Harley Davidson Riding Academy Revamps Rider Training

Harley Davidson Riding Academy

Harley Davidson Riding Academy

Never ridden a motorcycle before? No problem. If your check book allows it, you can walk into any motorcycle dealer and, with a few strokes of your pen, wobble out onto the road with your shiny new wheels. Harley Electra Glide or V-Rod, makes no difference, it's yours, have a nice day. Of course, you may scratch the bodywork or yourself in short order, not good for you and not good for building a long term relationship with a new customer for the dealer. Maybe a little training beforehand would help.

Harley Davidson is taking a new run at rider training with their Harley Davidson Riding Academy. One of the changes, besides the name, is students will learn to ride on the Harley-Davidson Street™ 500, a great beginner's bike and something they might want to keep riding after they finish the course.

Even though it's a pretty forgiving bike to start out on, it will be set up just for students:

Additional features developed specifically for use in the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy include an industry-first Power Limit Calibration that puts a ceiling on the vehicle’s low-gear speeds, allowing only the maximum rate a student needs in the course, and a unique Vehicle Protection Kit that allays student fears of damaging the vehicle in a tip-over.

Sure, Harley hopes students will buy a bike when the course is over, but until now, training on a Harley hasn't been easy, even a Sportster would be a bit much for the average new rider, but these new Street 500s, especially when set up as described above, make for an easy entry into motorcycling.

Rider training is a good thing and giving new students the chance to learn on a Harley could be a nice boost for the Motor Company, too. It's a win-win. I like it.

You still need to remember, though, rider training never ends.

Press release follows:

After Successfully Training More Than 350,000 New Riders Over 14 Years, Program Expands Globally with New Experiences, New Motorcycle and New Name

MILWAUKEE (April 24, 2014) – Pumping the adrenaline – by learning to ride a motorcycle – just got a lot cooler, not to mention more fun. For the first time ever, those dreaming of riding can now learn on a genuine Harley-Davidson® motorcycle.

Today, the company unveiled the new Harley-Davidson™ Riding Academy –the only national rider training program hosted by Harley-Davidson® dealerships and conducted on an all-new Harley-Davidson® motorcycle.

“For years we’ve been delivering a life-changing, freedom-inspiring training experience,” said Angela Thundercloud, Harley-Davidson Rider Training Manager. “Now, we’re taking rider training to a new level by incorporating a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that students will want to keep riding long after class is over.”

Designed to Instill Confidence
There is nothing like the independence of the open road. Since its inception in 2000, Harley-Davidson’s rider training program has successfully trained more than 350,000 new riders with a premium Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF)-approved rider training experience that guides students on their journey from the classroom to the street with an emphasis on building student confidence on their road to independence.

The Harley-Davidson Riding Academy’s New Rider Course provides nearly everything students need to take the first step on their motorcycle riding journey, including MSF-certified instructors, use of a motorcycle to learn on, and a minimum of 20 hours of combined classroom and range training with a guaranteed 6:1 student/instructor ratio. All students need to bring to class is appropriate riding gear.

Harley-Davidson Riding Academy students will learn to ride on the new Harley-Davidson Street™ 500 motorcycle. Its confidence-inspiring handling and agility, smooth powertrain and authentic Harley-Davidson Dark Custom styling not only appeal to young, urban riders around the world, but also make it an ideal vehicle for learning to ride.

Additional features developed specifically for use in the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy include an industry-first Power Limit Calibration that puts a ceiling on the vehicle’s low-gear speeds, allowing only the maximum rate a student needs in the course, and a unique Vehicle Protection Kit that allays student fears of damaging the vehicle in a tip-over.

“Instilling confidence is vital to preparing new riders to move from the classroom to the open road,” Thundercloud said. “We designed everything – the experience, the curriculum and the equipment – to inspire that needed confidence and empower new students to have a ton of fun learning to ride on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.”

In many states, completion of a Harley-Davidson Riding Academy course can exempt riders from needing to take an additional road test before becoming licensed, and many insurance providers offer discounts to graduates.

Global Expansion
In addition to changes in the United States, where more than 180 Harley-Davidson dealers offer training courses, Harley-Davidson Riding Academy is expanding globally into Mexico, China and South Africa.

To learn more about Harley-Davidson Riding Academy, or to find a participating dealer, visit Harley Davidson Riding Academy.


  1. B50 Jim says

    Applause to Harley for setting up this program! Like may riders, I learned by riding (and crashing), and developed a lot of bad habits. I started riding before motorcycle safety courses were widely available, but if I’d had a course before getting my first bike, I would have saved myself a lot of effort (and injury) unlearning those bad habits.

    Sure, with this program Harley hopes to get riders on their bikes and buying their products, but if it gets more people on bikes and riding competently, it’s all good.

    My former wife took an MSF course and obtained her license as the final exam; when she graduated she probably was a better rider than I was at the time, with my eight years of self-teaching.

    When I took my first license exam I had about 30 minutes’ experience riding my B50. I asked the examiner beforehand how to get my just-purchased bike to the Secretary of State’s office. He said “Just ride it, get off and push it the last block so I can see you pushing it.” I passed my test easily despite barely knowing where the controls were, and there I was, a total neophyte, riding 500 ccs of roarty English iron as if I knew what I was doing. My experience was common among most riders at the time. It’s a wonder any of us survived.

    Kudos to Harley for helping make riding safer and more enjoyable.

    • Paulinator says

      I went for my test the day after I was run into the on-coming lane at 40 mph and split two lines of traffic while laying down my Triumph. I barely passed because 1) I was on a borrowed bike (unfamiliar clutch and riding position) and 2) I could barely walk.

      My bike faired pretty well, though. It got new pipes because the left silencer was split open from a Mack truck’s fuel tank/step while the low-side pipe was crushed. It also got a new (old) brake reservoir to replace the one that was “cleaned-off” by the passenger front fender of a Galaxy 500. And last but not least, it got a tidy permanent crease in the center of the seat upholstery caused by force 10 “pucker” factor.

  2. Mike says

    Wow!. H-D fulfilling dreams. How commendable. The power, the freedom. I`m speechless. Then again, Mum did say “if you don`t have something nice to say, don`t say it”. So, “Mums the word” !.

  3. taxman says

    i’m excited that harley has a riding program. putting better riders on the roads is never bad. with that said i don’t like the harley street bike as a bike used for training new riders.

    there is a program near me where they use lightweight 125cc +/- bikes that are extremely easy to maneuver. it’s a great way to step into riding.

  4. Tin Man says

    Harley dealers have trained thousands of new riders in their Riders Edge Course over the past decade here in the USA. The bikes used in the course were not Sportsters but the 500cc Buell Blast, not a great learner bike, The new 500 Street will be a much better beginner bike, I think training on a 125cc bike is unrealistic and does not prepare the new rider for the real world.

  5. Angel Lips says

    Glad to hear your thoughts. Am getting ready to sign up for the course. It is a dream and the extra confidence is a huge boost regarding the bikes. Thank you!

  6. Sportster Mike says

    After a few years of mainly riding off road bikes only in the UK I did the course at Riders Edge in Wales (HD’s approved Academy).

    I’ve had a licence for many years but wanted to ‘try before I buy’ so it was a case of them pulling open the shed door and saying ‘take your pick’ out of 20 or so Harleys from Sportsters, Dynas, Vrods and Road Kings..

    I was like a kid in a sweet shop….

  7. Nicolas says

    Good initiative from HD.

    Now it’s be about time to have in the US some serious MC training sanctioned by a serious test, like what’s done in many European countries, such as :
    – mandatory classroom time to learn the theory,
    – mandatory practice time on a training track to learn how to handle a bike in multiple conditions
    – guided training on open roads
    … all that under expert supervision by licensed professionals, sanctioned by several real life practical tests to demonstrate an acceptable level of “proficiency” :
    – bike inspection before the test, with technical safety/maintenance questions
    – pushing/parking the bike around cones with the engine off
    – slow-speed slalom in 1st gear between cones (can’t put the foot down)
    – timed “high” speed slalom (~ 35 mph) with a simulated avoidance manoeuvre exercise at the end,
    – real life test on open roads, with an inspector on radio to give instructions/feedback

    This is what I went through, along with other many other Europeans wanabee motorcyclists, and as we went on the roads on our first bike we were stupid and dangerous, but still significantly better trained and safer than the folks here, who ride away from the showroom floor with no training or at best a 2 hours worth of start/stop/turn exercises on a parking lot …