Are you a Harley-Davidson rider who wants to learn a wheelie for your personal amusement or to impress your friends? If so, then this is just the right article for you.
Wheelie on a Harley-Davidson bike isn’t as easy as some other bikes, but with the right technique and the right steps, it is possible. Ultimately, the game is all about angular momentum and torque and knowing the right instructions.
In this article, you’ll get to know all about what is a wheelie, the science behind a wheelie, how to wheelie a Harley-Davidson bike, and important factors to keep in mind when learning to wheelie. Continue reading to get all the answers that you’re looking for.
What is a wheelie?
A wheelie or also referred to as a wheelstand is a trick or motorcycle maneuver. It involves raising the front wheel of your bike above the level of the rider while keeping the rear wheels on the ground. You will most likely have seen riders perform wheelies with bikes. In fact, there are even Wheelie Championships held annually to crown the champion. As funny as it may seem, automobiles like cars and tractors can also pull off wheelies.
A wheelie is widely considered to be a daredevil stunt for obvious reasons. However, like many other audacious stunts, wheelies are based on two common concepts – torque and angular momentum.
The science behind a wheelie
In basic terms, angular momentum is the measure of the momentum of a body moving in circles (undergoing rational motion). For physics geeks, the angular momentum of the object is the product of its angular velocity and moment of inertia. There are different examples of angular momentum around you, a quarterback imparting a spin when throwing a ball or a bullet spinning after leaving the muzzle of a gun.
Torque, on the other hand, is for measuring the twisting force that is causing the object to rotate. This is something much more common in everyday life. You’re applying torque much more in your daily life than you realize. Some examples include turning a doorknob, unlocking a lock, or turning the key in the car’s ignition. In technical, terms, it is the cross product of the distance vector “r”, force vector “F”, and the sine of the angle between the two.
Now that you’ve got a fair idea of torque and angular momentum, it’ll be important to see how the physical forces will help in raising the front wheels of a Harley-Davidson bike into a wheelie. When a Harley-Davidson bike moves on a level surface, the force of gravity gets exerted in the center of mass of the motorcycle. Meanwhile, the normal forces get exerted by the ground on the front and rear wheels. Hence, equilibrium will be established between the two forces, and your bike moves normally.
To lift the front wheels off the ground, you will be disturbing the equilibrium between the two opposing forces. To be more specific, you will have to unbalance the torques acting on the rear wheel.
This can be achieved by accelerating your Harley-Davidson bike until the load borne by the front axle gets decreased to zero. Thereby, it increases the torque applied around the rear axle and the rear wheels. Remember, the normal force on the rear wheel doesn’t apply any torque on the bike’s rear wheel. Only the engine of the bike and gravity do. Therefore, all your bike’s engine has to do is supply more torque to the rear wheel than the gravitational behold. And boom, you’ve pulled off a wheelie.
How to wheelie a Harley-Davidson bike?
Undoubtedly, a wheelie has to be one of the most popular stunts for Harley-Davidson bikers. Popping a wheelie can be incredibly fun and easy to learn. However, you should make sure that you’re an experienced biker and that you’re doing it correctly and safely. Knowing how to properly pop and control a wheelie will save you from any unexpected injuries on the road. Even though there are many ways to pop a wheelie. Most experts recommend that you should start off by learning the basic form – the power wheelie. This form of wheelie focuses on learning to be comfortable riding your Harley-Davidson bike on its back wheel.
Before you start learning how to wheelie a Harley-Davidson bike
A wheelie is a highly fun but dangerous stunt, which means you should be protected in case of mishaps. Before you start practicing a wheelie, there are a few things that you should keep in mind –
- Experience – Mastering the art of wheelie will require a lot of skill. It’s recommended that you should only learn this stunt under the supervision of an expert if you’re an advanced biker.
- Proper gear – The wheelie is a rather risky stunt to do, so it’s essential to be protected in case of any injuries. The appropriate gear for popping wheelies constitutes a thick motorcycle helmet, a thick leather jacket, jeans or leather pants, and leather gloves. You should also look to get strong boots with proper grip. When you’re getting started, it won’t be a bad idea if you wear an elbow, knee, and ankle guards.
- Find a secluded place to practice – It’s recommended that you should practice on secluded roads so that you don’t harm any pedestrians nearby. Moreover, it’ll protect you as you won’t be crashing into moving vehicles and people. You will get to focus more on accomplishing the wheelie instead of having to worry about the surroundings.
Step 1: Start off in first gear
Mastering the art of wheelie will be much easier if you’re putting your Harley-Davidson bike in first gear. The first gear is the lowest gear, and it’s also the easiest one for climbing hills. Power wheelies are all about using acceleration for pulling your bike’s front wheel upward so that you don’t have to worry about shifting. Remaining in first gear makes it possible to pull the front wheel of your bike upward easier than other gears.
Step 2: Bring your motorcycle to a good speed
Finding the right speed will be essential for mastering a wheelie. Your main goal will be to get enough speed that gets your front wheel up in the air. It is recommended that you should begin learning wheelies at a speed between 10-15mph. If you’re attempting to pop a wheelie at a slow speed, you won’t have enough force for pulling the front wheel up. If you go too fast, you might lose control of your Harley-Davidson bike. It can end up causing you to twist the throttle, which is highly dangerous. Staying at a constant speed will help you master the wheelie and drive for a longer time.
Let off the gas a little before you start accelerating into the wheelie. It’ll give you more of a kick when you’re hitting the gas, and the extra power would bring the front wheel up more smoothly.
Step 3: Crank up the gas to accelerate and bring up the front wheel up
Once you’ve dropped the speed a bit, hit the throttle hard. As you’re doing this, pull up the front wheel of your bike. If you feel like you’re going slightly too far back, hit the back brake to prevent you from flipping back. By hitting the back brake, the front wheel will come back down. When your wheel is coming down, you should land it as straight as possible. If the wheel does not land straight, it could shake on impact, causing you to flip off the motorcycle.
Step 4: Maintain your balance during the wheelie
Once the bike’s wheel is up in the air, you should find your balance so that it stays there. Lean back on the rear side of your motorcycle. Moreover, ensure that the balance point of you and your motorcycle is in the center. Tipping backward or forward will only make you lose your balance, which could cause you to tilt and lose control. Having proper balance will help you in riding the wheelie for a longer period of time.
Step 5: Step on the rear brake and bring the wheel back down
Once you’re done with the wheelie, you’ll want to end it. To achieve that, use the rear brake to bring the front end of your Harley-Davidson bike back onto the road. Ensure that you’re hitting the rear brake slowly to ease your way back down. If you end up hitting the brake too harshly, the front wheel would crash down too quickly. This can cause you to shake or fall. Once your bike is on the road again, try to maintain the speed if you want to attempt the wheelie again.
General tips to keep in mind when learning to wheelie a Harley-Davidson bike
Remember, learning a wheelie might be fun, but it’s extremely dangerous as well. There are some general tips that you should keep in mind. These tips will not only keep you safe, but they’ll also help you be better at wheelies. Here are some of the general tips to keep in mind –
Find a safe spot for practicing
Practicing wheelies in the right location can be the difference between executing a great wheeling and being in an accident. Spend some extra time looking for a place where you won’t be crashing into anyone or bothering anyone. Parking lots are great wheelie training grounds if you’re able to find a big enough one away from the public. Industrial lots are also great places to start. Bike noise is a factor, so learning in a remote location that isn’t bothering anyone or little unwanted attention will be a good idea. A nice and smooth road surface away from residents will work too. Make sure that you scout the area for any potholes, debris, or gravel as they might be hazardous.
Wear proper gear
Wearing full gear will be a necessity when learning to wheelie. It means that you must wear a helmet, gloves, jacket, padded riding pants, and appropriate riding boots. Depending on the type of helmet you’re having, you might have to slightly tilt it down. This will give you a much better field of vision.
Start by learning small wheelies
Start off by trying to get the front wheel to come off the ground only a few inches initially. Once you get used to this feeling, you can try and get the front wheel up about a foot or so. Familiarizing yourself with how it feels when the bike’s front wheel lifts helps in learning control while boosting your confidence. Apart from starting small, it’s also imperative that you advance in small increments. It’ll be best and safer to develop your wheelie skills in baby steps as you
Posture is important
Your body position and posture will play a key role when it comes to learning wheelies. You need to be leaning forward without actually being in a race-tuck position. A normal, upright riding position will mean that you’re leaning a bit too far back. Your arms need to be loose but ready to make any necessary inputs. Meanwhile, your knees must be firmly clamped on the tank, as it’ll help keep the bike stable while freeing up your arms. This will allow you to have a loose grip on the bars. When you’re doing wheelies, control and stability will be your biggest allies. You shouldn’t lean forward too much. Instead, you should be using your bike’s power to get the wheel up.
Going in a straight line
Keeping the bike in a straight line will be vital for popping a successful wheelie, especially when you’re still learning. Hugging the tank with your knees will help keep your bike traveling in the desired direction. Sometimes, when you’re popping wheelies, you may start veering off to one side or the other. The way you can correct this is by using your upper body strength.
Lean in the opposite direction that your bike is going in. Then, use your arms to pull back the bike gently following your weight’s movement. Keep your knees firmly planted against the bike tank where they started, while not adjusting your lower body. When the wheelie starts getting bent out of shape, it’s usually an indication that you should probably bring the front wheel back down.
Practice to perfect your technique
Practice is one of the most important parts of learning to master a wheelie. You should practice as much as possible and master everything you’ve learned before you move on to more difficult techniques. Being able to react instantly to what’s happening without needing to think consciously about it might be the difference between popping a wheelie and crashing.
Timing is key
A wheelie can be summed up as a controlled and fluid sequence of events. Every action that you’re doing will be done for a reason. For instance, tapping the rear brake before you bring up the front wheel makes wheeling easier while requiring less power. As important as muscle memory is when popping wheelies, doing different actions at the right time will make the difference. You should practice learning how to correctly time each action, as it’s arguably as important as the actions themselves.
Thank you for reading. Hopefully, now you know a lot more about what is a wheelie, the science behind a wheelie, how to wheelie a Harley-Davidson bike, and important factors to keep in mind when learning to wheelie. Learning to do a wheelie on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle might not be as easy as other bikes, but it isn’t as difficult as some may think either. If you know the right technique and the right steps, popping a wheelie will be a piece of cake. The right way would be to start off in the first gear, bringing your Harley-Davidson bike to a good speed, cranking up the acceleration, bringing the front wheel up, maintaining the balance as you’re doing the wheelie, and bringing the wheel back down.