Rider Safety

Q: Well Hello! I have always wanted to learn motorcycle riding. Not just on the back NOW! Can you help me find a school,somebody,please. I am also looking for the perfect bike for a 5’2″ gal. I have a bucket list and this is at the top.
Thank You

A: Hi Brenda, Thank you for your email. Most Harley dealers have rider safety courses now and you can also look up classes near you on:
And some great DVDs on riding at:
As far as the right motorcycle – to start, head to a dealer and sit on a few and see what feels right.
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9 Responses to “Rider Safety”
  1. Donald

    A couples observations from 2.5 years and 50k miles of riding. I learned to ride in a good Harley dealer class…on a very small, lightweight small displacement motorcycle. Brenda, do yourself a favor and realize that there is a gap in the education process and that is…sure, you learned to ride a 400lb little bike…now how about that 800lb 1693cc big twin? You don’t have to settle for a sportster or street…I am only a 5’10” fellow and I ride a 2012 Heritage softail for my first bike….the class didn’t really prepare me for it but I overcame it, you can too. What is the purpose? Do you cityhop with a country day run or plan on a few week long tours? Take time to get the right bike! Many now come in a Low setting and seats, suspensions, and handlebars can all be changed to suit you…one of the ladies in our Harley Group had custom soles with higher heels put on her boots to plant her feet firmly on the ground, and she’s been riding all her life. She and other ladies in the group tour on Softail Deluxes, several of which are lowered 1″…the point being a good all-around first bike can be loaded up for a tour or stripped down for local quickees…don’t rush.

  2. Howard

    as a Rider Coach myself, ALWAYS take a MSF course… Now for the proper bike for you that is a matter of 2 things, what your looking for in riding and size…

    My sister-in-law is 5.4 so pretty close, we got her a Softail deluxe, with a Corbin LOW seat , then I took her boots and had them put another 1/2 sole on the bottom. She on occasion drops it, (sitting still) but she is learning to see how the ground is and put herself in the correct place.

    One of the things I taught her was how to start off on one foot on the ground, so she can manage an uneven surface if needed, including starting out in a bad gear… so, as a suggestion depending on where you live, work on slow speed stuff, a lot, you will need it, practice whar you learn in MSF course, and ride with someone with a lot of experience that is willing to mentor you…

    Debbie now in 2 years has 5k miles , 3 1200 mile trips and I am putting her thru the advanced riders course, she is ready.

  3. Bill Siersma
    Bill Siersma

    Congratulations on wanting to learn to ride your own bike. When my wife and I decided to start riding again after a 25 year lapse we both took the Riders course offered by the State of Utah. The State provided 250 cc bikes and the course lasted 2 days. We rode a few hours each day in the high school parking lot and had classroom activities in the evening. The final test satisfied the States testing requirements so at the end we just had to go to the DMV to get the motorcycle endorsement added to our licenses. I would also recommend the “Ride Like a Pro” videos.
    The type of bike you need depends on the type of riding you will do. Some dealers will let you rent a bike for a day and allow you to ride one model for a couple hours then swap it out for another model so you could get the feel of the different styles. Once you buy a bike, find an empty parking lot and practice. Most riders find the slow speed maneuvers the hardest but with practice they become second nature.
    My wife and I both ride Harley Ultra Classics and enjoy long road trips as well as short rides near home. This summer we are planning another trip to British Columbia.
    Remember, you are so much more than a backrest!
    Good Luck,

  4. Andrew

    Hi Brenda. Congrats on wanting to make the jump from the rear seat to the controls. You may find that some of your local community colleges also offer a learn to ride program. Check online, usually under recreations programs. As for a bike. Talk to some of the long time riders you know. I bet 90% at least of them started out on smaller bikes, and worked their way up to what they are riding today. The courses use smaller bikes for a reason. As a new rider, starting off on a heavier bike has its downfalls. Sometimes literally. My wife is 5’2″. We went to all the area bike shops and she sat on many different machines. The most important thing for a petit rider is to get a bike that fits. For example. My wife decided on a Honda Shadow VLX 600. It fit her stature very well. The bike was light by comparison to a Harley (which she aspired for). The Honda had plenty of power to keep up with our riding partners, yet had quite friendly manners to accomodate her learning curve. She did a year on that bike until one of our chapter members bought a new bike. Now she felt she had enough expreience to move up to a Heritage Soft Tail. She made the transiting very smoothly.Starting off on something smaller, lighter allowed her to learn more and gain the confidence needed to move forward. Re-read Howard’s reply. Sister in law occasionally drops it while standing still. Really? It takes time to learn not only riding techniques, but to learn the physices of balancing and simply manouvering a machine in the parking lot or driveway. I have a friend who started riding a few years back. He’s 6’1″, muscular, truck driver. He insisted on a H-D Road King. He spent a few thousand dollars repairing cosmetic damage his 1st season of riding because he didn’t get the physics part. His most common thing was looking cool with his feet up on highway pegs pulling into a parking lot a low speed and touching the front brake. Down goes Wayne again on a low side. Especially where sand was pesent. The wrong, or too big of a bike will shake your confidence, hurt your wallet, and maybe you. Make your experience a good one start off on something smaller for @ least a season and build your riding experience before up. Remeber, Professional athletes dont just decide to play in the major leagues. They spend a great deal of time honing their skills in the minor leagues and work thier way up.

  5. Scott

    Hi Brenda good luck on finding a good riding course. I went to a State sponsored course it was much cheaper than the course Harley has and I think just as good. If a sportster is what you want you won’t be settling as on person commented. I owned a big v twin and now I own a sportster and couldn’t be happier. It’s plenty fast enough, stops faster and is much more nimble in traffic. Just take your time test ride and be safe. Good luck.

  6. Morgan Spector
    Morgan Spector

    Just to add a note: Taking a motorcycle safety course is essential to learning to ride, and more than advisable for veteran riders as a refresher. Your state’s highway patrol is a good place to start. As for the bike, there are two issues: (1) do your feet plant firmly on the ground, and (2) your ability to handle and control the bike. I had an Ultra Classic but with a hip replacement, a torn shoulder and nerve damage in my right elbow it was just too much. Now I’m back on my old 883 Sportster; I lowered it 2 1/2″ and now sit IN the bike, not ON the bike. I want to move up, and will either go the tohe new 1200 or a Softail model. Don’t worry about what others say about your choice, just look at them all, test drive a few, and choose the one you are most comfortable with.

  7. Edward

    I would like to throw my .02 cents in here. Harley Davidson has some great motorcycles in all different sizes. I am a MSF RiderCoach and I hear a lot of the students ask other students what is the best bike to start out on. I am really surprised at what I hear. The majority of the time i hear that they should get a Sportster. I highly disagree with this.
    I have ridden several Sportsters, the newest being a 2007 Anniversary 1200. From what I have experienced, the Sportsters seem top heavy, jerky, uncomfortable, and difficult to maneuver in close tight turns. This is just my opinion. I have a 2007 HD Dyna Wide Glide and a 2011 HD Super Glide and both FAR exceed the Sportster in every way in the ease of making close tight turns, maneuverability and comfort in general. Small isn’t always better. Again, this is just my opinion.
    What ever you choose, I highly recommend that you are able to place your feet on the ground flat-footed when not moving. In general, Harley’s are not light bikes. When you go to stop and you find that your feet are in a low place on the pavement, and you can’t place your feet on the ground when you stop… you are going down. It really doesn’t make any difference how tall your are (as long as you can reach the controls) while you are moving. You have to be able to hold yourself and the bike upright when you stop.
    What ever you choose, make sure that you feel comfortable on it. After you do find one, make sure that you practice with the bike, get to know it and learn what it will do. Out on the expressway is no place to learn what the bike will do in a maximum (emergency) braking situation.

  8. Joe Giesinger
    Joe Giesinger

    Good advice. When anyone asks me that question, I like to point them in that direction as well. There are many new bikes that Harley has come out designed for the vertically challenged and new riders. The new “Street” series offers a bit lower and lighter bike for those just getting into the sport. Light weight, easy to handle, and not too hard on the pocket book. You can always upgrade to a larger bike once you get more comfortable sharing the road with the cages and your handling skills have improved. Many new riders that choose too large or powerful bike to learn on loose their confidence and interest in riding. You are headed in the right direction by choosing a rider education course first. They usually provide (at least where I am) a smaller bike for those first few miles. They take you through maneuvering exercises etc. I guess you don’t need me to sell you on that. We all had to learn at one time, have patience. You will love it!

  9. Greg Scott
    Greg Scott

    Many Harley Davidson dealerships have a course available. It used to be called Rider’s Edge but it now has a different name. Gruene Harley Davidson in New Braunfels, TX has this and the motorcycle they are using is a 500cc v-twin