Thursday, December 20, 2012

A trip to The Wheelie Zone

I've been hell bent on learning how to wheelie for a while now, but it's not one of those things that come easy to me. And so recently I burned up my Frequent Flyer Points for a trip up to Sydney to visit John at The Wheelie Zone to see if it is something that can be learnt.

John has a groovey setup in Penshurst NSW and I highly reccommend you pay him a visit if you are interested in any sort of advanced riding skills from practising the art of wheelies or if you are keen to go even further and learn stunt riding - he has got a range of things on offer. And he works closely with Dave McKenna that crazy Aussie kid who seems to be making big waves in stunt riding circles. I took up the 30min session on the Husqvarna SM510, thinking that it'd be closer to learning on something like the Hyper rather than on the big litre jap sportsbike in the other room. Turns out I couldn't be more wrong. John teaches you how to pop it up straight away by getting you up on the bike which is a fully functioning motorcycle that is locked permanently into what looks like a Dyno machine.

It's some sort of straight through axle arrangement on a running wheel all locked firmly into position with exhaust being jetted out through a system of ventilation stuff. There is also a series of hydraulic gauges going on around the bike and the machine which I am not really sure serves what purpose but was adjustable by a range of pressurised valves and stuff. Yep, stuff. That's how much I know of what was going on. I just wanted to get on that bike and learn how to pop wheelies. And you do. With a really simple pop and drop technique John coached me through a countdown and rev of  1-2-3 and drop the clutch while the revs are up on the third count. It's not as easy as it sounds and I am not quite sure why it works for some and not for others. I've never been able to do it right, not even on a BMX. But with John's persistance, and one very hot Husqvarna SM, I soon had the general drift of how it worked and was getting it up in the air in a simulated power wheelie.
But that wasn't what we were really going for. We were looking for the full control balance point wheelie sitting up on the back wheel and cruising down the road like a boss. I sort of kinda managed a bit of that action but I never really found my comfort zone on the Husqy and kept over cooking it or stalling it and finally she just didn't want to start any more. Fair enough too, I was cooking myself. It was a rather warm 37 degree day in Sydney and on top of that we were in a tin shed within a tin shed, riding a hopped up race bred land locked thumper. Yes it was hot. I could of cooked an egg in my pants.

 I think I got a bit more than I was charged for though, as John was more than happy to let me finish off my session on the GSX1000 sportsbike which was much easier to get up and more forgiving on technique as well. I got that big ole beast up much easier and had a balance point wheelie going better than I did on the big thumper. Something about how a litre bike revs over a thumper, or for that matter a twin. I couldn't quite nail the sensitivity on the throttle on the Husqy but found it easier on the Gixxer. Brap, braaaap, dropitlikeitshot and up she pops.


 So did I learn to wheelie? Well, technically speaking, yes I guess I did. Would I do it on my Hyper after this 45min session? No, not really. There is something not quite right about trying to learn to wheelie in an environment like this. For me it is the sense of stillness about it. The rigidity of the bike maybe plus the lack of motion in any sideways or balance sense. I think also you just have to have a bit of a feel for it and maybe I just don't.

But there is no sense of forward motion so I just didn't feel it 100%. It's damn good practise I'm sure, and I reckon if you had any experience at all in getting the front up this would probably benefit you a whole heap. I think I need to do it about ten times more before I get a feel for it. I wanna get back on a dirt bike and practise the technique and principles behind what John has taught me. It was well wroth it and I highly recoommend it, just getting given those practical tips and the theory behind the principle I'd pay the $100 for. Ideally the whole outift could move to Melbourne and I could do  a heap of training and learn heaps more about advanced riding. Here's a bit of a video on how it works in their words &

 Check it out at The Wheelie Zone and have a chat with John, he's a pretty easy going hyperactive motorcycle freak kinda guy. Just like you and me.