Now you can learn to ride on a Harley

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IOL mot pic jan13 H-D Riding Academy Training 1

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On this rig new riders learn to operate the clutch and change gears without fear of crashing.

It's been nearly half a century since Harley-Davidson has built a motorcycle with an engine smaller than 883cc and weighing less than a quarter of a ton. The old joke "Harley sizes start at XL" is funny because it's so accurate.

But that has also led to a perception that you need to be an experienced rider to be able to handle a Harley-Davidson, one often subtly fostered by Harley owners as a form of elitism - but which is not actually true.

An entry-level Sportster has progressive, surprisingly gentle power delivery, enough bottom-end torque that it's difficult to stall (unlike an oriental 125!) and light, positive controls. Sure it's heavy, but once it's off the side-stand you don't feel the weight because the centre of gravity of that solid V-twin is about knee-high to a grasshopper, and it's pleasantly stable at car-park speeds.

PRE-CONCEIVED NOTIONS

If you're willing to re-calibrate a few pre-conceived notions, you can teach a beginner, even a girl, on a Harley; and now the Motor Company, recognising an opportunity to grow the brand, has launched its first official riding school in South Africa.

The Harley-Davidson Riding Academy is located in the heart of Gauteng's biker country on the R3 in Hartbeespoort, an hour from Johannesburg and 30 minutes ride from Pretoria, and it's open seven days a week.

IOL mot pic jan13 H-D Riding Academy Training 2

About the time that the average newbie gets bored with wombling around the training ground the instructor leads them out on to the open road for a practical lesson in a real-world environment.

For R3850 you get the all-inclusive New Rider course, including basic theory, practical training and, yes, actual riding on a Sportster.

MACHINE CONTROL

Celine Gruizinga, country manager for Harley-Davidson Africa, explained: "The New Rider course provides expert guidance and training, especially for those who have never been on a bike before."

The course starts with a brief classroom session that looks at the theory behind riding a motorcycle; then it's out on to a safe range where the new rider learns practical skills they need, such as machine control, braking and gear changing.

Once they can do that without having to think about it, it's on to the bikes to put their new-found skills into practice - and about the time that the average newbie gets bored with wombling around the training ground the instructor leads them out on to the open road for a practical lesson on how to use those skills in a real-world environment.

What do you need?

You need basic balancing skills (Ever ridden a bicycle? You're qualified), an acceptable form of ID, long trousers and closed shoes. The academy provides helmet, jacket and gloves, and will help you pass your learners' and motorcycle riding licence.

Additional courses are planned during 2014, including lightweight motorcycles/scooters up to 125cc (for which you need to be at least years old) and motorcycles larger than 125cc, for which you need to be 18; in either case you'll need to pas your learner's licence first.

For more information e-mail the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy or call on 0861 427 539.


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