I had a lot of reservations before I attended Harley-Davidson’s Rider’s Edge New Rider Course. Topping the list of concerns would be the type of folks attending. I was pretty certain how this would go down. I’d find my polo-clad self wedged between Duck Dynasty and ZZ Top lookalikes, with perhaps a couple of feathery-haired Bonnie Tylers to round out the room. I’d stand out like a pork chop at a Jewish wedding. Perhaps even with a broken beer bottle held to my throat. I mean, that’s what Harley types do to non-Harley types, isn’t it?
Where were the smoke-stained beards? The dusty chaps? The skulls and the pins and the leather fringe?
But that’s not how it turned out at all. Everyone looked so…normal. Where were the smoke-stained beards? The dusty chaps? The skulls and the pins and the leather fringe? And not even the hint of George Thorogood playing in the background?
These people, well, they were everyday people. People you’d see at the mall. There was a waiter, a writer, a dog-walker, a high school principal, an elevator repairman and, this being LA, a few actors rounding out their resumes. They were people like me—folks who just wanted to learn how to ride a Harley.
And learn we did. The course takes place over 5 days—three evenings and two full weekend days—in the classroom at the Glendale Harley-Davidson dealership and the riding range situated in a corner of the Burbank airport.
The classroom portion consists of workbook activities, some video aids, and a lot more laughs than I anticipated. Our instructors Tico and Mario were consummate pros. Both harbor an obvious love for what they do. Tico’s past students include comedian Margaret Cho and Victoria’s Secret model turned Harley-Davdison spokesmodel Marisa Miller.
But as much fun and informative as the classroom time was, it’s the riding days that everyone looks forward to.
Another of the concerns I had was safety. I took a nasty spill on a moped in Thailand once, and I watched a woman die as her motorbike was struck by the bus I was traveling in while in Vietnam.
So I was greatly relieved that we took it slow that first day on the range. Tico and Mario consistently reiterated the safety focus from the classroom days. And while one of them would explain the objective of each maneuver, the other would demonstrate exactly how easy it would be. The small class size (nine) made working our way up from starting the bike, to turns, to emergency stopping and eventually even to shifting gears, U-turns and tight cornering happen a lot faster. It also meant plenty of practice time before the test.
So did I pass? You bet your leather-fringed jacket I did. So did everyone else. If I were a resident of California I could’ve even just headed to the DMV to do the written portion and waltz out with my motorcycle license. But having no fixed address puts a damper on those sorts of things.
The Rider’s Edge class is a stellar intro for anyone wanting to learn how to ride. The only downside is that you’ll probably want to buy a Harley straight afterwards. But as it turns out, that’s pretty normal, even if you’re the non-Harley type.