Duke's Den – My Favorite Wheelie Photos

Kevin Duke
by Kevin Duke

A dozen pics of my mono-wheeling antics

Those who have read my words over the years understand my love for wheelies. I’ve been doing them on a bicycle since I was a kid, and I’ve been pulling them on motorcycles for decades. The physical sensations and the talent challenges of doing wheelies are simply irresistible to me. While impossible to accurately sum, I must be past the 10,000 mark by now.

It’s been almost two years to the day since we posted a list of my Top 10 Motorcycles For Wheelies article, so I think enough time has passed for me to revisit the topic. The difference here is that the subject is about the pictures of the bikes being wheelied rather than a list of the best motorcycles for doing them.

The lead photo above was shot by Alfonse Palaima, MO’s much-loved and long-serving photographer who has since gone on to other pursuits. It exemplifies several aspects I enjoy about wheelie pics. Check out how Fonzie used a slow enough shutter speed to make the wheel spokes practically invisible, and note how the rider’s posture gives the impression the wheelie occurred without trying. It doesn’t hurt the Monster 1100 is an elementally sexy machine.

Ducati Monster 1100 Vs Harley-Davidson XR1200 Review

As a boy, I imagined myself one day becoming a stuntman. In a way, I guess it came true. Hope you enjoy the fruits of my labor!

Triumph’s Speed Triple is one of the icons of stunt riding and wheelies, due to the stonk of its midrange-heavy motor that is ever-eager to pull up a front wheel. This was shot from a moving car in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains by ace lensman Brian J. Nelson.

2008 Triumph Urban Sports Review

Kawasaki’s Z1000 is another excellent mount for wheelies, and I love this frame because it’s one of the few wheelie pics I have that was shot in the rain. Photo by Kinney Jones.

2010 Kawasaki Z1000 Review

This pic of Ducati’s Supersport 800 was snapped somewhere in Spain more than a decade ago. It makes this list because it’s both a wheelie and a jump!

2011 Ducati 1198 SP Review

And while we’re on the topic of Ducati, here’s a sweet image from the famed Imola Circuit in Italy. The exit of the Acque Minerale corner goes uphill, providing a launching pad for a torquey beast like Ducati’s 1198 SP. I dig how the bike’s exhaust heat haze is visible behind my right boot. Photo by Milagro.

Duke’s Den – My Tour Of Racetracks Around The World: Part 4

A flat-track-style bike just looks proper with its front wheel in the air, and that’s the case with the Bonneville Performance Street Tracker seen here. This hot-rod transforms Triumph’s mild-mannered Bonneville into a fire-breathing monster. Photo by Mike Maez.

2013 Bonneville Performance Street Tracker Review

In terms of style points, I don’t think it gets better than a leaned-over and crossed-up wheelie. This 2005 Kawasaki ZX-6R was shot near the Almeria Circuit in Spain.
Buells were always good wheelie bikes, blessed as they were with torquey V-Twin engines. I feel nostalgic about the defunct brand and hope for new and better things from Erik Buell. This wheelie shot makes the list as the only one I have with a white-water river as a backdrop. Photo shot by Brian J. Nelson in Colorado.

The Man Who Bought Buell: Bruce Belfer

This wheelie isn’t spectacular, but it makes this list because it was my first time back on a motorcycle after blowing apart my ankle on a motocross jump. Notice my right foot ensconced in a super-sized tennis shoe, which was covering up a plastic leg brace after doctors ordered me to be non-weight-bearing for six months.
This wheelie is special because it’s the only one I have of pulling up the front wheel of a bike on a superspeedway oval track, in this case Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Later that day I’d cut a high 9-second quarter-mile time aboard the awesome ZX-14, Kawasaki’s 2006 answer to Suzuki’s Hayabusa. Photo by Tom Riles.
It should be no mystery why I like this pic shot by Alfonse “Fonzie” Palaima. Former MOron Pete Brissette (sniff…) provided beneficial weight distribution.

2009 Luxury Touring Shootout

This is probably my favorite wheelie photo of them all. It’s also the stupidest and least safe one, as it’s the only wheelie I’ve ever performed without a helmet (shot in Colorado, where there is no helmet law). But, dang, I think it’s hilarious, and it’s one of the only one-handed wheelies I’ve pulled that was captured on film. Literally film, as this was shot 20 years ago by my Denver buddy Kevin Vesel.
Kevin Duke
Kevin Duke

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  • Old MOron Old MOron on Sep 30, 2015

    I'd like to take this moment to give props to Fonzie, the "much-loved and long-serving [MOronic] photographer". The man is a class act, has a heart of gold, and is a talent. What a shot!

  • Kenneth Kenneth on Oct 07, 2015

    I'm late to this thread, but I recently found a video of a young French woman, Sarah Lezito, who displays some expert skill - and aggression.