By Susan Shinn
T he afternoon is sunny but windy ó so windy in fact, that the motorcyclists circling the parking lot have to be even more careful.
They sit ramrod straight as instructor Thomas Frizzell shouts out instructions in order to be heard.
They go through their paces perfectly.
Welcome to Rider’s Edge, a four-day motorcycle safety course offered by Tilley Harley-Davidson.
The course uses curriculum from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. It’s available in all 50 states and even some foreign countries, according to Skip Horne, the program’s manager at Tilley.
“Harley is in the motorcycle business,” Horne says simply. “Motorcycle riders are our customers. We want our customers to learn safety techniques and to have as much fun as possible.
“Usually, you gain a loyal customer.”
Horne notes that the class is drawing a number of women.
“More and more women are wanting to do this themselves,” he says. “It shows their independence and it shows a desire to get out on their own. I see more and more women riding, and I think that’s wonderful.”
One of those women is Cheryl Reinhart, 40, of Lexington.
“I’ve been on the back of one all my life,” she says. “It’s time for me to ride. My husband bought me a Harley for Christmas. It’s sitting at home with 24 miles on it. I’m dying to ride it.”
Horne points out that the 25-hour class is for beginners, “those who don’t know the first thing about motorcycles.”
Students complete 17 different training exercises on the bikes. They’ll have a final skills test the last day of class, along with a written test.
They start out with getting on and off the bike, learning stopping, starting, shifting, speed, turning and the like, moving on to basic maneuvers such as cornering and stopping quickly. From there, they move on to defensive driving skills.
They couldn’t have a nicer plan to learn.
The 55,000-square-foot Harley-Davidson dealership opened in December 2006. Its general manager is Tracy Edwards. The Salisbury chapter of the Harley Owners Group (HOG) meets here. In the back of the dealership is the practice course, with painted lines to denote different courses, exercises, obstacles, etc.
Before the class begins, students get a tour of the dealership.
Jeremiah Kanter introduces students to the five “families” of Harley-Davidson motorcycles: Sportster, Dyna, Soft Tail, Touring and V-Rod.
In the general merchandise department, Kristi Stewart helps students learn about the correct clothing to wear when riding: a helmet, the most important accessory; a leather jacket, a good riding boot, gloves, long pants.
From there, it’s on to the parts department.
“Everything you see is for a Harley,” says Frankie Bailey, as he takes the students by row after row of orange shelves.
Bailey has a tendency to call women “Hon,” but he’s so friendly and entertaining that it’s hard to take offense ó and I do believe you could eat off the floor. There can’t be a cleaner parts department anywhere.
During class, students receive a 10 percent discount on anything they purchase in the store.
Horne has been riding motorcycles since 1970.
When asked what he likes most about it, he smiles.
“It’s the freedom, and you hear that all the time, and that’s cliché, but that’s what it is. You’re part of the motorcycle and you’re engineered into that motorcycle. You’re an active part of it. It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s freedom.”
Students learn on Buell motorcycles, a brand now owned by Harley-Davidson.
The 386-pound, 496-cc machines are designed for beginners, Horne says. “They’re steady, just a good motorcycle and very forgiving.”
The motorcycles are repaired after each class.
“My last two classes, I didn’t have a bike dropped,” Horne says. “I was so happy.”
This is the time of year that motorcyclists tend to start thinking about riding again.
Ushering in the season is Bike Week at Daytona Beach, Fla., on March 1.
“Everybody in the motorcycle world gets cabin fever and they’re looking forward to getting back out on the motorcycles,” Horne says.
Right now, classes are small, Horne says. But they’ll pick up.
The last class had only two students, Reinhart and Michael Brady of Winston-Salem. Class size is six students per instructor, with a maximum of 12 students with two instructors.
Cost is $295, with a $100 discount if you purchase a motorcyle there.
By the end of the course, Reinhart and Brady have gained a great deal of confidence on the motorcycles.
“It’s great,” Reinhart says, as the wind blows hard. “I love it. I learned quite a bit.”
She and her husband David plan to take the skilled rider’s course together.
Brady says he liked the personal attention. It’s been a refresher course for him, as he hasn’t ridden in 35 years. But he’s turning 60 soon and plans to buy a motorcycle by the summer.
It’ll be a Harley.
Jessie Matlock wants to do a lot of riding this summer with his dad and friends.
Matlock, 16, of China Grove says the class was a good way to help him get his motorcycle license.
“I loved it,” he says. “It was a great way to learn how to ride a bike.”
Malock rides, he says, for the joy of it. “You just want to ride.”
He says the class taught him to be on the lookout for other drivers and to be aware of what’s going on around him.
He’ll be out with his dad and friends this summer, he says. “It’s just a lot of fun getting a bunch of people together.”
Susan Cline-Stubbs of China Grove will also be on the road this summer on her motorcycle.
“I was scared to death,” she says of taking the class, “but it was really fun.
“Skip was very, very patient. I was like, the dummy of the class, because I knew nothing.”
Don’t let Cline-Stubbs fool you ó she had the second-highest score behind Matlock, who had a perfect score.
“Whenever I ride,” Cline-Stubb says, “I know that everything Skip said was absolutely right. It was just a really good experience to put yourself out there. I would recommend it to anybody.”
You don’t have to own a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to take the class at Tilley, Horne says. Motorcycle safety classes are also available at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, where Horne is also an instructor. Riders who complete either of these courses have the DMV motorcycle driving test waived.
The next Rider’s Edge class will take place March 6-9 at Tilley Harley-Davidson.
For more information or to register, call Skip Horne at 704-638-6044 or go online to tilleyhd.com.
Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or email@example.com.
By Susan Shinn