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.