What Is a BMX tailwhip?
Now that you know about BMX, as well as know about some of the beginner/easy tricks; if you’ve been bitten by the BMX bug, you’ll probably be fiending to learn some new tricks.
If you’re not too familiar to the BMX scene or are new to the sport and wanting to learn some nifty beginner tricks, check out our What is BMX article which covers this topic extensively, and come back to this one after you’ve read that.
The BMX Tailwhip is a renowned manoeuvre in the sport of BMX and riders that can perform it with style are well-respected in the community. It’s not like this for nothing though; and is a tough trick to execute – so strap in for a learning curve, but one sure thing I that the feeling of landing one is worth it all! With that, let’s get on to how to actually pull this trick off.
1.The Mindset Leading Up To A Tailwhip
You may scoff at this step – but mindset is the majority of this trick. The reason is; that this trick is not simply learnt and mastered within a few attempts or even a session of trying it.
However, going into it with the right mindset, mixed in with a little determination and perseverance; you will get it, and master it. Before you learn this trick however – you should have worked up to being comfortable on your BMX.
In addition to having a good feel for how your bike rides, we strongly recommend that you learn beginner tricks such as the manual or wheelie, and even more importantly the bunny hop.
Now, while the bunny hop and tailwhip aren’t necessarily linked or a progression from one to the other, the foundational bike control and ability to hop it off the ground and land will certainly help. On a skateboard you don’t just kickflip, you have to have the foundational skills of the ollie and riding around comfortably. BMX is no different.
2.Practice The Movement Without Fully Committing
The ideal location to learn this trick would be on a little kicker ramp or gap to some soft grass. However, this ideal option is not always the reality. This trick can be learnt on flat ground or transition (ramps), however the extra air time granted by using a ramp is hugely helpful when learning this trick.
However, the trade off is that it would be safer learning this trick on a nice patch of lawn. We’d recommend that you learn the rough movements on lawn, but if you’re lucky enough to have a movable ramp or quarter pipe drag it over to somewhere soft and get practicing.
At this stage, you can try the “cheat” version of the tailwhip, where you use your front foot to stand on the front wheel, and create leverage in this way to flip it around, and land back down.
This is a progression step into fully committing to an airborne bunny hop tailwhip. Standing on the front wheel will also act as a braking effect, and this will give the bike momentum to swing around so you can land back on the frame with your other foot.
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However, some people find this method even harder, and prefer to just fully commit and land the trick. If this is you, let’s break down the exact technique you’ll use:
Kicking The Bike & Turning In Mid Air
This is the first step of initiating the trick. If you want the bike to spin to the right, kick the bike with your right foot. It’s more of a firm push rather than a kick, your motion and gravity will through and ease the bike around.
Most of the “whip” is done then with the wrists. The mid-air turn/doing a bodily rotation is only really relevant if you’re doing the trick on transition. Basically, unless you want to land fakie (backwards – which you really don’t unless you’re confident on transition), you’ll need to turn your body 180 degrees to land facing the bottom of the ramp.
Time your rotation well with the kick, and you’ll be able to use the rotation of your turn to help whip the bike around. If you are doing it on transition, make sure that you’re comfortable riding ramps and airing well above the coping.
Get The BMX To Rotate
The rotation of the bike is all in the wrists. To get it to rotate, turn the handlebars sharply about a quarter turn in the direction you wish to turn the bike, and follow through with a sweeping kick.
As you kick and optionally do your 180 degrees turn, you’ll want to use the speed/transition to get height and tuck your knees up to your chest, making sure to keep a firm grip on the handlebars throughout.
With the wrists, do the ‘washing machine.’ Rotate your arms around in the direction of your turn (clockwise, if you’re whipping it to the right) and again, keeping a firm grip on the handles, whip the bike around as quickly as possible as you continue turning in the air.
To successfully catch the bike, it’s all about tweaking the timing to be just right, so you don’t try and plant your feet too early and get hit by the flying bike, or too late and miss the bike or land in the splits; ouch.
Once you get to this point, it’s no return. This is where the real frustration begins, and it’s the hardest step. If you’re flicking to the right, catch the bike with your left foot and visa versa.
You can land on the frame of the bike, right back near the seat post, or on the pegs or pedals. Ideally, land with both feet, but if you can land with one foot, the other can be used to counterbalance and stabilize the trick from gravity.
Once you’ve caught it, you’re 99% of the way there. Bring it back and under you to position it correctly and balance it. Return your feet to the pedals, and use your arms to fight gravity and get the bike to steer in the direction you want. With perseverance, you’ll be nailing this trick in no time.
Now that you know how to tailwhip, show it off to all your friends, or try throw it in a line. Once you land it, you’ll have it mastered quickly. The process is difficult, but the feeling is so worth it. For gear, guides and trail reviews of places to ride, check out some of our other articles.
I’m James Duff, a 29-year-old from Orange, California, fueled by a lifelong passion for bikes. From childhood pedaling to exploring BMX tricks and tackling mountain trails, biking has been my constant. Now, I’m translating that love into words on this blog. Join me in discovering the thrilling world of biking, as I share insights, gear essentials, and personal adventures. Let’s journey together through the exhilarating realm of cycling.