Originally Posted by space
I've got a friend at work who's been bitten by the motorcycle bug. He's a new rider, so I advised him to take the California beginner's riding course, get a cheap bike of no more than 600 cc to start, get good gear and wear it, etc. Take it slow.
So I get an e-mail today. He's been to the HD dealer, and they've mostly sold him on taking their own BRC. It's apparently done on 500 cc bikes with this dealer, which strikes me as pretty dumb. When I took the BRC many (many) moons ago, a woman managed to hurt herself by bad clutch control on a 125 cc Rebel. Also, it sounds like they're trying to sell him an XR1200C. I'm not exactly impressed.
But before I shoot my mouth off -- how is the Harley BRC? Anyone take it?
Ok... I teach the Riders Edge course at my dealership. It is the full MSF course with a couple of HD add-on class units. The textbook is the MSF Basic Ridercourse handbook, verbatim. The riding portion is identical in all respects. Riders Edge instructors must be MSF Certified instructors before attending the Harley Riders Edge instructor course. The nice thing about Riders Edge, is that the riding segment is a bit more relaxed that many state courses, and we have a lot of fun on the range. The other thing you will find in a lot of locations is that the HD program is run a lot more frequently than state courses. Our shops run courses on most weekends throughout the year. The Riders Edge version of the course is generally run over a 5 day period: 2 evening classes (usually Thursday and Friday evenings) , 2 range days ( usually weekends) and a Monday night test and graduation. Some dealerships do a compressed three day version as we do: All day class on a Tuesday, then ride Wednesday and Thursday. Most state run classes run 3 days.
At present the Buell Blast is the bike used at most dealerships. Obviously, Buell got chopped from the Harley family, so there are no new Buell's available, and parts will become problematic over time. We instructors are still waiting for information from HD about a replacement bike that there are rumors of, but not confirmed or seen in the wild.
The Blast is actually a good machine for instruction. It is very tough when dropped and can survive some really hard crashes, usually from improper braking. About the only thing that gets damaged is the turn signal stalks, and shifter levers that get bent. The machine is 492 CC, just under the 500 cc limit from MSF, and is not too much, or too little for newbies. One really good thing about learning on the Blast is that some students who absolutely have to have a 500-600 cc sport bike will have a lot better feel for a high-torque machine from the start, than if they go from a 125cc bike to the crotch rocket. For those students, I also give them an article about why sport bikes are not beginner bikes.
About the only gripe I have about the Buell design is that they did not put engine guard hoops on the bike , which would save a lot of broken shifters, bent foot pegs and rear brake levers, and not forget having feet trapped when the bike falls over.
Bad clutch control or braking can cause a bad crash and injuries on any size bike, so the Blast is no more a problem for newbies than a lesser machine. It is actually a lot more forgiving of early clutch control problems and stalling than a lot of 125CC bikes, as its torque and heavy flywheel will pull the bike along nicely being lugged. Second gear starts are mostly not a big issue.
As far as HD trying to sell him a bike, that is probably something more like your friend thinking that is what he needs as a beginner and the salesman talking to him about it. One of the additional segments in Riders Edge is a dealership walk-through where someone in the sales department gives an overview of the motorcycles in the HD line. Obviously a dealership wants to sell bikes, but given the time constraint on the class, it is not a hard sell at all. While I would not suggest the XR as a beginner bike, it is about the only HD other than the Street Rod that I would ever consider owning because it has about the best suspension of any Harley, and can actually lean way over without scraping stuff. Its real problem is that fuel tank is tiny, so expect a lot of fuel stops.
You might also be surprised to know that in our program, most students, probably 80-90 percent, are not interested in HD stuff at all and honestly inquire about good starter bikes. Pretty much universally all the instructors I know will tell newbies that they need to start with a cheap used bike in the 125-250cc range, and that it is their FIRST bike, not their last. The other thing we point out is that all that nice chrome on the HD iron is VERY expensive to fix when, not if, you drop it. For those who absolutely have to have a new HD, I strongly suggest they purchase the engine guards for the particular bike.
One of the other things you might discover is that a lot of the Riders Edge instructors do not ride Harleys. Our shop has 12 active instructors, and only one rides a Harley. Needless to say, that makes for some interesting discussions with students on our range during breaks.
Don't worry about your friend and the Riders Edge program. He will learn stuff that will absolutely save his life, and have a lot of fun doing it. If he wants that Sportster and absolutely will not change his mind, tell him to purchase the engine guards.
BTW: All instructors with Riders Edge and MSF get periodic quality control audits to be sure they are staying with the course material.