Harley-Davidson Riding Academy

Remember the Coca-Cola commercial that began with young vocalists harmonizing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing” and ending with, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”? It helped put the brand on the international stage. Well, take out the harmony, and cue up some American rock ’n’ roll as Harley-Davidson now plans to follow the same path. Harley wants to teach the world to ride…on Milwaukee Iron, of course.

The new venture is called the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy. “It will expand on the MSF core curriculum used in Harley’s previous Rider’s Edge training program that has trained more than 350,000 motorcycle riders since 2000,” said Angela Thundercloud, Harley-Davidson Rider Training Manager. Riding Academy courses are offered for both new and experienced riders and are conducted by MSF-certified instructors.

Thundercloud says the Riding Academy will incorporate specially designed Harley-Davidson Street 500 motorcycles for training. Feedback from previous students indicated a concern with damaging the motorcycle from spills that inevitably happen during range exercises. In response, the Street 500s used in Riding Academy training wear a Vehicle Protection Kit, designed to minimize damage to the machine from tipovers, and speed the rider’s remount when one occurs.

In addition, the Street 500 training machines feature a unique Power Limit Calibration that allows the instructor to increase or decrease the motorcycle’s low gear speeds to match the student’s current ability as he or she progresses through the range exercises.

Thundercloud said the design of the course is to “inspire confidence in new riders and to have a ton of fun learning to ride on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.” An added benefit is that in many states, completion of the course exempts riders from additional road testing for licensing, and may gain them an insurance discount.

To enroll, a new rider need only make a reservation with one of 189 currently participating Harley-Davidson dealers, show up with proper riding gear and bring the requisite fee, which varies by location but averages $300-400. This gets the student a minimum of 20 hours of combined classroom and range training on the specially equipped Street 500.

For those of us who are licensed and experienced riders, the Riding Academy offers a six-hour course called the Skilled Rider Course as a way to polish up some little-used skills and unlearn bad habits in an off-street environment. Harley expects to expand the number of USA dealers participating in the Riding Academy to more than 300 within three years.

International markets have been a high-percentage growth area for Harley-Davidson recently. In response, the Riding Academy will roll out internationally, beginning with China—home of the world’s largest population of people and two-wheelers—Mexico and South Africa. Chile, Brazil and India are on the horizon. Thundercloud said that international reaction has been positive and Harley will expand this aspect of the Riding Academy slowly, “to ensure we get it right.”

Harley’s research shows that 50-60 percent of those completing the previous Rider’s Edge training buy a motorcycle within one year, and 30-35 percent purchase a Harley-Davidson. That’s a lot of potential new Harley riders.

(This article as published in the September 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)


  1. While I’ve endorsed safety riding courses in years past, I can’t help wondering if this is more of a sales tool to convince those that might have a bit of reservation about riding. Some years back, a women’s motorcycle forum egged a young lady in to riding, despite her oft stated fears about riding. She panicked on a curve, hit the brakes, straightened up, and hit a vehicle head on. She died.

    I’m seeing more and more people on the street doing things that just flat out scare me. I’m not talking about the stunting squids. They make a choice and take clear risks. But I’m referring to those that just don’t have the mindset for riding. Some people just should not be on two wheels! It is like guns, some people just cannot keep their finger off the trigger and keep the barrel pointed in a safe direction. You know that there will be a bad ending for them.

    • I couldn’t agree more with Doc. I am a woman rider. Have been riding since I was a kid. I was a motorcycle instructor in the 80’s and what I see today scares me. Woman who have never ridden before are starting to ride for their first time when they are in their 50’s. They lack confidence, skill and balance. So many are hurt or worse yet die on the road. Just my opinion and observation.

  2. I just took this course via the Glendale Harley dealrship and it was AMAZING! It’s a lot of great theory, 2 days of riding and we had 2 instructors who actually cared! And they cared a lot. And as far as a sales pitch, there was only one angle I saw – they used their own gear to show how good gear can protect you and I don’t think that is a bad thing. One hour before one of the classes for discounts if you wanted anything and they limit the classes to only 12 people so it’s not to crowded. I’d say of the people there, only half were even interested in Harleys. The others were just looking for great foundations, which we all got.

    As for the women riders, we had 2 in the class and they neither were ready. And they knew it, but they weren’t passed just to pass them. They’ll get to do the class again and be ready when they’re ready.

    I’ve heard of classes where the instructors don’t really care, they only ride tiny bikes and pass just about anyone. Not here.

    I rode – uninstructed – for years when I was younger. Now I’m 52 and wanted the data on how to really ride correctly. I loved this class and feel much safer because I took it. Wished they had it when I was younger. I probably wouldn’t have had the one crash I did.

  3. I’m 73 and hadn’t been on a bike in 45 years. Decided I wanted another Sportster! Took the class offered at Pensacola Harley Davidson and it really helped me to regain my confidence. What a thrill to be back on a bike again! Taking the adfvance course in March. Am I to old? Hell if I know.

    Gailen David


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here