Jimmy Fireblade's Wheelie school review

It’s a one way ticket to motorcycle Nirvana and the respect and adoration of all your mates. We all want to do it, but only the chosen few can. Time to go back to school...

Most of my life has been lived under a cloud of shame because I am unable to ride a motorcycle on only its back wheel. Old motorcyclists who moan about lads showing off and bringing motorcycling into disrepute by doing wheelies are just jealous because they can’t do them. I have always envied those who have the skill and balls to do wheelies. When I see the boys at Visordown doing them for photos I feel like the little boy who is too young to play with the bigger boys in the playground.

“Ah,” said Urry, “you need to go and see Jimmy Fireblade. He’ll sort you out at his wheelie school.”

James Fireblade operates his academy of the monowheeling arts at East Kirkby airfield in Lincolnshire. There’s a runway a mile long and several hundred metres wide where there are no children and old ladies to hit and equally important, no coppers. Jimmy uses a fleet of Bandit 600s fitted with an ingenious device of his own design that cuts the ignition if the bike tips over backwards too far. The man himself rides a Fireblade; presumably because he wouldn’t want to call himself Jimmy Bandit.

There are only three of us today. Neil, who can wheelie his dirt bike but not a pukka road bike, and Lee who has ‘experimented in the past with unfortunate results’. I once flipped a trail bike right outside the Ritz hotel in Piccadilly so can relate to experiments going wrong.

Jimmy teaches only the clutch technique. ‘Power wheelies are dangerous and very difficult to control,’ he explains ‘and you’ll bust your bike and hurt yourself if you try them.’ Any sort of wheelie seems dangerous to me but Fireblade knows his stuff. He’s also an excellent teacher: friendly, articulate and patient. His method is to split the wheelie into several segments, the first being mastering accelerating from a steady 3,000rpm in first gear to a steady 6,000rpm and getting used to the engine note at the higher speed. This is important because the next step will be to ride along at 3,000rpm, pull the clutch in and wind the motor up to 6,000rpm while all the time keeping your eyes level with the horizon.

We do a couple of laps around the airfield going up and down through the revs until we can tell without looking at the tacho that the Bandit’s engine is turning at 6,000rpm. That sorted Jimmy has us pulling in the clutch, revving the motor, and then letting it go when the motor is turning at 6k. It feels rather unnatural just letting go of the clutch and it takes me quite a few goes to get a clean snap. When I get it right the front wheel hops up about 3mm.

Now to part three. We now use the rear brake to squat the bike down on its suspension. The order is dial up three grand, press rear brake, pull in the clutch, rev engine to 6,000rpm and simultaneously drop the clutch lever. Do it right and the front should rise up under perfect control. In theory.

An hour later I have done about 50 laps of the airfield and am close to tears. Jimmy rides alongside, stopping me to give advice. Then suddenly, after my 90th effort, the Suzuki’s front wheel rises smoothly into the air. What a wonderful feeling. I could almost kiss Fireblade. For hours I carry on practising with Jimmy carefully adjusting the engine cutting device to allow for more angle. Amazing, after barely a morning’s tuition one of my life’s greatest ambitions has been satisfied and all for two hundred quid. I’m now one of the big boys.

Jimmy’s wheelie school is open seven days a week all year round. Call 07906 251534 or 01507 4621901. One day – which runs from 09.00am to 3.00pm costs £200. Come with four mates and the price comes down to £175 each (max five riders per day). Go to www.jimmyfireblade.co.uk