The Wheelie

Outside magazine, July 1999

The Wheelie

The Diving Dig | The Cartwheel | The Figure Four | Take the Stairs | The Crossover Dribble | The Righteous Gitis | The Rock-a-Copter | Hang Ten | The Twisting Somersault | The Wheelie

In the universe of childhood, where we generally begin and end our interest in wheelies, this stunt is seen purely as a matter of divine grace. There were no tips, no pointers; either you had the audacity to do it or you didn't. You'll be happy to know, however, that wheelie riders are made, not born. So says three-time downhill national champion Brian Lopes, 27, who taught himself the move when he was eight and has been perfecting it ever since. "Wheelies are definitely cool," he says. "I'll be in a parking lot and ride a wheelie, and people still trip out about it. It's something you can do anywhere." That includes the trail, as well, Lopes points out: The wheelie comes in quite handy for riding over logs and such.

You'll want to make a few alterations to your mountain bike. Lower your seat two inches to give you better control over the balance point, and don't clip into your pedals, since you'll be needing to jump off in a hurry. Find a flat surface, such as a grassy park, and shift onto the middle chainring up front and maybe the third-biggest cog in the back. Cruising slowly, yank up on the bars and lean back as if you were balancing on the back legs of a chair, keeping your weight squarely over the rear wheel. Stay seated and ride. "Pedal when you start falling forward," says Lopes, "and feather the rear brakes if you start falling back." Adjust side-to-side wobble with your knees.


Finely tuned stabilizer muscles in your hips to help you balance. And, in a word, nerve.

Paul Scott prefers to make his moves from the low post on the basketball court.
PHOTO: Ty Allison

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