Jaime Quintanilla performs during a training session in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
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How to perform a wheelie on a BMX bike

Check out this step-by-step guide – with inputs from top Indian BM riders – on how to practice and perfect the wheelie on a BMX bike.
Written by Yogesh Kumar
5 min readPublished on

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BMX bikes have a low centre of gravity which makes them perfect for pulling off tricks.
If you are just about getting with tricks on a BMX, remember to take it step-by-step, starting easy and slowly building up.
One of the first tricks you should learn is the manual and a slight adjustment to the technique of the manual leads to the trick called the wheelie.
With both tricks, you raise the front wheel off the ground and keep riding your bike. There are a few basic differences between the tricks. When performing a manual, you are not seated, you don’t pedal, and you keep your arms locked at full extension. When performing a wheelie, you are seated, you pedal when needed, and your arms are bent at a comfortable position.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform the manual and the wheelie.

Get the right gear

  • BMX bike
  • Safety gear (helmet, knee guards, elbow guards)
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Gloves
  • Shoes with good grip
  • Backpack (pack it with clothes so it can help break a fall)

Step 1: Find the right spot

You will need a flat land of about 40-50 metres length. Make sure it is a stretch where there is no traffic or passers-by. It is best to attempt the trick on concrete, but if you are falling often, try to practice on grass and then move to concrete.
“Use proper gear like helmet, knee and elbow pads, L-guard, etc to avoid any major accident when you fall. Perform the actions on grass in a park first and then get comfortable on concrete on your BMX,” says Bhavesh Virwani from Baroda, who has been riding for five years.

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Step 2: Get a feel for the weight

Stand behind the bike with your hands on the handlebar. Pull the bike upwards towards you to get a general feel of the weight of the bike. Do this a few times and feel the motion of the bike as the front wheel lifts off the ground.

Step 3: Learn the push-and-pop movement

An important part of the performing a manual or wheelie is the push-and-pop movement. This means pushing down on the pedal and simultaneously lifting the handlebar off the ground. To learn the push-and-pop movement, stand behind the bike with your hands on the handlebar and your dominant foot placed on the pedal. With your foot, push down on the pedal and pull up at the handlebars at the same time. Make sure the bike is not wobbling to the side when you practice this step.

Step 4: Learn how to bailout

The bailout is extremely important in all extreme sports. It is the moment you realize that something is going wrong with the trick and you take evasive action so you don’t hurt yourself. When it comes to the manual or the wheelie, you usually have your bodyweight behind the bike, so you are likely to fall backwards if anything goes wrong. The bailout is to immediately get your feet on the ground, behind the bike, before you fall and hurt yourself.

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Step 5: Practice the manual on the bike

If you’ve perfected all the steps above, you are ready to try the manual. Get on the bike and get a rolling start. While riding slowly, bend your chest low into the handlebar, keep your butt off the seat, and quickly perform the push-and-pop so the weight of your body leaning back lifts the front wheel off the ground. As soon as the front wheel is up (about 40-45 degrees), lock your arms at full extension, maintain a slight bend in your knees, and keep your butt off the seat. You are now performing the manual.
You do no pedal while performing the manual; to keep the momentum going, pump your legs into the pedal to make the bike move forward.

Step 6: Practicing the wheelie

If you are comfortable with the manual, you can progress to the wheelie. The important thing about the wheelie is to find the perfect balance point while you are seated.
It is performed with a rolling start while seated, chest bent into the handlebars, push-and-pop movement, and then holding the front wheel about 40-45 degrees off the ground with your elbows bent. Once you’ve got the front wheel off the ground, you hold the bike stable and keep pedalling. If you’ve got this right, you are now performing the wheelie.

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Step 7: Maintain good form

When performing any BMX trick, it is important to always be in control of the bike. In the case of the manual and the wheelie, when performing the popping movement, the bike should be in a straight line, and your legs should not wobble once you’ve got the front wheel in the air. Try to keep the bike moving in a straight line. You can keep moving your body back and forth on the bike to find your perfect balance point, but avoid big and sudden movements as they throw off your balance.
“A lot of people do not like to follow steps. They directly start by hoping on the bike and pulling it towards themselves. They fall a lot and it takes time but eventually, they learn it the hard way,” says Kartikey Verma from Varanasi.