Doing a wheelie on a quad might seem hard, but if you practice and do it right it becomes easy. If you use proper technique, doing wheelies on a quad can be done safely, and is a lot fun.
Wheelies can be dangerous, especially if you’re trying them out for the first time. It is important to take your time learning, and wear proper safety gear. A helmet and goggles, gloves, boots, long pants, and a chest piece are all recommended. For the best safety gear check out the recommended gear section of this site.
If you have proper safety gear and feel comfortable on your quad, then let’s learn how to pop a wheelie the right way.
You can learn and perform a wheelie on most any stock quad. You will usually see them mostly done on sport quads or racing/trick type quads. Even though they may look cooler, don’t think you can only pull a wheelie with a sport type ATV. You can pull a wheelie on any type of ATV with or without a clutch if you do it the right way.
Although it can be done on a stock quad, here are some things to consider for optimum setup of your machine.
Most of the time having a low tire pressure is ideal for stunts, tricks, and wheelies. Having your tire pressure lowered a bit will help with turning, balance, and traction. It helps with turning because your tires will squish more on whichever side you shift your body weight too. When this happens it allows your quad to turn more easily in that direction. When the tire squishes, its diameter shrinks, allowing you to turn by just leaning from one side to the other.
Lowering the tire pressure can increase your balance while up in a wheelie. This is true because with fully inflated tires, the balancing point is smaller. With slightly deflated tires, the tire squishes creating a flat spot for you to balance with. Use your feet as an example. It’s easy to balance yourself with your feet flat on the ground. Now imagine wearing shoes that are rounded on the bottom. It would be a lot harder.
Having that flat spot on your tires allows for more traction when trying to get up into a wheelie too. When more of the tire can make contact with the ground, you will get a better lift. Set your tires to an air pressure lower than stock to increase the flat spot where your tires touch the ground.
For normal trail riding I set mine to 5-6 psi and I can pull wheelies easily. If you want to set your tires specifically for wheelies, start with 3 psi and go from there. It’s best to try different things and see what works best for you.
Here is an article about ATV tire pressure if you want to know more.
Make sure your throttle isn’t loose, and that it operates smoothly without sticking. It can be dangerous to be up in a wheelie and your throttle gets stuck. Nothing special to do here except basic maintenance and make sure everything’s working the way it should.
This is mostly personal preference. Just adjust your clutch so that you are comfortable using it. Leaving it stock is probably the best way to go for beginners, if you want to customize it a little for yourself that is fine too.
Some people want their clutch to grab and release real close to the handle bars. You will be pulling your clutch all the way in most of the time with this setup. Others want the clutch to engage with the slightest touch. It’s all up to the rider and what they prefer.
I like it somewhere in the middle, and that is how the machine comes from the factory. It works, that’s how it was made, so I’m good with it.
You probably don’t need to do anything special to your sprocket for pulling a wheelie. Most stock sport quads are fully capable of pulling up into a wheelie even in 4th or 5th gear.
However, if you want to you can change out the front and rear sprockets to different sizes. Usually known as ‘gearing up’ or ‘gearing down’. For the purpose of doing wheelies I would suggest gearing down. By installing a larger rear sprocket you are gearing down, which increases the final drive ratio. This will reduce top speed but increase acceleration, which what you want to be able to pull up into a wheelie.
If you don’t want to hassle with all of that, don’t worry. Like I said, you can get most any stock quad up into a wheelie without any modifications.
The important thing here is to make sure your chain is adjusted to factory specs. A loose chain will cause you to make changes in the way you use your throttle to get into a wheelie. And having a sloppy drivetrain can cause other issues as well.
If you change out your sprocket, it is a good idea to change the chain out with it. It is best practice to let your sprocket and chain wear together. There is no need to go out and buy a special chain just to do wheelies with.
Grab Bar Or Wheelie Bar
A grab bar is sometimes called a wheelie bar, and it’s the bar on the quad right behind the seat. You’ve probably used it to pick the ATV tires up off the ground to move it to the side. This is a fairly important piece to have if you plan on doing wheelies a lot. It will stop you from tipping your quad backwards onto yourself.
The idea behind this piece of equipment though is to have it but not need it. You should not consider your wheelie successful if you used the wheelie bar to stop you from getting hurt.
The only thing to do is to check it for cracks and bends. If your wheelie bar is damaged I would consider getting a new one. If you don’t have a wheelie bar, consider getting one, or be really careful.
You can find a grab bar for almost any quad at a reasonable price on Amazon, here is a link to get your search started.
Modifications To Quad
You really don’t need any special modifications to your quad to do a nice wheelie. You could try some of the things I mentioned above if you’re having a hard time, but everything is just optional. Some people prefer different handle bars for added security and better control.
For doing wheelies getting an aftermarket pipe might be something to consider. You will get more low end torque which will help you when trying to lift into a wheelie. This is more helpful on lower powered quads like a 200cc. The higher powered quads won’t need the added benefit of an aftermarket exhaust.
The way you position yourself on the quad makes a big difference in how you do a wheelie. You should keep in mind the different body positions for what type of wheelie you are trying to perform. A few options are the sit down, stand up, split, and seat standing.
Sit Down Wheelie
This is the most common type of wheelie, and the one most people try to do first. It seems easier because all the controls are easily accessible and you feel comfortable riding in this position. But I don’t recommend this position for beginners.
To do a sit down wheelie, sit on the seat with your hands on the controls and your feet on the pegs. This is comfortable and causes less fatigue on your arms and legs so you can ride long periods of time this way. But for beginners, when they actually get into a wheelie the front end seems higher than it really is. This is a problem because the rider will usually let out of the wheelie before ever reaching the balancing point.
For beginners just doing a quick pull the front up and set back down wheelie this is good. It is a good way to get a feel for the machine, but I don’t recommend trying to ride a wheelie this way if you’re just starting out.
If you go too far back in the wheelie the quad can tip over backwards, and this is one of the hardest positions to hop off the machine in.
Stand Up Wheelie
This is how I like to pull up into a wheelie. I spend a lot of my time riding in the standing position anyways, unless I’m going for long distance rides. I like having a clear view of whats ahead of me a better understanding of how high the front end is in a wheelie.
Start in a standing position with your hands on the controls and feet on the foot pegs. The controls, like the brake and clutch, can be a bit harder to reach, so you might get tired more easily in this position. Your legs will get tired faster while standing also.
If you tip too far backwards, it is easier to hop off in this position so I think it is safe for beginners. You also have more leverage to pull up with to get into a wheelie.
You would want a grab bar for this position. Stand with your right leg on the right foot peg, your hands on the controls, and your left foot on the grab bar. You could do something similar with your left knee on the seat. This is basically the standing position except with your left foot back on the grab bar.
This position allows you to still use the foot brake to help keep the front end down if you need to. You can adjust your weight more easily, being able to shift your body weight this freely is a huge bonus. And, you can see whats in front of your quad a lot easier too. I like being able to judge the height of the quad, from this position it makes that easier.
Jumping off in case of an accident is easy in this position, so I would say it’s safe for beginners to try. The gear shift can’t be used in this position so it’s not really good for long riding wheelies. But, for getting a feel for the quad and short or slow wheelies this is fine.
Be careful of your foot on the grab bar catching the ground when you wheelie. It can be dangerous and cause injury if your foot hits the ground and you get pulled off the machine. You can protect yourself by instantly lifting your foot off the grab bar, putting all your weight on the leg using the foot peg, if anything bad does happen.
Seat Standing Wheelie
In this position you are standing with both feet on the seat or grab bar with your hands on the controls. You will have no control over the rear brake or the gear shift so this position is definitely not good for longer wheelies. Stick to short pop-up wheelies with this one.
I like this position because more of your weight it towards the rear of the machine, making getting into a wheelie way easier. The balancing is easier too because the balance point is lower with more weight towards the rear. You have a clear view of the front of the quad and controlling the ATV with your body weight is easy.
Although you won’t have access to your rear brake, it is as simple as hoping backwards and letting go to get off the quad in this position. I think it is safe for beginners to try, and you will see success quicker because of how easy it is to pull up the front into a wheelie.
Again, be careful that your feet on the grab bar don’t catch on the ground if you pull too far back into a wheelie. You can protect yourself by immediately getting your knees on the seat and getting your feet off the grab bar if anything bad does happen.
Throttle And Balance
Once you find a position that works for you, you need to turn your focus to balancing your quad and your throttle control. Knowing how to use the throttle and finding the balance point will not only help you get into a wheelie, but will help you ride the wheelie longer. The balancing point is when you’ve pulled up into a wheelie and no longer need to accelerate anymore to keep the front end up.
Some people like to chop the throttle by quickly giving gas and backing off repeatedly. The idea there is that the machine will be given just the right amount of gas to sustain a wheelie. I haven’t found that to be the case. In fact what I’ve noticed works best is to just use the throttle as smoothly as you can. I will give it a good amount of throttle to get the front end off the ground, and when I get to that perfect balancing point, I smoothly adjust the throttle down so I can hold the quad steady.
The balancing point will be different depending on your riding position because of your body weight. Speed and incline also play a role in where the balancing point is. If you are going slow, the balancing point will be higher up than if you were going faster.
At first, be ready to use your rear brake to bring the front end back down in case you pull up too much, at least until you learn where your balancing point is. It really is something you have to find on your own through practice and experience.
Lifting Up The Front End
The most important aspect of getting the front end up is speed. I don’t mean you need to be going fast to do it, I mean you need to get the front up quickly and smoothly. If you try to slowly bring the front up, you will end up needing to accelerate more than you wanted to. Getting the front up will be easier depending on the quad, a sport quad for example, will be the easiest. You may have to hit the throttle harder or pull up on the handle bars more on smaller or utility machines, but it can be done.
Power Method – With Or Without Clutch
You will be using the ATV’s engine power and the power of you pulling on the handle bars to lift the front end. Think of it as something like a brute force method. This is the most common method I use, and it’s pretty easy. It’s not all brute force, it takes a bit of timing, but it’s the easiest to master right away.
The basis of this method is that you are moving forward at least enough to be at the base of the power band. This can be done in any gear, but I would recommend starting with 1st gear. You will need to get familiar with your machine and where it hits the power band. The power band is when the engine really kicks in and gives you an extra burst of power.
Just before you hit the power band and get that burst of power, let off the throttle slightly and then hammer it wide open while pulling up on the handle bars. You should be pulling up on the handle bars just as you get that burst of power from the engine. To help you out, you could pull your body weight back to add to the lift from pulling on the handle bars.
This will take some time to get used to. Every machine is different and every rider is different. Take it easy at first and be careful not to over do it by tipping the quad over backwards. Experiment a little before going full throttle and ripping the handle bars off the machine.
Clutching Method – Only With Clutch
Using this method you will use the clutch to help you pull the front up more quickly and smoothly. Mastering this method will also allow you to more consistently get into a wheelie every time. This is usually done by more advanced riders. I really only use the clutching method when I’m at a dead stop, that way I can get into a slow moving wheelie if I want to.
You basically pop the clutch, which usually lurches the quad forward and stalls it. But if you let the clutch slip just enough, it won’t stall out and can give you some nice torque you can use to lift the front end. You do everything else like you would using the power method, like pulling up on the handle bars. The benefit of the clutch is the rear tires going from no power with the clutch pulled in, to having a burst of power sent to the wheels immediately. It helps get the front end up quickly even at low speeds, and if you do it enough, it becomes second nature.
I don’t recommend doing this method to beginners, get good at the traditional power method first.
Setting It Back Down
This is the easy part, all you’re doing here is exiting the wheelie. I would recommend a few pointers to help make the transition softer on you and your quad though. You want to make sure your wheels are straight when your front tires touch back down. If your tires aren’t straight it could jolt the quad sending you in a direction you don’t want to go, or worse, you could lose you grip and end up in a dangerous situation.
Try to accelerate your machine as you set the front end down. Doing so will give you a much smoother transition. Sometimes you can’t accelerate especially if you are already tapping out the throttle. Don’t worry, just pull the clutch in and hold on. The front might slam back down a little but it’s better with the clutch in to prevent any engine braking that will cause a harder impact.
Sometimes there isn’t much time to plan and think about exiting the wheelie. If you forget everything else, just remember, wheels straight and hold on.
Shifting is the same in a wheelie as it is normally. Smooth transitions from one gear to the next using the clutch. You shouldn’t have to switch gears anyways. Once your in the wheelie, maintain throttle control and balance to keep riding the wheelie. If you want to accelerate while in a wheelie though, you will need to switch gears.
I don’t recommend switching gears and accelerating your wheelie for beginners. Get good at balance and keeping your wheelie at the same speed first. Then move onto accelerating wheelies if you want to.
To do an accelerating wheelie, get the front end up like we talked about above. But this time keep the front end low, like near the lower end of the balancing point. This is helpful because for the next part you need to accelerate up to just before your quad needs to shift.
Right before you need to shift get your quad higher, a little passed the balancing point. Doing that will give you enough time to make the shift without your ATV’s front end coming down out of the wheelie. Release the clutch smoothly while giving a little throttle to keep the machine up in a wheelie.
The main thing to focus on here is smooth deliberate transitions. You shouldn’t feel rushed, and you should have a feel for the quad throughout the process. That will help you compensate after the shift to keep your front end in the air. I typically stay in the same gear when I pull a wheelie. It’s a lot less to worry about and more fun I think.
Rear Brake In A Wheelie
You should never need to use your rear brake to keep yourself up in a wheelie. It is good to know when to use the brake though. I would say other than finding the balance point and throttle control, the rear brake is the most important thing for pulling off a wheelie. If you don’t properly use your rear brake when you need to, you could end up damaging yourself, or worse, your machine.
The problem here isn’t how you use the rear brake, you would use it just like you would on the ground. The trouble is remembering to use it at all. A lot of people panic if they pull up to high into a wheelie. You want to keep your foot ready to hit the brake before your grab bar hits the ground. If you have to bail off the ATV to save yourself that’s a different story. But most of the time, hitting the brake instead could have saved you the hassle.
To practice using the rear brake, you could keep popping up into little wheelies and use the brake to come back down just to get used to it. I did this when I first started learning and it helped me remember to keep my foot ready to brake.
Using slight pressure on the brake can help you stay in that perfect balancing point to ride out long wheelies too. If you start to feel like you are tipping past the balancing point, apply a little pressure to the rear brake to bring you back. After a while, you will learn to use the throttle and brake together to keep you up in a wheelie longer.
Steering A Wheelie
You got up in a wheelie, great! But now how do you turn? Even though the front tires are up in the air, it is possible to still steer your quad. It’s not all that difficult either really. I talked a little about this in the tire pressure section above.
You will use your body weight to steer the quad. By leaning your body weight to the left or right of the machine you can get your quad to move in that direction. You have to anticipate when and where you will want to turn because the quad doesn’t usually turn immediately after you lean. Start your lean a little before you actually want to start turning.
To stop turning, just lean in the other direction to straighten the quad back out. That’s it, pretty easy huh? A tip I have for you though is to keep the quad at the higher end of the balancing point while turning. This helps because more weight will be put on the tires which helps with the effect of you leaning, which helps you turn easier.
If you want to, you can still turn the handle bars to help you steer. I’ve had people tell me it works like the rudder of a boat, but I doubt it works that way. The main benefit in using the handle bars is to help you lean. You still need to lean to turn, but using the handle bars may help you lean off to the side a little more.
Put It All Together
Alright, now that you’ve got all the steps we can put them together to pull off a wheelie. After you’ve decided what body position you want to be in, you need to know what gear you want to pull up in. When I first learned, I used 2nd gear. For me it was easier to find the power band, and in 1st gear the balancing point was higher so it made me nervous. The higher gear you’re in, the faster your going, the lower the balancing point will be. Find a gear and speed you will be comfortable with.
After you know what body position and gear you want to pull up in, it’s time to get the front end off the ground. I suggest starting with the power method I explained earlier. Start by getting to the gear you want to use, and get to a steady speed with your quad running at low rpm’s. The trick here is to be just below the power band, this can usually be found by having the throttle pressed in a quarter of the way.
Now, let off the throttle and punch it right away while pulling up on the handle bars. This will lift the front end up. Remember, keep your foot ready to hit the rear brake just in case. Now that the front tires are up, you want to get to the balancing point as soon as you can. Stay on the throttle until you reach that point. This is the hard part, getting into the balance point will be the hardest part of a wheelie for beginners.
Slowly ease off the throttle as you approach the balance point. I can typically stay in the balancing position using only a quarter to half of the throttle. Once you’re in this position it’s all about staying there. Keep in the balancing position by using the throttle and your body weight to make adjustments. For me, this was the funnest part about doing wheelies. Once I could get into a balance, I loved to see how long I could stay there.
When you’re done with your wheelie, it’s time to lower the front end back down. Keep your handle bars straight and slowly let off the throttle. When your tires are a couple feet from hitting the ground, give the quad some throttle to make an easy smooth landing.
You aren’t going to read this and all of a sudden be able to pull off amazing wheelies for miles. This stuff takes practice and patience. For some people it can be hard at first, just take it slow and over time you will see improvements. When you start to see improvements, it can be addicting.
Doing tricks like this on an ATV can be dangerous. I always recommend you wear proper safety gear when trying things like this on your ATV. A helmet and goggles, gloves, boots, long pants, and a chest piece are all recommended. For the best safety gear check out the recommended gear section of this site. Better safe than sorry.
If things go south on you and you think you need to hop off the machine, do it. It’s best to never get into that situation in the first place though. Get a feel for your quad first, and don’t try anything that is above your abilities. Learn the right way, and you will be pulling wheelies in no time.