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How to do a Stoppie Motorcycle Trick

Updated on May 6, 2013
The Grandfather of all motorcycle tricks shows how to do a "Stoppie"
The Grandfather of all motorcycle tricks shows how to do a "Stoppie" | Source

Motorcycling has come a long way since the early days of Steve McQueen and Arthur C. Fonzarelli. Engines got bigger and badder, brakes got bolder, and tires have new limits of traction that hold up to immense abuse. But, even with all these great things, without the knowledge and understanding of how a motorcycle works,your riding abilities will never improve. So, in an effort to get your mind in the game, this article will teach you the physics needed tbe perform a "Stoppie".

In the early days of BMX riding, every street contained at least one pack of kids doing tricks like wheelies, bunny hops, and the "Endo". Since many early bicycles only came with a coaster brake, actuated by rotating the crank backwards, the concept of getting the rear wheel in the air required some physical assistance. With that, please meet Mr. Newton's 1st Law of Physics.

Newton 1st Law

  • An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an unbalanced force acts upon it.
  • An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an unbalanced force acts upon it. This is known as uniform motion.

In case this is all mumbo-jumbo to you, let's brake, er break it down. If a soccer ball is sitting on the ground, it will continue sitting there, until an unbalanced force, a force greater than it is exerting, is acted upon it. A strong wind, a foot, or other propulsion method is needed to cause thatobject to move. Conversely, an object that is moving, that hits a non-moving object will change it's velocity.

So, not knowing that we were subject to this law, we would simply roll our front wheel into a curb, and when Newton's 1st law proved true, the bike's velocity would reduce, and with a little weight shift, the rear tire would come off the ground. Sometimes we would go too hard and bend the rim, sometimes a little slower and fall over the handlebars, but eventually we dialed in the speed vs. impact and executed a perfect lift of the rear. The really good guys upon setting down the rear could figure out how to get the bike to go backwards enough to roll off the curb, then keep riding. I doubt I was ever that good.

Now that you understand a little bit about physics young grasshopper, it is time to apply this to a higher performance platform like a off-road motorcycle or a modern day sportbike. If you're new to motorcycle tricks, I highly recommend that you start with a dirt bike as the speeds are lower and "dirt don't hurt" like the pavement does.

The first thing to understand is that being smooth is the key to being a great motorcycle rider. Whether you're a racer, commuter, or just a weekend warrior, the smoother you are the more successful you will be. That said, everything you do from here out should be conducted in moderation. Do not do anything hard or rash, or else you, or your bike, will get hurt.

So, to start learning how to Stoppie, get your bike up to about 5 mph, and then apply the brakes slowly. Feel the weight shift of the bike, and of yourself on the bike. Try this several times, then move up to 10 mph. Squeeze the brake gently but firmly, and as you fell the weight shift, apply the brake a little harder. Move up in speed, and continue working on the smooth, firm application of the brake.

Stoppie Worries

Couple things to worry about at this point.

1. Traction - do the tires and the surface have the grip necessary to slow you down when you firmly and smoothly apply the front brake. If not, then the front wheel will skid, thus no weight shift, and no stoppie is achieved. Further, you will probably twist the bars a little and fall down.

2. Tire pressure - Attempting this with too much air pressure maybe futile, and too little may cause more time on your face. Take this into account when trying.

3. Twisting the bars - Try not to twist the bars, as you're just trying to accomplish a completely straight up and down motion. Adding any twist will probably result in falling.

Keeping these in mind. Work your way to about 25 mph, which should give you a longer braking distance whereas you can start to feel the engagement of the pads to the rotor, the pads heating up and gripping more the hotter they get. It's important to feel and understand this, because you're not going to get a stoppie by immediately mashing the lever. (You might get a low-side, or a full-on OTB tumble, but not a controlled stoppie.)First, the brakes won't really grab, and then they WILL, and by then you won't have the reflexes to let off.

If you've ever taking a bike to the drag strip, you've learned to feather the clutch to achieve the smoothest launch. If you just dump the clutch, you'll either stall the bike, or launch it out from under you. Neither is desired, so learning to let it go just enough to get the bike moving, and then not too much to slip, but not too little to wheelie is the trick. A stoppie is much the same but in reverse. You need to begin slowing down the bike, and then has the weight shifts and the pads heat up, then the smooth but firm application of the lever to modulate getting the rear into the air.

After multiple runs you'll learn the perfect amount of speed, deceleration, and lever squeeze that will put the bike into the sweet spot where the rear pops right up, and then you can doll it up from there. Maybe you want height, maybe you want distance, maybe you want to make it dance and spin it around.

There are thousands of videos out there, but if you're going to buy one, start with Gary Rothwell's, as he's the man that started it all.


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