How to manual.

How to MANUAL!

You can see the full how to manual video here:

Welcome everyone!  I hope you’ve all been doing well during this wild time.  If you’ve been following my YouTube channel during the month of May, then you’ve seen that I’m posting a ton of ride vlogs, to the point that every weekday I’ve got some sort of new video going live.  It’s been a VERY fun challenge, and I can’t believe how well they’ve all been received!

Now, I get asked all the time how to manual.  My first ever Patreon tutorial, back in October 2018, went over how to wheelie.  Now one thing that I was NOT expecting was that ya’ll consider wheelies and manuals to be different.  I don’t.

I thought that video would be the end all, be all answer to that request. But not only have I learned how to be a better teacher since then, I’ve also taught more classes and I’ve seen more common mistakes.  This video is going to clear up the most common problems with folks’ manuals.

Before we get started, it is crucial that you are familiar with jumping off the back of the bike and running out should you need to bail on your wheelie.  And yes, you need to be VERY familiar with your rear brake.  In case you pull the handlebars up too far, and the front wheel gets too high, then you can throw it right back down to the ground quickly and easily with the rear brake.  And once you do get manualing, part of how you’ll control that balance point is through that rear brake.  Be sure you can lightly feather it without locking up the rear wheel.  

Everyone who learns how to manual has a moment where they end up over rotating and looping out.  If you land flat on your back, it sucks.  I remember knocking the wind out of myself and hurting for weeks after looping out one of my first wheelies at 11 years old.  Wear some back protection for this, and if you don’t have any purpose built gear, a backpack or Camelbak with some sort of padding in it will be better than nothing.

Running out of the manual.

First thing I do is decide from where and to where I’ll be manualing.  From this line to that line?  From that pebble to the end of the court?  From this jump to that rock?  From this root to that bump?  

As I’m picking the starting point, I take into consideration enough space to generate a big downwards pump.  This is easier on a full suspension, but hardtails need to do it too.  Load the front end of your bike by pushing down on your bars.  Then, as your fork loads up, you’ll need to pull back and slightly up.  For the first push downwards, as you’ve loaded the fork as much as you can, and are beginning to pull the bars back, you’ll also need to drive your hips and legs downwards.  This will help counterbalance the pull back with the bars, and will transfer that enertia to rotating the bike up onto the rear wheel smoothly.  

After you’ve pushed down with your legs, you’ll need to keep your knees flexed to around  a 90-45° angle.  This means you’ve got enough leg left to extend as needed, or to compress as needed, to control the balance.

Most of the balance control comes from raising and lowering your butt and torso above the rear wheel.  Need to lift the front?  Sink yourself down towards the rear wheel.  Need to pull the front higher?  Get a little higher above the rear wheel.  

Notice my back is slightly more vertical and my elbows are more bent. My front wheel is higher here, so I need to compensate with getting my body forward.
Notice how low the front wheel is? I compensate for that by bringing my body back and down low.


Body positioning to initiate the manual is the hardest thing for folks to learn.  The most common mistake I see is people standing too high above their bikes.  This doesn’t work, as riders aren’t able to generate enough down force with their legs and hips.  In addition, should they be strong enough to still get the bars back and the front wheel high, controlling that manual is going to be really tough.  When you’re standing tall over the bike, your knees and elbows are all a lot straighter, eliminating your ability to control the bike fore aft AND side to side.  

This is POOR FORM. I’m standing WAY too high, and you can tell it;’s too high by how straight my legs are. In the other photos, you can see that my butt is almost hitting the fender. This position is impossible to balance fore/aft as well as side to side.


Notice how low I get over the bike.  Yes, I get way back, but more importantly my butt is only a few inches above the rear tire.  

Notice how neutral and centered I am? Also notice how my butt is less than 6″ from the rear wheel. That’s what I mean when I say “get low on the bike.”


Now, my single biggest tip to learning how to manual is to have that finite goal in mind.  If you’re simply manualing aimlessly in the wild wander it’s going to be WAY harder for two reasons.  When I say pick a finite goal, find something that you can use as a marker for where you begin your manual and where you will manual to.  

This will keep your manual going in a straight line.  The hardest part of any manual is to keep it going straight.  Without a solid, finite goal, it’s extra hard to keep the manual within line.  

Secondly, it’ll  keep your mind focused on holding the front wheel up to that finite point.  Your active mind WILL NOT be focusing on where that balance point is.  For me, and this is probably different for all of us, it’s much easier to simply rely on my body’s natural ability to manage the balance.  Tricking the mind into focusing on that finite goal has helped me TONS!

To use the manual on the trail, think about getting your front wheel over rough sections of trail.

Think about using your manual to help with jumps you can’t clear.

Think about manualing out of tight corners.  

Manualing out of a tight berm.
Manualing out of a tight berm.

There are a TON of applications for the manual on the trail.  It’s not just a simple showboat move.  As you get better, you can do these while seated, while no-footed, without brakes, with only one hand.  You can do them through turns, off drops, up drops.  These are way fun, and I hope you can learn!  And finally, you can’t learn in a day.  But I do think you can learn within a few months.  The secret is to simply practice them daily.  Even if for only 10 minutes, it all helps in building familiarity with that balance zone.  

Thanks for joining me, and happy showboating!

If you enjoyed this article, then please consider joining my Patreon where I post these videos every month.

General Affiliate Links:

Jenson USA:

Industry Nine:

PNW Components:


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.