As a new motorcycle rider, I thought I’d give a quick review of Harley Davidson’s Rider’s Edge program for anyone that is interested in learning more about the program.
First off, a little about me. I’ve always been fascinated in motorcycles, but never had the determination to learn on to ride. For whatever reason, they’ve always intimidated me to an extent, but I became fascinated over the years seeing more and more people from all walks riding them. Somehow over the years, I learned enough about the controls of a bike, but it always seemed so complicated. How in the world do you operate the clutch and shifting with one side of your body, and the breaks with the other. I mean you have both hands and feet working in rhythm, all while balancing a bike that weights 2 or 3 times what you weigh. So as you can tell, I’ve never been on a bike.
Well in the summer of 2012, I vowed to take a riders course to learn how to ride. I had two options:
- Take the course at the local college with 50 or 60 other people and pay $25
- Take a private course with a small group and pay a few hundred dollars
Rider’s Edge Review
Given the title of this post, you can probably guess the route I took. My logic was I would get more from a class that was made up of 6 people versus one that had 10 times that. I won’t compare this to the state sponsored course, since I’ve never taken that, but I can tell you some of the same instructors that taught my class also teach at the local college course (you just need to compete with more people). Enough of that, onto the Rider’s Edge review.
I registered on-line, picking the date and time that I desired. I ended up registering about 3 weeks in advance since the classes seemed to fill up fast. While registering, I discovered a little more about the class. It seems the class is actually made up of 12 people, however they break that apart into 2 sessions when it comes to riding on the range. Communication was excellent. About a week before the class I received an email instructing me of the details. That email provided me everything I needed to be prepared for the class. Three day’s prior to the class, I received a call from one of the instructors making sure I was still planning to attend and making sure I didn’t have any questions. He actually gave me his personal cell number in case I thought of anything afterwards.
We met at the local Harley Davidson dealership. Filled out some paperwork, and got a one hour tour of the facility. It really wasn’t a sale’s job, rather a look into the inner workings of the dealership. It was actually pretty informative for a person that had never set foot in a motorcycle dealership. They touched on the service dept, parts, apparel, and of course the showroom. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t even remotely thinking of getting a Harley, but I walked away pretty impressed with how they presented things.
After the wrap up of the tour, we took a quick break to venture down to their warehouse which was about 2 miles away. At that point the long classroom session began. The first two day’s sessions ran from 5:30 – 10:00 pm, but it moved pretty quickly. The class was very focused on safety and consisted of reading through the Rider’s Handbook, viewing video’s and having very active discussions. Near the end of the class, we got to get our hands on the bike we would be using on the range. We spent a good hour going over the location of all the controls and what they were all used for, and everyone got a chance to sit on the bike.
More of the same classroom work. It makes sense to pay attention as you are basically getting the answers to the test questions that you will have to take to pass the class. If you focus on the questions that are in bold, I can guarantee that you will pass the test.
First day on the range. Now when I say range it’s a parking lot with a number of lines painted on the surface for all the exercises you’ll perform. Be prepared to get lots of riding experience on the range, as you’ll only have 6 people in your session. This is where things got very impressive for me. There is a method to their teaching, as you start with the very basics and progress with each exercise. You’ll be on the range for at least 6 hours (even if it rains). All in all, there will be a total of 16 exercises you will perform with the bike over the course of the 2 days on the range.
I won’t go through each exercise, but I’ll give you an idea of the progression.
Exercise 1 – Mount the bike, get a feel for the controls, a feel for the bike, and fire it up.
Exercise 2 – Clutch work, also known as the “friction zone”. While sitting on the bike, with the bike in gear, you start to play with the clutch to get a feel for how it engages. You’re not really riding it at this point, but you are engaging the transmission to move you forward a foot or so before backing off the clutch. Repeat, repeat, repeat…
Exercise 3 – Your first ride. Ok, so it’s only in a straight line and back, but you are riding the thing. You start of walking the bike while in gear while using the clutch and slowly progress to getting your feet up on the pegs.
The next 5 exercises consisted of more riding, shifting to second gear, turning the bike in corners, and breaking. By the end of the first day, we were all getting kind of cocky (at least most of us) given the new skills we were learning.
We continued with our exercises and built on what we learned from the previous day. Day 2 consisted of slow speed maneuvers, swerving, emergency breaking, cornering and so fourth. The day ended with us taking our riding exam (which everyone passed) and the written portion of the test.
Rider’s Edge Review Summary
I would highly recommend this course if you can afford spending $300. I walked away having a ton of confidence in riding while also being very aware of safety concerns.
If you’re serious about taking up motorcycling, be sure to read my post on beginner motorcycles to get some ideas on that first bike. I also have quite a bit of information on the site related to the Buell Blast, a great beginner’s bike if you’re looking for something to get started on.
Dorothy Conley says
I am 61 years old and I have always admired motorcycles but I felt that I could never learn to ride one. I am a nurse and I have cared for patients that have had motorcycle accidents. I think I was fearful but yet i still have the desire to ride. Accidents happen in cars, airplanes, buses, trains, you name it. I am scheduled to take my first Rider’s Edge class this evening. Excited is not the word for how I feel. After reading your review I cried when you said , “You fire it up”. WOW! I will actually have the opportunity to fire up a motorcycle. I think I cried because I feel that I am overcoming fear and building courage to do something that I have wanted to do for years. Wish me well. My first class is tonight. Yeah!
Good for you Dorothy. I was 48 when I took the course, and had wanted to ride since I was in high school. I was always a little intimidated by bikes, but this course was one of the best things I’ve ever done. They start you out slow, and progress through all the various exercises, and focus on safety. I am now on my second bike and have to say it’s like therapy when I ride. Best of luck tonight, and let me know how the course goes. If you have any other questions after you finish, by all means let me know.
G Danko says
Well Dorothy, how did the class go??? My nurse wife is scheduled for the class in two weeks.
BIGGEST waste of time. Just take the REGULAR MSF course provided locally. Not only is it CHEAPER, you don’t have to ride an ugly Harley, the class is SHORTER, and you don’t get hit with a sales pitch every 5 minutes. THOROUGHLY dissatisfied with the course.
Sorry Stu. I can’t compare this to the MSF course, but I know 2 of my instructors also taught that course. Luckily, I didn’t have to deal with the sales pitch, if I did I would have been turned off as well.
I couldn’t agree more Stu. I chose the Harley dealer for the MSF course because it was close by and had openings. The free one at the local college books up fast. I thought since it was MSF approved, it would be a standard class.WRONG! It is run by and for Harley Davidson fanboys. I was the only one that didn’t already own a Harley and wasn’t wearing Harley apparel. They spent an hour touring the dealership. Another hour in class talking about types of bikes(Harleys).
When we finally turned to the MSF workbook, the instructor assigned 3 test questions to each student and proceeded to tell each one which page and paragraph to look for the answer. Shouldn’t we read the whole thing? I sent an email to the course director and he said it should be expected since “this is a program that is sponsored, branded and facilitated by a Harley-Davidson Dealer”. If it was free, I could understand, but for $350 I don’t expect to be in a infomercial.
Ok so I took the course because I wanted to know if I could “handle a Harley”. The classwork was a breeze. The first riding class was so exhausting! Walking and turning the bike around for 1.5 hours. I am 55yrs old, female and 5’2″, 125lbs. Been riding on the back for all my years and wanted my own bike. I was assured over and over again that I would have NO PROBLEM. Well I had a problem! By the time we walked/turned the bikes around, I was so tired. As soon as we started riding the oval, I did a lot better, except when it came to the sharp zigzag cones. My clutch hand couldn’t hold the clutch in any more and I crashed the bike. I got up and finished the class but was so sore and bruised I could not ride to finish the second day class. Riding for so many hours is crazy for a first time rider. I passed the DMV written and class written but feel so bad I could not finish the class. My husband thinks that the instructors should realize when an older student is getting fatigued to the point of being unsafe. I feel bad….:(
Grandma Not Riding.
Bryan Bailey says
I really appreciate this post. I’m 52, a chubby middle aged guy with some arthritis coming on. I actually took the MSF seven months ago and failed. I was scared to death, worked up the nerved to take the course, and actually did very well in the class. The had three minor blurbs in the test that added up to a fail. I edged the line on the dreaded box but was not surprised. The my front wheel locked up on the quick stop, recovered as taught with no bobble but caused me to travel a bit long and lost points. Then I was 1/16th second too slow on approach on my S curve path. My chubby but was full throttle on a Kawasaki 125 which we were told not to take out of first gear for that particular exercise. But I don’t blame the instructors, they were great. You got to war with what you got.
Well, I went home without my certificate, and I broke down and bawled like a baby. I’ve never felt so old and broken. But now, seven months later, here I am again. I’ve got the itch and thinking I would feel more comfortable taking the class up the road at the H-D dealership. They have smaller classes, smaller student-to-instructor ratios, and I think I would feel more comfortable on the 500 street than a Kaw 125 which just felt like a toy under my big ol’ but.
Wish me luck guys. Don’t know if I can take another ride home with an empty envelope.
Best of luck! The selling position for me on the H-D course was the small class size
Tracey Mahoney says
I took the class at the Harley-Davidson dealer in Lakewood New Jersey. The first excercie on the course I went off the course went over curb. I didn’t drop the bike or crash but they throw me out of they class and kept he $350.00. Really really sad. I told them I didn’t know anything all they did was read a card and then ride it. Sad I’m so upset cried for two days. All I wanted to do was ride my scooter