Wheelie Controversy

We all know the situation. Driving smoothly down the road and somebody does a wheelie in front of you. So much is going through our minds if we see a wheelie. Some are fascinated, some entertained, some jealous, some shake their heads and some are mad. But why is this acrobatic riding style so controversial?

What is a Wheelie?

In case you never saw or heard of Wheelies before, here is a quick description. If you ride your motorcycle only on your back tyre it is a wheelie. The key is to balance it with the help of positioning your body, the throttle and the rear brake. There a many ways to wheelie: standing, sitting, one-handed, standing on the back of your seat, sitting with the legs on top of your handle bar, etc.

Photo by mohiuddin Farooqui on Unsplash

Is it legal?

There a few countrys in which the wheelie is not part of the law and de facto legal but more relevant is if the infringment is enforced or not. The list below shows some countrys I have personal experience with. But always keep in mind there could be additional fines because of endangering road traffic. (no warranty on correctness!)

  • Germany – de jure illegal and enforced by police. (50€ fine)
  • France – de facto illegal.
  • Italy – de facto illegal.
  • Albania – most likely legal and celebrated by the local police.

Why would somebody do a Wheelie?

There are multiple reasons. First of all if you are able to do a Wheelie you want to show it because the mastering of riding a Wheelie takes a long time and a lot of training. Also you try to get better every time you do it and make even more impressive ones.
But not everybody does it with the intention of showing skill. Some just love the feeling of a perfect wheelie, just like the feeling when you knee slide in a corner, make a table jump, doing a stoppie or moving at max speed.

Problems with Wheelies.

There is no question. Doing aWheelie is dangerous. Of course you can train it and get better, but you can never eliminate the danger of it, at most you can decrease the risk. On a set track this shouldn’t be a problem. Every rider is aware of danger and other people are protected by the tracks barriers. On the street on the other hand not only your skill and unpredictable events determine the probability of risk, but especially the traffic around us. Traffic includes other vehicles like cars, trucks or bikes but also pedestrians and (wild-) animals. Some would argue that the risk is acceptable because the ones who eventually crash because of a wheelie are also the ones who take the consequence but I strongly disagree. Everything after the impact, crash, etc. is unpredictable and the pure nature of unpredictable things prevents us from predicting it and it’s consequences. There are many more problems but everyone should recognize the danger of wheelies on street.

What should we learn from this article?

To be honest, this article is a bit hypocritical. I’ve done many wheelies. Many of them I am not proud of and many of them I shouldn’t have done. I made it very clear how dangerous wheelies are, but not doing them is no solution. There are laws penalizing wheelies but they are done non the less. Just another article about “don’t do it, it’s dangerous.” is useless. Instead we should improve our conscious for when to do a wheelie and start to do only wheelies when it’s appropriate.

When NOT to do a Wheelie:

  • with oncoming traffic
  • in front of children
  • in the city
  • on the highway
  • in front of the police (duh)

When you COULD do a Wheelie:

  • when nobody is around
  • on wide streets
  • on Agriculture paths
  • offroad
  • on own property

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