Do you want to learn how to manual on a BMX bike?
The manual is a foundational BMX trick that involves balancing on the rear wheel while coasting.
Note: A wheelie is when you balance on your rear wheel while pedaling. But when doing a manual, you also balance on the rear wheel just without pedaling.
Today, we’ll dive deep into the art of manualing on a BMX bike, a fundamental skill that’s as cool as it is practical.
Manuals are not just about showing off; they’re crucial for navigating through trails, pump tracks, and city streets, allowing you to tackle obstacles with style and finesse.
So, if you’ve been itching to perfect your manual and showcase your skills at the local park, you’re in the right place.
Grab your helmet, pump up those tires, and let’s roll into the journey of mastering the manual on your BMX bike together! 🤘
You may also be interested in my collection of beginner BMX tricks. Master the basics!
Learning to manual on a BMX bike is like acquiring the keys to a whole new world of biking experiences and skills.
Here’s why learning a manual is essential for any BMX rider:
1. Foundation For Advanced Tricks
Manuals are foundational skills, and once you’ve got them down, they serve as stepping stones to more advanced BMX tricks like nose manuals, bunny hops, and jumps.
Not just that, but manuals are perfect for linking tricks together in EPIC lines!
2. Enhanced Balance & Control
Mastering the manual requires maintaining balance on the rear wheel while modulating the bike’s balance using your body weight.
This significantly improves your overall balance and bike control, crucial for performing other BMX tricks and general riding.
3. Better Flow
Knowing how to manual can help you smoothly navigate over obstacles, allowing you to maintain speed and flow without having to pedal as much.
4. Increased Style Quotient
Let’s face it, pulling off a manual effortlessly adds a dash of style and flair to your ride.
It looks cool and is sure to turn heads whether you are at the park, street, or dirt jumps.
So basic but always does the – well – trick.
5. Efficient Use Of Momentum
Manuals teach you how to use your momentum effectively, allowing you to carry speed over sections of the trail or park without pedaling, making your rides more efficient and fluid.
6. Boosted Confidence
Achieving a manual significantly boosts your confidence, encouraging you to try and master more challenging tricks and maneuvers, pushing your BMX riding to new heights.
7. Enhanced Spatial Awareness
Performing a manual requires an acute awareness of your body and bike positioning.
This enhanced spatial awareness is vital for executing other BMX tricks and avoiding accidents.
8. Fun Factor
Lastly, manuals are downright fun!
There’s a unique joy in riding on one wheel that you only understand after you master manuals.
Learning to manual on a BMX bike opens up a realm of possibilities, enriching your riding experience with new skills, better control, and more enjoyment.
Sadly, I still see many riders who want to skip manuals and go straight to advanced tricks. Unfortunately, this shows in their riding style, skills and overall bike control.
Don’t try to take shortcuts.
Learn how to manual. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.
How To Manual BMX For Beginners
Even though a manual is a basic trick, you can still slam pretty hard.
You can loop out and if you don’t catch yourself with your legs, you go straight to the head.
- Wear your safety gear: helmet, knee pads, shin pads and elbow pads.
- Ensure your BMX bike is in good condition (check my BMX bike maintenance guide), with properly inflated tires and functioning brakes. (I recommend you learn manuals with brakes first before going brakeless.)
Find a Suitable Location:
Look for a smooth, flat surface free from traffic and obstacles. A parking lot or an empty road are good places to start.
Or in my example (see the video above), an empty basketball court is also a great place to start.
1. Ride At A Moderate Speed
Start by riding your BMX at a comfortable, moderate speed. You don’t want to go too fast or too slow.
I actually suggest you go slower than faster. Because if you master slow manuals, faster will be even easier.
2. Body Position
Position your body centrally over the bike, with your knees and elbows slightly bent.
3. Crouch Down
Lower your upper body towards the handlebars, as this will make it easier to shift your weight backward.
4. Shift Weight & Lift
Shift your weight to the back of the bike while pulling up on the handlebar.
Use your arms, not just your wrists. The aim is to lift the front wheel off the ground.
If you’ve never lifted your front wheel, stay at this stage for a while before moving forward.
Even starting at lifting your bike for 1-2 inches is enough. Get comfortable before you fully commit.
5. Find the Balance Point
The trickiest part of the manual is finding the balance point where you can coast on the rear wheel.
If you go too far back, you risk falling backward; if you don’t lean back enough, the front wheel will drop back to the ground.
Pro tip: I actually advise everyone that you get comfortable “falling backward.”
You don’t necessarily need to fall to the ground, just learn how to catch yourself with either one of your legs or both.
6. Legs and Hips for Balance
Use your legs and hips to maintain balance.
If the front wheel starts dropping, lean back slightly (you can also pull your handlebar closer to your body).
And if you feel like you’re tipping backward, shift your weight forward slightly.
7. Use Your Knees
Keep your knees bent and flexible so you can quickly adjust your balance.
8. Keep Your Eyes Forward
Look ahead, not down at the front wheel. This helps you maintain a sense of balance and direction.
9. Control With Rear Brake
If you feel you’re leaning too far back and losing control, gently tap the rear brake to bring the front wheel back down.
This is a safety measure and it’s good to practice this.
That’s why I recommend you learn manuals with brakes before removing them.
10. Exit Safely
To exit the manual, simply shift your weight forward and allow the front wheel to come back down to the ground.
And if you’re dropping off of a curb, try to land both wheels simultaneously or slightly rear-wheel first.
The manual takes a lot of practice to master. That’s the brutal truth.
Start with short distances and aim to extend the length as you get more comfortable.
Video analysis can be useful. Record your attempts and review to see what you could do better.
Pro tip: Before you start manualing ledges and curbs, I recommend jumping in and out of a manual on the flat first. I demonstrate this in the video above.
Once you’re comfortable with the manual, you can incorporate it into other tricks and techniques.
One of my favorites is a manual 180.
What Are Some Of The Mistakes When Learning A Manual
When learning to manual on a BMX bike, beginners often encounter several common mistakes.
Avoiding these will help accelerate your learning curve and prevent unnecessary falls or injuries.
Here are some common mistakes and how to avoid them:
1. Leaning Too Far Back
- Mistake: Many beginners tend to lean too far back, causing the bike to slip out from underneath them.
- Solution: Focus on finding the balance point by shifting your weight gradually. Practice over a grassy or soft surface to minimize the impact of potential falls.
2. Locking the Arms Too Soon
- Mistake: Locking your arms straight as soon as you start the manual can limit your control over the bike.
- Solution: Keep a slight bend in your arms as you initiate the manual, allowing for adjustments as you find your balance.
3. Incorrect Body Position
- Mistake: Positioning the body too high above the bike can make balancing difficult.
- Solution: Maintain a low center of gravity by keeping your body closer to the bike, allowing for better control and stability.
4. Using Too Much Force
- Mistake: Some beginners tend to yank the handlebars too hard, leading to overbalancing.
- Solution: Use a gentle, controlled pull to lift the front wheel and focus on using your weight shift to maintain the balance.
5. Lack of Rear Brake Control
- Mistake: Neglecting to use the rear brake can result in tipping over backward.
- Solution: Learn to feather the rear brake gently to bring the front wheel down and prevent falling backward.
6. Ignoring Core Engagement
- Mistake: Not engaging the core muscles can make it difficult to maintain balance during a manual.
- Solution: Keep your core engaged to stabilize your body and have better control over the bike.
But more than focusing on the core, focus on finding the balance point, you’re core will work and adjust automatically.
7. Inconsistent Practice
- Mistake: Practicing irregularly or infrequently can hinder progress.
- Solution: Regular, consistent practice is key. Dedicate time each day or several times a week to practice manuals. In short, the more, the better.
8. Not Looking Ahead
- Mistake: Looking down at the front wheel or feet can disrupt balance and alignment.
- Solution: Keep your gaze fixed on a point ahead of you to maintain balance and direction.
9. Impatience and Frustration
- Mistake: Giving up too soon due to frustration or expecting to master manuals quickly.
- Solution: Be patient, stay positive, and understand that learning to manual takes time and consistent effort.
10. Ignoring Safety Gear
- Mistake: Not wearing appropriate protective gear can result in injuries.
- Solution: Always wear a helmet, shin pads, knee pads, and elbow pads to protect yourself while practicing. Gloves are helpful for some, too.
Remember, every rider has a unique learning curve, so don’t be discouraged by initial challenges.
Celebrate small victories, keep refining your technique, and most importantly, have fun on the journey to mastering manuals.
I also listed common beginner BMX mistakes and how to avoid them.
Conclusion: Master Manuals!
It’s been a thrilling ride exploring the ins and outs of mastering manuals.
We’ve delved into the whys and the hows and discussed the common pitfalls we might stumble upon in our learning journeys.
Remember, the path to mastering a manual is paved with persistence, patience, and heaps of practice.
Now, it’s over to you, my fellow BMX dudes!
Equip yourselves with your protective gear, hit your local spots, and start practicing those manuals.
Take it slow, stay safe, and don’t forget to enjoy every moment on your bike.
Embrace the falls and the wobbles, and celebrate the small wins — they’re all part of the beautiful journey of BMX riding.