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Motorcycle Wheelies: Are They Illegal?

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Motorcycle wheelies are the stuff of legends. Ever since motorcycles first hit the roads, riders have been trying to see how far they can push their bikes and do bigger and better wheelies. But with all that excitement comes a big question: are motorcycle wheelies legal? 

The answer is not so simple.

That’s because most state laws don’t explicitly call out wheelies as being illegal, yet if a police officer catches you performing a wheelie, you’re likely going to get in some trouble. 

So, while you might not find wheelies mentioned specifically in law books, it’s best to consider them illegal in each state.

Want to learn about other motorcycle laws in your state, check out our guide.

What Are Wheelies?

Simply put, a wheelie is when a motorcycle rider lifts the front wheel of their bike off the ground and rides on only the back tire for a certain amount of time.

It’s an impressive feat that requires lots of skill to do safely, but it’s also extremely dangerous if done recklessly. 

Dangers of Wheelies

Wheelies can be dangerous for a number of reasons.

For one, it’s easy to lose control and crash when doing a wheelie. If you’re not an experienced rider, your chances of crashing are much higher than if you were simply riding along normally. 

Additionally, wheelies can be very distracting – both to the rider and to other drivers on the road.

When someone is performing a wheelie, they may not be paying full attention to what’s going on around them – putting themselves and others in danger if something unexpected happens. 

Legal Consequences

The legal consequences of motorcycle wheelies vary from state to state, but most states consider them illegal due to their dangerous nature. Even if they’re not explicitly mentioned in the law, you can still be charged with reckless driving or other similar offenses. 

In some states, first-time offenders may just get a warning or a ticket, but repeat offenders could face serious penalties, including fines and even jail time. 

But What If Nobody Else Was on the Road?

If an officer sees you doing a wheelie on any public road (even if it’s empty), they are certainly going to confront you about it. If nobody else is around, the officer might be more inclined to give you a warning.

However, this isn’t something you should count on. Always expect that you are going to get hit with the highest penalty.

Doing Wheelies Legally 

While doing wheelies on public roads can get you into some serious trouble, there may be ways you can pull off wheelies and not risk getting in trouble.

For example, some states may allow wheelies on certain closed courses or private property, as long as you have permission from the owner. 

Though not necessarily common, there are stunt tracks where riders can practice wheelies in a safe and legal environment. So, if you’re looking to do some wheelies without running afoul of the law this may be your best bet. 

If you are new to wheelies, there are even schools that teach wheelies and basic stunt riding on legal tracks and courses. 

Wheelies are not safe on public roads, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ever enjoy the thrill of them. With the right precautions and a little research, you can find a place where you can safely and legally perform a wheelie.

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Content Editor: Ethan Orenstein

Ethan is not just any motorcycle enthusiast. With a decade of experience riding, maintaining, and restoring a range of motorcycles, Ethan brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. Many of the tips and tricks shared on this site are born from hours spent wrenching on personal bikes. Paired with his experience as a journalist covering DMV & insurance topics, MotorcycleZombies.com is a must-visit site for any home-mechanic. Every article has been carefully reviewed and edited to ensure accuracy, authenticity, and simplicity - all to help bring your bike back from the dead and onto the road.

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