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.)