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Yamaha Extreme Wheelie School review

To learn how to pop a wheelie properly and safely, we went along to the Yamaha supported Extreme Wheelie School in York

PULLING a wheelie on a bike is a bit of a rite of passage for any motorcyclist. Regardless of what the doom and gloom brigade say, wheelies are big, and, if done correctly, they are also clever.

Just to set my stall out on this one, I have pulled small wheelies in the past, although this was always due to the trajectory of the road or just from riding a stupidly powerful bike. Intentionally lifting the front on command wasn’t something I’d ever been inclined to try – especially not on a manufacturer’s press bike anyway!

To help rectify this, Yamaha asked me to join them at their officially backed wheelie school, ran from Rufforth Airfield in West Yorkshire by the Extreme Wheelie team.

The day at Extreme Wheelie starts with a cuppa and a chat with the team who will be taking you through the day. They also delve a little into your riding background, experience, and whether or not you’ve attempted wheelies in the past. It’s all very relaxed yet professional, with the instructors for the day, stunting maestros, Steve and Ash answering any questions we might have had leading up to the event.

Once the briefing is done, team take us out and introduce us to the bikes we’d be riding. The fleet is made up of Yamaha MT-07s and MT-09s, both of which are known as popular bikes for those that enjoy a ‘mono’. Making me even happier was the sight of a mechanical outrigger following on from the rear end of the bike. It’s an anti-flip device, designed to prevent the machine from over-rotating and leaving the rider on the floor wondering what the hell happened!

After a quick health and safety briefing and instruction on how and where to ride on the runway, we’re split into two groups, with the first four taking it in turns on the static wheelie machine – more on that later – while my group hopped on the bikes to get acclimatised.

With a name like Extreme Wheelie, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the team would chuck us straight in at the deep and have us hoiking the front end up within minutes, but from the word go it’s all very calm and, dare I say it, retrained. To begin with, we ride simple loops of the runway, dialing in a couple of thousand extra revs when we reach a predetermined point. After each run, you start to build up confidence in the bike, getting on the gas a tad more briskly each time, slowly but surely the front begins to rise!

With our session finished, we swap with the group on the static wheelie machine for some lessons on controlling the bike while it’s at the balance point. While the machine the team uses looks very much like the kind you see at MotoGP and BSB events, the set up of it is vastly different. At public events, the roller is tailored to allow a relative novice to lift the front and hold it aloft without too much trouble. The machine that the team at Extreme Wheelie use is designed to mimic the wheelie dynamics of a bike on the road. The idea with the wheelie machine is to help you to learn how to balance bike, although not with the throttle, with the rear brake – something that we were about to learn would be a particularly important part of the day.

The reason is that the team at Extreme Wheelie teaches you to lift the front without using the clutch, instead you use the throttle and rear brake. Without giving away the secrets, the idea is to increase the engine’s revs and just as you begin to dial them in, stamp on the rear brake as hard as you can. By doing this you’ll compress the bike’s suspension, and by releasing the rear brake the bike will rise and accelerate helping to cause the front to lift in a controlled manner. And the best bit, because the wheelie has been instigated by the rear brake, your foot is already covering the lever to help control the wheelie and prevent any mishaps!

After another session, we head back to the airfield café for a spot of lunch and a well-deserved cuppa!

Once lunch is done, we head back out to show how much we’ve hopefully improved – sadly, my technique seems to have gone to pot. I’m overthinking, overriding the bike and generally just being a bit scrappy. Ash pulls me to one side and picks out three points I’m mucking up. The first is my lining up of the bike, not getting it central enough. The second is that I’m trying to shorten the sequence too much, basically I’m rushing. And the third – and probably the most severe error I’m making – is I’m trying to physically pull the bike up by the handlebars. The problem here is that my body position is all over the place as the front wheels coming up, causing the bike to verve off at some funky angle.

After a calming chat with Ash and then Steve, I head back round and it’s like a light switch has flicked. Not only am I now lifting the front in a controlled and safe manner, but I’m holding onto the wheelie much longer too, controlling partly with the throttle and partly the rear brake. It’s not ideal (the team prefers the rear brake to be the primary method of controlling the wheelie) but by the end of the day my riding is looking much more sure-footed and slick.

The session finishes at about 4pm and after a quick photo with the bikes and a chat with the team, I head off back to the car to get set for the drive home.

Yamaha Extreme Wheelie School Verdict

After spending the day with Steve and the team at Extreme Wheelie, I was obviously keen to get back home and try out the technique on some of our test bikes. While taking part in the course didn’t instantaneously give me the ability to jump on any bike and wheelie from the word go, I did have the tools to be able to confidently and safely lift the front on command.

The thing is, the team teach you a technique on the MT-07 and MT-09, both of which are cracking little bikes, but riding home and jumping on your ZX-10R, or MT-10 and expecting the same results is unlikely to happen. What worked for me was going over the routines we’d practiced on my bikes at home, that way I was building up my confidence in exactly the same way we did on the airfield. In this way it enabled me to be pulling wheelies on a middleweight adventure bike in less than five minutes.

If there was one other thing to take away from the day, it was that the name Extreme Wheelie doesn’t really do the course justice. The way the training is delivered and the pace at which you learn the technique is all very measured, calm, and tailored to the speed at which you progress. If the name of the school conjures up images of you performing 12 o’clock monster wheelies and you find that off-putting, don’t let it. The whole day is very well-paced and extremely enjoyable.

Sessions at the Yamaha supported Extreme Wheelie School are priced at £225 per person for the day. That includes all instruction and the use of the bikes, although you’ll need to bring your own protective gear with you. Food and drink are available to buy at the airfield café, and you can pre-order your lunch in the morning it is ready for you by lunchtime.

To speak to one of the team, call 0800 955 0202, or head to extremewheelie.co.uk.

Pictures Yamaha Motor UK c/o Harry McKenzie

Prices Start From

Motorcycle Licence Required

Recommended Experience Level

Course Duration

Bike Provided

Riding Kit Provided

£225

No

Beginner to Advanced

1 Day

Yes

No

Lunch Provided

Discount for Yamaha Customers

Gift Vouchers Availalbe

Covid Secure

Other Courses Available

No, café on site

Yes, 10% on return

Yes

Yes

Yes

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