But it really has no place on the roads. For me, as a solicitor, it would be career-ending as the offence is (usually) dangerous driving, which can go before a jury. If I, as a solicitor, am convicted of a serious offence, I have to hand back my gown and practising certificate.
So, I do not wheelie on the road. I can’t think of a single circumstance where a credible defence can be made for a tarmac wheelie but I do, with varying degrees of success, lift my front wheel on the trails for one limited purpose only, which is to clear obstacles.
One poor guy, a few years ago, did exactly that. He gently hoisted his front wheel over a suspiciously placed log on a byway and was immediately confronted by a remarkably angry woman who had arranged to have the ‘wheelie’ captured on a phone and then reported it to the police.
They spoke to the gentleman in question, and were entirely content to accept his explanation that his very controlled wheelie to pass an obstacle on the highway was justifiable and no further action was taken – well, against the rider anyway. Crazy Lady was warned as to her use of obscene language. But, of course, this does rely on a reasonable copper interviewing you and accepting the proposition that to get over a substantial obstacle the front wheel needs to come up.
However, for a controlled front wheel hoist to pass an obstacle, I don’t believe that the offence of dangerous driving is borne out. There is no higher Courts authority on this point and the statutory test is as follows: Does the driving fall far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver?
Would it be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous? So a controlled and deliberate raising of the front wheel by delicate use of the clutch, throttle and suspension (and by this I don’t mean give the bike three-quarter throttle and flick the clutch out 100 metres away from the obstacle) is not obviously dangerous – and demonstrates a high level of machine control.
Hoisting up the front wheel because it’s fun is most definitely a one-year ban and includes a compulsory extended re-test for all classes of licence held, so best avoided.
Trail – The members magazine of the Trail Riders Fellowship – August 2021