Top 10 Motorcycles for Wheelies

Okay, I admit it. I’m a wheelie-holic. I’d practice wheelies on my bicycle, but I’ve been absolutely addicted to them since discovering an engine’s anti-gravity effects on a dirt bike’s front tire when I was 12 and abusing my amazingly durable Suzuki DS80 on the Canadian prairie.

I became fascinated by wheelies – the delicate art of lofting the front wheel and carrying it as far as possible. And I believe most riders are captivated by a long, well-controlled wheelie, no matter if they want to do them or not.

But, like many addictive things, trouble sometimes follows. It turns out the police generally aren’t as impressed with wheelies as you are. I first learned that after lofting the front end of my two-stroke Yamaha RZ500 while a cop watched from the shadows. A decade later I annoyed the po-po with a wheelie on a BMW R1200S press bike. A few miles later, I was surrounded by three patrol cars and a motor cop, had my arm twisted behind my back and threatened to be tossed in jail.

Yamaha RZ500 Wheelie
So, we can’t recommend you pull wheelies on public roads. But if you don’t adhere to this advice, at least be smart about it and keep away from vehicular traffic.

Flipping over backward is the greatest fear of those wanting to attempt wheelies. The distress you feel is absolutely justified. Flipping backward past the 12-o’clock position will cause inevitable pain to both your body and your wallet. If you’re foolish enough to attempt a wheelie, make sure to cover your rear brake, which can save your butt by instantly bringing down the front end given a strong toe tap.

Wheelie tip: Using an uphill section will make it easier to pull up a front wheel.

I must’ve logged tens of thousands of wheelies during my decades of riding, but only once have I ever flipped during mono-wheeling exploits. I was enjoying my second post-ride beer when my Honda CR125 silently asked me to practice more wheelies. The CR’s bent handlebar and my abraded chest taught a valuable lesson: Never involve alcohol with wheelies!

So, you’re brave and imprudent enough to challenge your moto skills with wheelies. But which motorcycle should you choose? What follows are 10 of my favorites.

  • Kawasaki ZX6R B1. All you had to do was give it full throttle in first gear and hold it wide open till 11k rpm. No skills required!

    • ‘Mike Smith

      Try it on a R1!

      • Jarett Bailey

        R1 are a very oversquare engine. Out of the 1000 class def not the best wheelie bike. Unless you are referring particularly to the newer cross-plane bike.

        • Luan Boshoff

          I flipped both my R1’s with its STUPID limited slipper… Never on my blade

  • Jacob Evans

    How did a KTM 990SD make the list? 75deg vTwin, wheelies in every gear (with stock gearing), granted 2 KTM’s did make the list (3 if you count dirtbikes), so I’ll accept that.

  • Jason Loy

    as an owner of a 2010 speed triple I agree. And would have even if I didn’t own one. It is a Holligans hooligan.

  • Rob In Cali

    Having ridden most of these bikes I’d agree with some, like the Speed Triple and Z1000, but I think the Gladius/SV is too underpowered to really cut it. I’d have to put the 02/03 GSXR1000 on this list as I nearly flipped the first time I tried to wheelie one….in second gear!

    • Kevin Duke

      I tried to include a variety of bikes, not just the high-hp ones. The pop-up speeds of an SV are lower, but that sweet motor allows carrying it a long distance.

      • GEAH

        It says, “Top 10”, not “A Variety”.

        • Kevin Duke

          It also says, “What follows are 10 of my favorites.” 🙂

  • Craig Hoffman

    Loved this obviously well “researched” article as I am also a wheelie a holic.

    The best wheelie bike I have ever owned was my ’83 Honda XL600. 5 gear easy balance wheelies were cake on that bike. It just had the perfect solid but not in any way hard hitting power delivery.

    Had a funny episode on a friends naked SV650. Was in mid wheele, which had probably gone on awhile by then, when I saw a cat running across my path just ahead. In that split second motorcyclist in trouble logic, I decided to stay on the gas, because I am a dirt biker, and that is what dirt bikers do. The lofted front tire went over the cat and the rear just missed. It was close.

    My current Husaberg FE450, with it’s crank mounted back and center, is good for wheelies as it has a nice balance point. Power is strong and smooth too. Not epic wheelies like my XL600, but that bike was easier and I was younger and stupider 25 years ago. Here is a clip of me post ride squidding on the ‘Berg 🙂

  • victor perdigon

    I had a sv650. It does have good torque but i blew the engine because the oil was not going threw the engine. The oil pick up in the engine faces forward so when you lift the bike up the oil is not circulating.

    • Chebu Rashka

      Yes, scrolled down just to make that comment – its not a bike for long wheelies, I researched that on stunt forums though and did not make that mistake.

  • monsterduc1000

    My 2004 zx10r is a wheelie machine as well with just a little tug pulling that nose up under acceleration in 1st and 2nd.

    Totally agree with the Monster as a great wheelie bike! Unfortunately I went over backwards on my 2006 s2r 1000 a few years backs and that ended my wheelie career as the fear is still with me.

  • Peter Mars

    Stand-ups made easier if you place your left foot on the pillion

  • Steve Hill

    As the owner of an 09 STR, I can attest to the triumph’s ability to get up and out of its’ own way…on one or two wheels…and away from other bikes of even greater displacement.

  • Phaedrus

    Daffy Duck

    Great article to improve our image as responsible citizens!
    Just finishing reading the article on lane splitting. This would play great with the bike friendly people at city hall…

  • Jarett Bailey

    I was totally expecting to see the TL1000S on the list. Especially the early 1997. I could hardly keep the front wheel on the ground!

  • Michael Stumbles

    I’d agree with the speed triple being number 1. Here is me on my ’09 model doing the same thing.

  • Luan Boshoff

    S1000 a better wheelie machine than the Blade? Right. . .

    • Kevin Duke

      Yes, but barely. The S1000 has more power, but there is no problem whatsoever doing a wheelie on a CBR1000RR.

  • mike martins

    How did the 02 – 04 yamaha R1 not make this list?

    • Kevin Duke

      That’s another worth one, and so is the Gen-1 version.

  • Guest

    No MT09 and no Kawasaki Versys? Every review say they weelie like nuts…

  • Gustavo Gonçalves

    Lets forget the obvious examples of RR and liter bikes for a minute… What about the recent MT09 and the wheelie-machine called Kawasaki Versys 650?

    • Kevin Duke

      The MT(FZ)-09’s ride-by-wire throttle isn’t as predictable as some others, but the grunt from it’s motor makes getting the front wheel up easy! The Versys can do nice, long wheelies, but the best 650cc Twin for wheelies is in a Suzuki. 🙂

  • 77BeatsPerMinute

    I heard the new Honda Grom is a wheelie machine. That little putter is the rage right now for noob stunters and pro riders.

  • Swiftblink

    Missed one of the best wheelie bikes of 2013/2014
    Yamaha mt-09
    Its not the best bike overall but not many can wheelie that easy like that one 😀

  • rustyman44

    I don’t have alot of experiance in the matter but from a newby I have a 01 gsxr 1000 and only been riding 3 months on first street bike and can pull it up in first gear ride thru it shift to second and keep it up pretty good. It maybe fact that I practiced on a 82 YZ100 for a few year’s, but that was 25yrs ago and not having a bike in between that time.maybe its from memory or I’m not doing as good as I think I am on my gsxr

  • The Truth

    “Its angular Japanese design doesn’t seem to translate to round-eye tastes”

    One of the most racist things I’ve ever read in a regular article on a regular website. Just…wow.

  • The Truth

    I own a Z1000, 2012 to be exact. For less than 3k on top of the bargain I got the bike for my bike is now roughly 457 lbs and gets close to 150 hp ON THE DYNO and 86 torque, DYNO numbers. As a repeat that’s 150/86 DYNO numbers @ 457 lbs. I’ll take my bike over any bike on the list. Oh, and the fact I can do 0-60 in 2.7 doesn’t hurt either. That’s only 13k to have a bike both quicker from 0-60 and has more torque than any bike on this list. Unbeatable. You can talk about “transformer” styling all you want. I’ll beat you to 60 and I can power wheelie even in 3rd gear.

  • Jim Greer

    Don’t forget the 1965 Honda 50. Learned to wheelie on this babe with all its agility and low weight, Dad was replacing clutch and engine parts frequently. But I could walk it down the street for the whole neighborhood to enjoy !

  • Joshua Campbell

    Anyone else notice that the ‘wheeling king’ is missing from the list? Any motorcycle article which discusses wheelies, then neglects to mention the TL1000S/R is poor journalism.