Class Is In Session At Wheelie University

Homework has never been this much fun

wheelie university
A significant portion of tuition presumably goes toward the fork seal replacement budget.Nathan May

Anyone who's seen Ari casually loft the front wheel of a motorcycle seems to fall into one of two camps: "I can't wait to do that" or "I wish I knew how to do that." If you're in the latter camp, I sympathize. Wheelies have a steep learning curve, and they aren't easy to practice—especially when your survival instinct is to chop the throttle the instant your front wheel starts rising. Wheelie University has a solution.

The school is run by Brian Steeves on a dragstrip in Barona, California. To get you over that first heart-pounding hurdle, a tool called the Wheelie Height Controller (WHC) helps you feel what it’s like to gently kiss the sky without the risk of looping and violently eating pavement.

It's not straight to the track, though. First, students sit on a bike that's been secured at its balance point to learn body position and to get accustomed to looking past the gauge cluster. Then new wheelie riders will try to attempt to achieve the balance point themselves—in a wheelchair. Never mind any thought of foreshadowing, a rider's next stop is one of Wheelie University's Triumph Speed Triples.

motorcycle wheelie
New-school tech makes it easy for you to exhibit some old-school courage.Nathan May

Steeves’ focus is on power wheelies: accelerate, cut throttle so the fork dives, and whack the throttle back open as the suspension rebounds upward. The proprietary WHC limits how high the front wheel goes with a combination of digital and mechanical trickery. As you ride, a binocular-equipped Steeves pinpoints your mistakes and identifies fixes with infectious enthusiasm. Once you’re comfortable with the timing, it’s all about keeping the wheel up. Do it consistently and Steeves will adjust the WHC so that riders are able to aim the front wheel of the Triumph further aloft.

Wheelies are a joyous expression of riding aptitude, but this class is about more than mastering a trick. Consider Wheelie University a thoughtful and skills-focused riding clinic: You’ll improve your balance, coordination, throttle modulation, and rear-brake control. All important skills, whether you’re on one wheel or two.