A Sioux Falls class wants to take learning to ride off your bucket list and into your rearview mirror.
My mom always said that motorcycles are dangerous. Though she’d spent a minute or two on the back of one herself, I was told to stay away from them (and to stay away from the boys who rode them).
But a class held in Sioux Falls is working to change the ways in which people feel intimidated by motorcycles, and provide the tools to ride safely, confidently, and in style.
The Harley-Davidson Riding Academy New Rider Course provides 25 hours of classroom and range experience through J&L Harley-Davidson, and offers both the written and riding tests needed for a motorcycle endorsement. Co-owner Jimmy Entenman says they’ve worked closely with the South Dakota Safety Council to maintain compliance with state standards – and the program has been accepted with open arms.
“Our goal here has always been to just train as many people as we can. It’s the right thing to do – to get people to learn how to ride, to ride with an endorsement, to learn the safe skills,” said Entenman. “Even if you’re an experienced rider, it’s a good thing to take.”
Classes are small – just three to six students in each – and provide individualized attention. Seasoned instructors include J&L veterans and former police officers, and Entenman hopes to train three more to expand the number of classes available.
“The Harley-Davidson Academy New Rider Course is designed to get you comfortable on the motorcycle and give you the skills you need to ride with confidence.”
But what makes the program particularly fun is what he calls “the complete Harley-Davidson experience.”
In addition to learning about the rules of the road or the best safety gear, students learn the history of Harley-Davidson and are able to take tours of J&L to see some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the dealership.
“What’s nice about the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy is that it’s all Harley-Davidson. The curriculum that you learn is the same as what the state program is, but you get an awesome Harley-Davidson flair to it,” said Entenman.
And you don’t need your own bike. Students learn on Harley-Davidson’s Street 500cc model, and can choose from various seat heights and customizable tools to make it fit comfortably for each rider.
“Motorcycling is just something that can help you enjoy all the things that you like to do with being outside – being with friends, having a good time, a little bit
Entenman says those customizations are just one thing that can make the process feel a lot more approachable. If you’re interested in hitting the open road on one of their motorcycles, but have any reservations about the process or the purchase, he suggests taking the class to learn more.
“If somebody is nervous about riding, what I always say is take the class first,” said Entenman. “Take the class first, see if you like it, and find out if it’s for you.”
Time and again, South Dakotans have found the Harley-Davidson experience is for them. Out of 700 Harley dealerships, J&L is one of just 200 to offer this course, usually to 100-120 students each season. And South Dakota consistently boasts one of the highest motorcycle ownership rates per capita in the country, for reasons Entenman believes are beyond the famed Sturgis Rally.
“South Dakota has always been a huge motorcycle state – and I think it’s because our state is so diverse,” he said. “From the Hills to the plains, there’s a lot of good riding here, and it doesn’t matter what part of the state you live in. So that’s something we can really enjoy.”
“What’s really cool about people learning to ride motorcycles is [that] there’s a lot of people that do it, who never thought that they could do it. A large majority of them think they would never ride.”
Once the course is finished, J&L hosts a celebration for the new graduates before they set off for a lifetime of two-wheeled adventures. Entenman says it’s an occasion that deserves to be marked.
“Because it’s a pretty big deal when you get your motorcycle endorsement, it’s something people think about doing for years,” he said. “And we love to see dreams come true.”
Classes typically run from April through September and cost $224. Join one through their website, jl-harley.com.
SOME HARLEY HISTORY
The first Harley-Davidson factory was a 10 x 15-foot wooden shed in Milwaukee, Wis.
The U.S. Army used 20,000 motorcycles in World War I, most of which were Harley-Davidsons.
Within 20 years of its founding, Harley-Davidson became the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.
The “hog” association originated in the 1920s when a popular motorcycle team, which raced on the company’s motorcycles, began carrying their piglet mascot around the track for a victory lap following races.
The Jack Pine Gypsy Motorcycle Club held the first Black Hills Rally in Sturgis in 1938. The Sturgis Rally would grow to host more than 460,000 visitors by 2016.
So what does South Dakota’s DMV need before they hand over your motorcycle license? Don’t wait in line without these:
- A completed license application form.
- Your South Dakota license or ID card.
- Two documents proving your address.
- Testing: a knowledge test and a driving test — this is where the New Rider Course endorsement comes in.
For more information or to schedule an appointment visit dps.sd.gov.