First day of Wheelie School; when your instructor crashes, too! | The Cloudfoot Diaries #73

The Yamaha RXS 100 has been praised in my circle as the only bike you’ll ever need to become a baron on the back wheel. My sensei has owned 7 of them in his lifetime and has struggled to kill pretty much all of them. Their legacy is diverse; from escaping police through the local woodland multiple times, to performing helmetless stand-up wheelies for half kilometer lengths. And when you ride one, you can’t help but feel exactly like John Connor from Terminator 2.

Yes, this is the face you will pull upon riding one.

A 98cc, 2 stroke engine with an esoteric Powerband Induction System means that once you hit 3000 revs, this bastard wants to lift faster than you can say Eddie Hall.
My sensei and myself went halves on purchasing the RXS back in July and due to her being somewhat of an old fart (1986 she was born) it’s taken us the best part of two months to get her running smooth enough to start risking our skeletal health with her.
These old bikes run on a single carburetor, arguably the linchpin in the whole combustion system. When they get dirty and clogged from years of fuel being pumped through them, they really need nothing better than a good clean ‘n’ reset. Just ask Jenna Jameson.

Day one of Wheelie School would commence at a nearby abandoned airport with very little street furniture to crash into other than old tyres and the odd line of shrubbery. Far better than practicing on the main road, as we were about to find out.

A 55 litre rucksack full of foam, rolled up and tied into a spinal-lengthed sausage, strapped to my back with every clip available. Full race leathers, gloves, boots and my old Evil Kenevil coloured helmet for an extra level up.

Starting tekkers
Very simple. I was instructed by my sensei, who we’ll call McVeigh, to start revving the bike into the 4-5000 range as to enter the power band, back off slightly, then give a good twist on the throttle until I felt the bike lift, then immediately come off the throttle to bring the front end back down. This would create a lift of anywhere from 10-20 degrees to start off with. I can see why you wouldn’t want much more than that because to the uninitiated, 20 degrees can feel like you’re telling the world it’s midday and you’re the clock hands.

I spent a good 20 minutes trying this first stage and found the hardest thing was to coordinate the throttle action with a slight delay of pulling up the handlebars. Pull up too quickly before the bike has had a chance to lift from its own power and you’ve missed your chance. You have to allow a split second gap between twisting and pulling up. When you get that right, it feels somewhat effortless.

Phase 2
Now the 20 degree mark had been reached, it was time to push it a little further with essentially the same tekkers. (I should add this was all going down in first gear, arguably the hardest path because of how ‘snappy’ the response is with the throttle once in that mystical Powerband region.) Except, for this phase I was looking to bring the bike up to the magical balance point; 45 degrees. This was a case of ruthless repetition mixed with courage, two ingredients needed to learn anything new and outside of your comfort zone. And I had a foam log on my back for crying out loud. Get it done lad! This phase lasted another 15 minutes, or so.

Phase 3
Still staying in first gear, now it was time to get some ‘plays’ – a twist of the throttle that takes place once the front wheel is lifted, in order to keep it up. As you can imagine, this is where it gets spicy. Too much throttle and you flip the fucker. Too little and you don’t get your fix. Here’s a short clip of a mixture of Phase 2 and 3.

I was semi-surprised at how well I was doing. Having McVeigh on hand to coach me was a massive help. Naturally, I started to get a little cockier with my speedy progression. ‘Pride comes before a fall’, as they say. And indeed, after proudly stating I would go for one more series of wheelies, I brought the RXS up so fast I went past the balance point, shut the throttle off to allow the front to dip back down and then pinned the throttle open again to try and lift her back up. That pinning did me no favours as I ended up looping the bastard, flipping myself off of the bike and getting choke slammed from God himself. ‘Horray for backpacks!’ is all I can say. It hurt and my body stiffened up from the impact but I was unbroken and walking, that counts as a success.

Now for the demonstration, as McVeigh had his turn to show just what was possible on this little demon. It’s important to note at this point McVeigh has been wheelieing various vehicles for the best part of two decades, from wheelchairs to crossers to superbikes. However, in his own words, ‘The RXS is the hardest to wheelie. No engine braking, no sensitivity in the throttle and such a shit pair of brakes that once you go past 45, you ain’t comin’ back!’

Case in point –

I couldn’t stop pissing myself with laughter. 2 loops in ten minutes on this little bastard and we only just got it back from the mechanic 48 hours prior to throwing it down the road, smashing off all the superfluous gadgets. Despite the ninja roll and seemingless pain-free ejection, McVeigh actually crashed on to his right hip, directly into his belt buckle from his jeans which were on underneath the gimp suit. Let that be a lesson to you, young stand-up scoundrels; never underestimate the power of the shoelace belt!

Back to the workshop she goes. We now have a whole list of upgrades to make; new moto-X handlebars and grips, minimalist headlight, zero indicators, zero tachometers etc.

Keep an eye out for day 2 of Wheelie School, as John Connor comes back from the dead and the second gear frolics begin!

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Harry Cloudfoot is a writer and explorer of movement and mind. You can check his social media if you want but you'd be better off going and doing something, instead.
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