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What to Expect in your Harley-Davidson Riding Academy Course

You’ve seen bikes out on the road, and wondered: Could I do that? What does it take? How can I learn how to ride a motorcycle? While riding a motorcycle presents unique challenges to every rider, the perfect place to start is in Harley-Davidson’s Riding Academy, available at many Harley-Davidson dealers across the United States.

But what is the course LIKE? How does it work? While courses vary somewhat between dealers and states, there are a few very consistent steps to the class for almost all dealers. 

Many dealers include an online eCourse as part of the Riding Academy class. After signing up for a course, the dealer will send information about completing the eCourse. This is the first step! While the eCourse is not something you can fail, it is required to complete the eCourse to move forward in the Riding Academy class, and students cannot fast forward through the eCourse modules. At the end of the eCourse, you will be provided with a certificate to print out; be sure to bring that to the first class session!

While the eCourse can be completed on a mobile device, it is recommended to use a desktop or laptop computer. While not everyone has access to a computer, many public libraries have been used by past students to successfully complete the eCourse. It is recommended to set aside about 3-5 hours to complete the eCourse, and remember that you can take breaks as needed; it’s a lot of information for new riders. If you need assistance with the eCourse, be sure to contact the dealer sooner rather than later. Not completing the eCourse will bring an abrupt and unfortunate end to your Riding Academy journey, so be sure to take the time to complete it!

Once you have completed the eCourse, it’s time to gather up your gear for the class. All students are required to wear a DOT certified helmet, a long sleeved jacket or shirt, full fingered gloves, long pants, and sturdy boots or shoes that come up over the ankle. Your dealership’s apparel team are happy to help make selections for the new rider course, and be sure to check the weather forecast: baking in heavy leather will make learning on the range tough!

DAY 1:

Now that the eCourse is complete, it’s time to head to the dealership or other off-site classroom to start the Riding Academy class! In the typical course, the first day is an evening or morning of classroom time and a tour of the dealership. Arriving a little early is strongly recommended, and presents a great opportunity to bring up any concerns you may have about the course. It is recommended to bring any gear for the upcoming range days to make sure it is appropriate. 

Your instructor will get some important information from you, and have you sign some waivers and paperwork, confirm completion of the eCourse, and class will begin. The instructor will take the class on a tour of the dealership, where you will meet team members from the dealership’s departments: these are the folks who will be an important part of your riding journey after the class, so grab some business cards and keep their suggestions in mind.

Instructors will also do a walkaround of the motorcycle you will be riding on the range for the class, pointing out important controls. Some students may need a “reach” seat for riders of shorter stature, and some riders may need a “tallboy” seat, for taller riders, and this is a great time to familiarize yourself with the motorcycle you will be riding and address any additional concerns. Remember: the Riding Academy instructors want you to have a successful experience, and they are there to help you have fun, learn and succeed in the course.

The remaining time in the classroom is just that: Classroom time. The instructor will go over some topics that build on those covered in the eCourse, and discuss what will happen on the driving range in the coming days. This is another great time to ask any questions about the class, the range time, or anything else that might be on your mind.

After the evening course, get ready for your range days. Fill up a water bottle, pack a lunch if needed, and gather up the gear mentioned above so you’ll be ready to ride.

Each exercise during the range day will have a break between, so take that time to stay hydrated and have a snack. Some dealers provide drinks and snacks, check with your dealer about what is provided for the class.

The typical day two of the Riding Academy class starts pretty early, and this is the main day on the range where you will start riding the motorcycles! But don’t get too far ahead of yourself here; there’s plenty to learn before you and your classmates start ripping around. The first step in the range day is learning how to properly get on board the motorcycle: while it seems simple and intuitive to some, a lot of students in the riding academy course are starting from scratch when it comes to learning to ride a motorcycle, and a refresher on the basics is helpful for all. 

After that, the instructor will go through steps of using the clutch and throttle to move the motorcycle forward with a series of drills. Each drill builds on the previous one, so it is important to feel competent with each drill as the course progresses. While every effort is made to make sure students are achieving competence in the course, sometimes in order for the class to move forward students may need to be counseled out of the class. While this definitely doesn’t feel great, it is nothing to be ashamed of and does not exclude a student from taking the course again down the road. Talk to your dealer about their policies regarding students who don’t complete the Riding Academy class; while every dealership’s Riding Academy policies are different, they may have a special class scheduled for students who need more instruction.

When you get home from your first day on the range, be sure to get a good meal and some good rest. Riding a motorcycle can be physically and mentally demanding, especially for newcomers or riders returning after a long break.

DAY 3:

Day 3 of the Riding Academy class will start bright and early once again! The drills today will build on the drills from your first day on the range, and you’ll start to pick up speed and learn about emergency braking, swerving, and get into more turning exercises. During breaks, make sure to drink plenty of water and have a snack while you get the rundown on the next exercise. These are lots of fun, so breathe, relax if you can, and enjoy the first taste of that wind! 

After the range exercises are complete, the coaches will set up for the five evaluation exercises. While this part of the class can feel very intimidating, remember: this is all stuff you’ve been working on over the past couple of days! Students will line up for each evaluation exercise, and every exercise will be demonstrated by the instructor or an assistant. Watch them closely while you wait for your turn to see the path of travel. 

Depending on your state and dealer’s requirements, there may be a point system in place. As tempting as it is, try not to keep track of how many points you’ve picked up; keep breathing, and keep those eyes up! Avoiding target fixation is a good habit to start early on. After the evaluation exercises, the instructor will let you know how you did. You may surprise yourself! And if the evaluation didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, keep in mind you may be able to redo it at a later date. Dealer policies will vary, so check with your dealer on theirs as soon as possible.

PHEW. Now that the evaluation exercises are complete and you’ve passed with flying colors (we hope) it’s time to sit down and– depending on your dealer and state requirements– do a written evaluation. After the eCourse and time in the classroom, your knowledge will be in tip top shape! After successful completion of the written evaluation, the instructor will give you a completion document. While this does not act as a license, you can take it to your DMV or similar state office to have your motorcycle endorsement added to your driver’s license. Some states may require additional steps, check with your dealer or with the licensing bureau of your state to confirm.

DAY 4 and Beyond:

While the Riding Academy class may come to an end, it is only the beginning of your riding journey! Some students strike out across the country right away, and some get some more practice in their own neighborhood. Long distance trips, neighborhood jaunts, and everything in between provide even more opportunities for practice and learning, but if it’s not enough, the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy includes additional courses for riders who want to continue to learn and improve their riding. Interested in venturing off-road? Check out the Adventure Touring course! Picked up a new bike and want to feel it out before getting out in traffic? The 1 day practice class could be right for you. Check with your dealer on course offerings, as many dealers have different classes available.

Still have questions and concerns about the Riding Academy class? Don’t hesitate to contact us with anything that’s on your mind. 

Learning to ride a motorcycle is a big step, but we can assure you: however awesome you think it is, it’s even better than that.