Wheelie good fun

Wheelie good fun

Do wheelies have any place on UK roads? Andrew Dalton explains the laws position

If you ride an enduro bike or a dual sport, a wheelie is, in my experience, easy. In fact, so easy they can happen by accident.

I once took a 2012 Ducati Multistrada for a test ride and, rather foolhardily told the Ducati salesman (a much wiser fellow than I am) to turn off all the rider aids. Warily he did so.

My first overtake had my front wheel pawing the air and the remainder of the test ride was me trying to turn all the controls back on.

A pity that I didn’t know switching the ignition off and on again reset it. D’oh.

On a light dual sport with luggage, it can be a bit of a struggle to keep the front wheel down and planted, but to avoid bother with the law, do not wheelie, no matter how much fun a wheelie is.

I have represented motorcyclists at about half a dozen Magistrates’ trials for wheelieing. In a couple, and by the skin of my teeth I have had a charge of without due care accepted in place of the usual dangerous driving.

The police evidence follows a well worn path. A Police Class 1 motorcyclist gives unassailable evidence that a motorcyclist wheelieing has lost a great deal of his forward vision, and the more spectacular the wheelie, the greater the loss of forward vision.

Most of your steering and a big chunk of your braking has also been lost. And, you have done this deliberately.

The Magistrates, who at this time look as though they are eating several pounds of lemons, are listening carefully to this highly qualified and credible police officer.

Brace your self for a year’s ban, minimum, an extended re-test for all classes of licence that you hold, and vastly inflated insurance premiums for five or so years.

The two riders I managed to get down to ‘without due care’ (in one case, with a rather sympathetic police officer giving evidence), had the Magistrates accepting that the wheelie was inadvertent.

I know that an over exuberant throttle hand and a lively bike can lead to an accidental wheelie. but the odds of persuading a Magistrate’s bench of this is thin. The truth is, wheelies have no place on the road. Do not do them.

However on a trail, the use of a controlled wheelie to cross an obstacle does not, in my opinion, constitute dangerous riding or riding without due care.

Whilst there is no decided law on the point the use of a low speed front wheel lift does not constitute dangerous driving and it is something which I occasionally do.

However, I am ostentatious in my slowness of approach. As delicate as I can be, in my ham fisted way, in the use of the throttle, and mostly use body weight being shifted backwards to raise the front wheel in a way which I hope, looks controlled.

I cannot however guarantee this, and at least once this time with luggage, I went through this entire process on the French Trans Euro Trail and made a complete pig’s ear of raising my front wheel, I got the speed wrong, crossed the obstacle well enough, and then 5m later was picking my bike up much to the amusement of my riding companion.

I suspect, if an English Police Officer had seen that on an English byway, I would have been facing a criminal charge, not because of any deliberate misbehaviour on my part, but a fundamental lack of skill.

Andrew Dalton

Adventure Bike Rider – Sept / Oct 2019

Posted by Andrew Dalton. Last modified: June 4, 2020 at 9:57 am

Andrew Dalton is a highly experienced trial lawyer who delights in taking on difficult and demanding motorcycle cases. He has a tough and relentless litigation style and is utterly focused on getting the best possible outcomes for his clients.
Disclaimer: The legal advice and statements contained within this/these articles is correct at the time of printing. If you are seeking legal advice after a motorbike accident please contact us to speak directly with one of our lawyers.

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About Adventure Bike Rider

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Andrew Dalton has written articles in Adventure Bike Rider for a few years now. Founder and Publisher of Adventure Bike Rider, Alun Davies, explains how the magazine came about.

"Adventure Bike Rider came into existence for three reasons; first there was my lifelong passion for travel and motorcycles; secondly there was a huge hole in the UK motorcycle media for a magazine that focused on the booming adventure bike sector and thirdly I had a motorcycle accident that curtailed one of my other passions in life - climbing mountains."

"The plus side of wiping out on a rocky trail in Spain is all the free time that comes with having a bust up arm, foot and leg. And what better use of that recovery time than to set up and launch ABR magazine."

"That was back in 2009 and since then ABR has grown to become the largest adventure bike community in the world. During an average week our social media reach nudges 1 million, on a good week that doubles to 2 million. This website has a thriving community of adventure riders and hosts the busiest adventure forum in the UK with hundreds of thousands of readers and visitors from around the world."

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