Do Wheelies Damage a Dirt Bike?

Doing wheelies on a bike requires a lot of practice, especially on a motorbike such as a dirt bike. When learning to do wheelies you will inevitably make mistakes. But, today I will explain whether wheelies damage a dirt bike.

Overall, wheelies do damage a dirt bike. A wheelie produces more wear and tear on the chain and sprockets the chain sits on, the clutch, the shift forks, and on some dirt bikes cause oil to not circulate through the engine. Some of these issues can be mitigated by putting the front down gently.

Most people are of the opinion that doing wheelies on a dirt bike does less damage to a motorbike compared to doing wheelies on a dirt bike. 

Below, I will explain in detail how wheelies can damage a dirt bike. And if it’s a bad idea to learn to do wheelies on a dirt bike, or do wheelies on a dirt bike often.

biker making a stunt and jumps in the air

What Damage Can Wheelies Do to a Dirt Bike

It’s possible that wheelies will damage a dirt bike. However, only some components are damaged when you do a wheelie on a dirt bike, and in some cases a wheelie will not damage a dirt bike. So, here is what damage a wheelie does to a dirt bike.

In general, a properly done wheelie will not do any damage to a dirt bike. But, if the front is not put down gently it will do a minor amount of damage to the fork seals, shift forks, as well as, the chain and sprockets. The minor wear and tear adds up and means parts will need replacing sooner.

Most of the damage to a dirt bike occurs when a person:

  • Loses control of the dirt bike and needs to hop off
  • Puts the front down with too much force
  • Holds a wheelie too long on a dirt bike with an engine that can’t circulate oil during a wheelie

A properly done wheelie is where the clutch is not used, and at the end of a wheelie the front is put down gently. Here’s a video that shows how to do a wheelie properly on a dirt bike:

The damage that can occur to a dirt bike when these things happens are:

  1. Damage to the fork seals
  2. Damage to the shift forks
  3. Damage to the chain that causes premature wear on the sprockets
  4. Oil starvation related issues that cause premature wear
  5. Cosmetic damage to your dirt bike from hoping off your dirt bike

1. Damage to the fork seals

The fork seals are responsible for keeping the oil inside the forks on your dirt bike. Dropping the front down hard a lot causes more wear and tear on your dirt bike. But, is similar to riding your dirt bike on bumpy terrain.

The signs that your fork seals are damaged is an oil leak, and dirt will be visible on your forks. To replace the fork seals on a dirt bike requires taking the forks off, and taking them apart which isn’t too difficult, as shown in this article from PROX Racing parts. But, is a minor drawback of doing wheelies.

2. Damage to the shift forks

Another way the wheelies will cause wear and tear on a dirt bike is damage to the shift forks. A shift fork is inside the transmission of a dirt bike. When it gets worn your dirt bike will not go into gear correctly. 

For example, when you go from 2nd to 3rd it will slip out of gear, or there will be a slight grinding when you put it into gear. It’s reasonably time consuming to open the transmission and replace a worn shift fork. 

To avoid this happening, you should ideally never place the front of your dirt bike down hard. But, when learning to do wheelies this often unavoidable. 

With a bit of luck the wear and tear won’t be extensive enough that your transmission should last around the same amount of time as normal.

3. Damage to the chain that causes premature wear

The chain on a dirt bike connects the engine to the rear wheel. Dropping the front down with a lot of force can stretch the chain a little bit. 

When that happens the sprockets that the chain fits into will wear more than normal. Therefore, if you put the front down hard a lot, you can expect to need to replace your chain and the sprockets sooner.

4. Cosmetic damage to your dirt bike from hoping off your dirt bike

The other major thing is if while doing a wheelie a person leans back too far and they need to abandon their dirt bike, their dirt bike will often keep going and crash or roll around on the ground. When this happens, it can cause cosmetic damage to your dirt bike. 

5. Oil starvation related issues that cause premature wear

Some models of dirt bikes can not sustain a wheelie for extended periods of time without causing damage to the engine. The reason is oil won’t get circulated around the engine the way it should. Which is commonly called oil starvation

Whereas, some models of dirt bikes have an oil pump system that will circulate oil around the engine even when the bike is not horizontal.

This very much differs from dirt bike model to dirt bike model. You should check the owners manual for you specific dirt bike. And/or ask the dirt bike dealer before you buy it.

Honda dirt bike on a grassy hill during the summer

Are Wheelies Useful

Wheelies are typically done for fun. But, learning to do wheelies involves a bit of skill, and they take a bit of time to learn. Therefore, here’s whether it’s worth learning wheelies, and if they are useful for anything else.

Wheelies are useful. Wheelies can be used to make a trail less bumpy. It’s common for experienced dirt bike riders to wheelie over bumpy terrain. When they do, only the back wheel rides along the bumpy terrain, and therefore, passing over this bumpy area is far smoother for the rider.

The one drawback is if the front of the dirt bike is put down with too much force. When this happens it causes increased wear and tear on the dirt bike.

Are Wheelies Hard on a Dirt Bike

Dirt bikes are almost always ridden on both wheels. The exceptions are when a person is doing a jump on their dirt bike, or a wheelie. But, this is if wheelies are hard on a dirt bike.

In general, wheelies are hard on a dirt bike. They cause more wear and tear on the fork seals, shift forks, and chain. There is also the chance it can deprive the engine of oil, particularly if a wheelie is held for a long time. The increased wear causes these parts to fail sooner.

However, provided you put the front down gently, then there is no additional wear and tear that occurs on a dirt bike when you do a wheelie. And wheelies are not hard on a dirt bike.


I’m Rob, the owner of RX Riders Place. My family and I have a long history of riding dirt bikes and ATVs and want to share what we have learned.

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