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Learn how to Wheelie an ATV in 4 Simple Steps

by Matt Powell | Last Updated:  October 4, 2019

Wheelies are always so fun to watch! I love seeing guys that can ride for thousands of feet on their back wheels while going 40-50mph or just ride the slow wheelies around a small patch of dirt. Wheelies are a staple in any ATV or dirt bikers arsenal of tricks that show off their prowess.  The longer you can ride a wheelie, the more you understand the delicate balance that is required to truly master this seemingly simple technique.

There are 4 simple steps you need to know to learn how to wheelie an ATV and they are: have the right body position, popping the front wheels up, using the throttle and rear brake for control, and steering the wheelie.

Just like any technique you want to learn on an ATV, this one will take practice but once you get these simple fundamental steps down, you will be on your way to becoming a master at wheelies. Not only are they cool to watch but they are SO MUCH FUN to do. 

**Warning: Make sure you have you riding gear on for safety because this can be a dangerous trick to try for the first time, or even for an experienced rider. Check out the gear I personally recommend for the best gear.

As with all of my articles, I want to stress the safety aspect and be very clear that you need to wear safety gear when riding ATVs, period. When attempting stunts, this is no exception because you will more likely get hurt learning to do a stunt before you do when you are riding around. But relax! As long as you practice safe riding habits, will have tons of fun! Now let’s get you popping wheelies!

**Tip: Make sure your rear tires have an equal amount of air pressure in them. This will help you maintain a straight line when wheelie for any decent amount of distance.** 

Body Position

One of the first things to focus on is body position.  You want to make sure you have the correct body position so that when you have two wheels in the air, your body maintains a good balance point for the wheelie. The balance point is that perfect spot in between your wheelie being too high to maintain without bringing it down and too low of a wheelie causing you to set the ATV back down on four wheels.

If your body is positioned too far back the ATV will tend to want to tip backwards too much causing the wheelie to end too soon because you had to stop it, or it will result in a crash.

If your body is too far forward then you will have to over power your wheelie and you won’t have the right balance to maintain the wheelie for long, or you will be using too much throttle to maintain the wheelie and not have the proper balance point, causing another crash by tipping backward.

Sit Down Wheelies

As the name implies, you are sitting on the seat a little further back than the mid section of the seat. Sit down wheelies are just a bit tougher to get started and maintain a wheelie versus the stand up variation. This wheelie will produce less stress and fatigue on your body and allow you to ride for a much longer distance once you master it though. All your controls all are easier to get to, which makes this an ideal wheelie to be able to shift gears in. The downsides of a sit down wheelie are that you will need to be able to get the front end up much higher in order to maintain the balance point.

**Note: The sit down wheelie will make it harder for you to jump off the bike should it roll back too far and tip over.**

Stand Up Wheelies

Stand up wheelies are easier to for most people because you can see over the handlebars and see where you are going much better. Once you reach that balance pointed I talked about, it doesn’t seem like you have to get the quad as high. This wheelie is different than the sit down wheelie because you are in an almost completely different position. Your hands are on the controls and your feet are on the pegs in normal position but you are in the standing position. You will get fatigued faster using this method and it may be harder to use your feet to hit the brake and shift levers but it will be easier to push away should it start to tip over on you. There are several different variations of stand up wheelie.

The Split – The split is a standup wheelie but you have your left leg either on the back of the seat or on the grab bar. This allows you to have better control over the quad and lets you really see exactly how high the front wheels are. You also still have access to the rear brake which is crucial for maintaining a longer wheelie.

Standing on the Seat – This is similar to the split, but both feet will be either on the seat or in the grab bar. You can achieve much lower wheelies with this stance since almost all of your weight is to the back of the ATV. The disadvantages to this position are that the gear shifter AND brake are not able to be reached. You are basically stuck in one gear until you learn to transition one foot to shift.

Both the split and the stand on the seat variations make it super easy to just step off the quad should it tip too far backwards.

Popping the Front Wheels Up

Popping up the front wheels IS the wheelie and there are a couple ways to do this. For both sit down and stand up variations you are going to have to give the ATV extra throttle to get those front two wheels off the ground.  Once the wheel are high enough to reach that balance point, it is all about maintaining.

Depending on your ATV engine size and the torque you can get, you may only need to use one of these techniques. These two methods are clutching and powering methods.

Powering – Powering uses the engines power and the torque of the wheels in order to boost your front wheels into the air.  Using the power method is good for wheelies when you are already at speed. Simply let off the throttle a bit, then jam the throttle again while simultaneously shifting your weight back and pulling on the handlebars. Once the wheels pop off the ground, they will continue to rise. When you get them high enough to reach the balance point, let off the throttle a little bit and find that sweet spot and try to maintain a smooth riding wheelie by keeping the throttle even.  After a few tries you will know about when to let off the throttle and just ride. Both sitting and standing variations can be powered into.

Clutching – Clutching is a bit different but this allows you to get those wheels up quicker and maintain a slower wheelie. With this method, you can do a wheelie from a stopped position with ease. All you have to do for this method is pull the clutch in, rev the throttle a bit (this takes a bit of practice to perfect), and pop the throttle out while still giving the throttle a mash.  Once you hit the balance point, you just need to find that sweet spot again.

Controlling Your Wheelie With the Throttle/Rear Brake

Throttle is going to be the key component in starting AND maintaining a smooth looking wheelie. When powering or clutching the wheels up, you need to make sure that once you hit the balance point that you find that sweet spot and MAINTAIN the throttle as best as you can. Constantly blipping the throttle the tapping the rear brake will make your wheelie bob up and down and is not fun to see.  It shows a lack of control over the machine and we want to look like pros! Minor adjustments to throttle will always be needed but don’t overdo it. 

The rear brake is your second best control method while in the wheelie. Just a slight tap of the rear brake and the front wheels will start to dip back down. If you see that you are starting to tip backwards too much, just tap the rear brake to find your balance point again. If you are tipping even further, hit that brake a bit harder. You can also use the rear brake to set the front end down after you are done with the wheelie, or just pull in the clutch and the decrease in rpm will set it down.

**Note: Be sure you straighten your wheels before setting the quad back down so you can continue on the path you were going. You don’t want to have your wheels jacked to one side when you touch down and the quad jerk and throw you off or flip over.**

Steering Your Wheelie

Steering the wheelie is probably the simplest part.  Again, make sure your tire pressure is even in your rear wheels before you start. Now that you are in your wheelie, cruising down the road, just shift your body to the left to steer left or right to steer right. Once you are done turning, just lean a little in the opposite direction to straighten yourself back up and recenter your body.

Some people shift during their wheelies but you really should never have to because once you hit that balance, you can maintain throttle and speed for as long as you want, essentially. For those that may want to try to shift, it is done just like regular driving. Make sure it is a smooth transition from clutch back into the throttle. Now let’s get out there and see those front ends popped up! Stay safe!

My name is Matt and I am the founder of DirtWheelRider.com. I want to do my best to give you all the information needed in your offroading endeavors.