto the ground while holding the handlebars.

Final Thoughts

The point of BMX bikes is that you can do things that you wouldn’t easily do on a regular bicycle like mountain bikes. A wheelie bike can be great fun, as they’re built specifically with a heavier rear wheel than standard BMX bikes, which makes popping wheelies much easier. Maintaining a wheelie position is about balance, even on wheelie bikes.

Knowing when to thrust forward, gaining speed, and pedaling motion to perform wheelies. Mastering wheelies or wheel lifts takes skill, both in park performance and in getting a smooth landing. It might be worth investing in elbow pads at first, or going at a medium speed on your bike. To maintain balance you need a balance point, then you’ll find wheelies easy.

Soon you’ll be able to pop a wheelie, stop peddling and keep your knees level, with more control. It’s a fun trick to start your BMX journey.

Photo of author


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