There are riders. And those who wish they were. That is the marketing tag line that Harley uses to draw in new riders into the world of motorcycling and train them ride safely.
The Rider’s Edge New Rider Course is a 5 day affair that starts on a Thursday and ends on a Monday with 10 students and 2 instructors. I enrolled in the class last Thursday (Sept. 23rd) with San Diego Harley Davidson dealership in Kearney Mesa. Our course kicked off with a dealership tour that lasted about 30 minutes. The motor clothes staff did a great job of showing us newbies how to choose and fit helmets along with the virtues of choosing protective gear such as boots, gloves, jackets and chaps. Overall, this is a great dealership with friendly and knowledgeable staff across the board.
Our classroom instruction began at 6:30pm on Thursday with instructor Kathie Carter, an avid motorcyclist and a racing veteran. She is knowledgeable on all things bike related and had a great style of delivery that was effective with us novices (for most part). Kathie gathered us around a history timeline poster for a quick team building activity as an ice breaker. We had a Buell Blast bike parked inside the classroom for us to get familiar with. It would be the bike that all of us would learn on during the riding portion of our class.
Our two hour session on Day 1 is mostly focused on reviewing material from the Rider handbook focused on basic safety rules, motorcycle gear and how to operate a bike. Day 2 is more of the same. With the Blast in the classroom and a flip chart on the wall, Kathie got us out of our chairs to “build a motorcycle”. We went through the controls one by one and each of us took turns to draw a control on the stick-figure bike on the chart. Touching and feeling the parked bike on the classroom floor was encouraged.
Day 3 arrives. Outside the comfort zone of the classroom … We are now on the range at 7am in the morning ready to have some fun riding bikes. On the practice range, we learned braking and turning skills, along with maneuvers like controlling skids and surmounting obstacles. Sometimes you have to crawl before you can walk. Our instructors Kathie and Steve were patient, gave us constructive and individual feedback. Our confidence levels started rising as the day progressed.
My fellow “Fat Boy” team members Dung and Erik getting geared up for another round of skill building motorcycle drills!
After about 6 hours of riding, we headed back to the dealership for a Saturday afternoon barbeque with dozens of Harley owners. Music, food and great bikes all around … what a feast for the senses. The scene is captured below.
After a belly full of barbeque, we head back to the classroom for a few more training videos and question answer sessions. Day one on the range riding the Buell bike was a blast (no pun intended).
Day 5, Sunday morning … back on the range at 7am for more drills. This was an important day to stay focused. The skills we practiced would be used later in the afternoon for our evaluation tests. We were coached to develop the physical skills of basic control that included: clutch / throttle control, straight line riding, stopping, turning, and shifting and then on to more advanced skills of stopping quickly, cornering and swerving. Again our coaches Kathie and Steve were patient and offered plenty of encouragement even as we screwed up maneuvers every now and then.
My class mates Troy, Nick and Julius during a break from the action … checking NFL scores for games underway on football Sunday!
In full face helmet, my head was hot … Darth Vader comes to mind with the visor down.
End of the afternoon, snapped here after the evaluations come to a close. Kathie discussed our results and gave us our pass or fail verdicts. We head back to the classroom for another round of interactive video training coupled with written observations.
The course was drawing to a close. Day 5, Monday was the final classroom session that consisted of a 50 question multiple choice written test. After the tests were graded, we were officially awarded our completion certificates and cup cakes to celebrate. This course was a great confidence booster and I felt I had come a long way from day 1 where anxiety and apprehension ruled. By Monday night the feeling was that of elation and confidence. Dung and Erik … happy “Fat Boys” ready to hit the road.
On Tuesday, I headed to the DMV to take my required written test (the riding portion is waived if you graduate from The Rider’s Edge class). I aced the written test and walked out with my motorcycle license. Today I rode my Harley Sportster around the neighborhood. I did not drop the bike :-), got to practice the good habits from the course and had fun. There’s no looking back now! I highly recommend this course for any rider considering entering the world of motorcycling.