The other day when I was writing a post about squids I got to thinking about wheelies. More importantly, I started to think about whether or not they actually do cause damage to a motorcycle. Sure you hear people talk about it, “it will do this and that, to your such and such”. Me being the type of person who likes to question everything, I decided to research it and learn for myself.
Do wheelies hurt my motorcycle? Doing a wheelie will hurt your motorcycle. You put a tremendous amount of stress on many of the components on your motorcycle. Leading to damage to your friction plate, shift forks, front fork seals, chain, rims, engine and tires. You should avoid doing wheelies.
I just want to mention, this article will mostly be about riding a motorcycle on the street. I’m aware that a dirt bike’s front end is designed to take more of a pounding than a cruiser or sport bike. With that being said, let’s get into it.
What is a wheelie?
I’m pretty sure most of you who find this article will already know what a wheelie is. For those who stumbled in here not knowing, here’s what it is:
Basically a wheelie is when you get the front wheel of the motorcycle or any two wheeled vehicle off the ground while moving. Usually to count it as a wheelie, the front wheel should be off the ground for a few seconds or more.
Not that I’m endorsing doing this on the street, but there are some people who are pretty good at it. Busting a wheelie for what seems like forever until they get bored and decide to put the front wheel back down. Again, I do not agree with that kind of riding on the streets.
Check out this video to see what I’m talking about.
Is there a safe way to do a wheelie on a motorcycle?
Well, from a legal perspective, just like with a burnout, once your wheel has left the ground you have “lost” control of your vehicle. So the public roads are no place for it, but if you just have to do some “sick” wheelies or get that perfect TikTok clip. There are some things you can do to be a bit safer when doing it.
Wear gear. I might start to sound like a broken record, but for the love of god, where your damn gear. It’s so important that I made a whole article about wearing gear, you can read it here.
Anyways, back to the topic at hand. You won’t believe how many YouTube videos there are of idiots flying down the highway doing a wheelie wearing nothing but shorts, a t-shirt, running shoes and a helmet.
Only to screw up or have a buddy crash into him, sending him skipping and sliding down the highway. If you don’t believe me, watch this video. Just think what this is going to do to these rider’s skin, flesh and bones. Ouch.
Do it on a closed road or track. This is probably the best and safest place to do it. Tracks are clear of other cars, pedestrians and debris that can become a serious danger when you are doing a wheelie.
Notice how I did not say a parking lot. While during certain hours parking lots will be completely empty, free from other cars or pedestrians, due to liability and or damage that can be caused many businesses simply don’t want their property being used for this kind of riding.
This can lead to cops or security being called. Who wants to deal with that when you are just trying to ride and blow off some steam? So try to find somewhere closed off from the public where you have permission from the owner to use it for that purpose.
Does a wheelie hurt my motorcycle?
When doing a wheelie there’s an increased chance of inducing a high speed wobble or a tank slapper when you put the wheel back down. This usually results in a crash, causing serious “hurt” or damage to your motorcycle.
I’m not even going to go into detail about the huge fines, revocation of your licence, increased insurance cost and the possible impounding of your motorcycle that can occur if the cops catch you doing it.
Nope, not relevant. Instead let’s just look at what you are actually doing to your beloved pride and joy each time you pop it.
Fork seals. On the front forks of your motorcycle is a pair of seals. Their job is to keep the dirt and debris out and the oil in. When they fail, oil leaks out and your braking, steering and handling are all negatively affected.
When you pop a wheelie and then have to put the front end down. A huge amount of the motorcycle’s weight is sent slamming into those seals. Causing them to wear out sooner than they should.
The cost to replace them can range from $150-500. This can add up quickly if they need to be replaced often.
Clutch wear. One way to get a wheelie started is to pull in the clutch, get some revs up and then dump the clutch. This causes the front end to come up. This dumping of the clutch can lead to premature wear and tear of the friction plate or even bending of the shift fork.
Causing increased false neutrals, as well as the motorcycle popping out of gear. Replacing a clutch or rebuilding it can cost anywhere from $1000-1300. Not cheap.
Engine. This is a big one. Engines need oil, there is no debating that one. You’ve probably seen a video before of what happens to an engine that is starved of oil. Regardless of how it happens, it always ends up the same.
The engine is destroyed, usually requiring a complete and very expensive rebuild. When you are doing a wheelie, depending on the engine configuration or design, you are forcing the engine to suck oil from a position it was not designed to do.
This leads to the engine being starved of oil. A prolonged or lengthy wheelie can cause this to happen. Leading to the engine being starved of oil and completed engine failure. Ballpark figures to rebuild the engine range from $3000-8000. Ouch.
Chain. This might not seem like that big of a deal, but wheelies do increase the rate at which your chain will stretch. When the chain stretches, it also starts to wear on the sprockets as well. Causing them to wear out prematurely. The replacement cost can be anywhere from $200-500.
These are just the most common types of damage caused by wheelies. There is also increased tire wear and damage to your rims, damage to front steering bearings, wheel bearings and steering cone set to name a few.
You put a tremendous amount of stress on your motorcycle when you pop a wheelie. Even if you ignore all the safety issues, it can cause you a lot of money.
Should I avoid doing wheelies on my motorcycle?
If you look at all the factors; the safety of you and others on the road, the increased wear and tear and damage to your motorcycle, then it seems like a no-brainer to say, yes you should avoid doing wheelies.
But like with everything in life there are exceptions that should be mentioned. If you were to find a place, somewhere privately owned, free of other motorists, pedestrians and hazards.
Such as a privately owned parking lot where you have explicit permission from the owner or maybe a closed track or road, then I suppose you can give it a try.
Maybe you were already planning to replace most of the effected motorcycle parts anyways, so why not have some fun? I mean, if the parts are past it anyway a little more damage is not going to change anything.
It’s kind of like how some riders will do burnouts and have fun with a pair of tires just before they swap them out.
While I personally would not bother doing wheelies, even if I didn’t care about the damage caused to my motorcycle, as they’re not something that interest me. You might feel differently and that’s cool. You do you, live life and enjoy yourself.
So you’ve made it this far. We talked about what a wheelie is, some safety tips to think about when doing a wheelie and finally we went over the damage that it can cause to your motorcycle.
So does a wheelie hurt your motorcycle? Absolutely it does, it messes up your clutch, stretches your chain, damages the front forks and their seals, can bend your rims over time and blow your engine. All these things should be taken into consideration the next time you see a stretch of road and want to bust a wheelie.
I hope you enjoy this article, until next time. All the best and happy riding!