Learn to wheelie with Jimmy Fireblade
21 July 2009 16:53
Since before I even passed my motorcycle test I’ve desperately wanted to learn how to wheelie. But fear of damaging my bike, lack of a reliable technique and simple cowardice have prevented me from managing more than ham-fisted one-foot-off-the-floor efforts. That’s why I decided to pay a visit to Jimmy Fireblade’s Wheelie School.
Stunt-veteran Jimmy has been helping people learn how to wheelie for over ten years. He teaches a simple 3 step method on a closed runway and, best of all, you get to use one of his fleet of Suzuki Bandits so there’s no risk of damaging your pride and joy (well, maybe just your pride).
Jimmy’s Bandits are all on standard gearing, but they feature a special anti-flip device. When the front wheel gets too high a sensor on the back of the bike is tripped which kills the engine, so there’s no risk of going over the back.
The tricky thing with a wheelie is coordinating and timing all of the different elements. That’s why this course breaks it down into parts, gives you time to practise them separately, then shows you how to put them all together at the end.
When you roll up at the runway for your wheelie day, you’ll be greeted with a hot mug of tea, a quick talk on what the day will involve and then it’s straight into part 1 of Jimmy’s 3-step wheelie technique…
Step 1 – throttle control
To begin we need to learn how much throttle movement is needed to go from 3000rpm to 6000rpm without looking at the rev counter (the actual movement on the throttle is tiny). So we line up and do laps of the runway, repeatedly holding the throttle at 3000rpm then revving to 6000rpm in one smooth movement. After a few runs it’s muscle memory and we’re ready to introduce the clutch.
Step 2 – clutch control
Now that we have a set and controlled amount of revs to dial in, we can start to practise clutch control. If you’re used to using all 4 fingers to operate the clutch, you’ll need to get used to using just 2. This lets you keep a better grip on the bars, but it also makes it easier to release the clutch quickly. We go along at 3000rpm as before, pull in the clutch, rev to 6000rpm and then ping out the clutch. There’s no feeding out the clutch gently as with normal riding – you really have to let it spring out. Imagine it’s hot. The good news is nothing happens yet. The bike might jerk forward slightly, the front may even go light, but for now all we’re doing is getting used to the new clutch skills, the engine noise and the sensation.
Step 3 – back brake
Once Jimmy is sure that everyone is comfortable with steps 1 and 2, we move on to using the back brake. This is what initiates the wheelie. We ride along at 4000rpm on a constant throttle, then use the back brake to bring the engine speed down to 3000rpm. You can feel the engine fighting against the brakes, with the rear shock stuck in the middle. The shock gets compressed, which is the point - letting go of the rear brake pedal will give the extra pop needed to help the front wheel off the ground.
Putting it all together
So all that’s left now is to combine all of the elements we’ve been practising into one fluid process. Lunch break gives time for everything to sink in, then it goes like this: rev to 4k, apply back brake to drop to 3k, clutch in, rev to 6k, then release the brake and ping the clutch. It helps if you can let the brake out just a split second before pinging the clutch. Time it right and you will be pulling a perfectly controlled wheelie – and it feels glorious.
Of course, it takes practise. By the end of the day I had managed a few ok wheelies, but I fudged as many as I got right. But what the day does is give you a grounding and a technique so even if it takes you a while to get it, you have the skills to practice safely. It also happens to be a very fun day out. As one of the other guys taking part said: "Forget Alton Towers, come to Jimmy's!"
To take part yourself, visit www.jimmyfireblade.co.uk or call 07906 251534 or 01507 462190.