Learn To Ride A Motorcycle: Why The Harley-Davidson Riding Academy Could Be Your Best Bet

Posted by Dan Novit

Jul 31, 2018 5:28:43 PM


A Harley Davidson Riding Academy coach demonstrating how the front brakes of a motorcycle operate.

Figuring out how to ride a motorcycle on your own is definitely possible. Figuring out how to ride it safely- well, that's a completely different story. For myself, I learned how to operate a motorcycle a few years back, and I did it how anybody else today might go about picking up a new hobby: Youtube.

I had no experience with a manual transmission; didn't know what a clutch was, let alone how to use it. In fact, I bought my first motorcycle before even considering how I was going to learn to ride it. I walked into a dealership out of sheer curiosity, fell in love with a pearl-white beauty, and had it delivered to my driveway within that same week. Did I jump the gun a little? Sure. But how hard could riding a motorcycle be?

Within the 24 hours prior to her delivery, I had consumed as much information from video tutorials as my brain could possibly contain. I practiced the clutch-shift-throttle motions over and over until it practically became muscle memory. I was so confident in myself and could hardly wait to get on my new baby for the first time.

I'll never forget the first time I started her up. My 10-year-old son and his friend, Justin (who grew up around Harley's and probably knew more than I did about motorcycles), were standing in the driveway when my brand-new cruiser emerged from the truck. Not eager to embarrass myself in front of the delivery guy, I waited until he pulled off before I swung my leg over the bike.

I sat there for a few minutes, excited in anticipation for the freedom and adventure that awaited me. I looked up toward the garage- about 40 feet ahead of me- and decided that reaching it would be our first journey together. But as I looked back down toward my hand controls, I realized that in all my perceived learning, I must have overlooked how to simply start the bike.

A man and his young son sitting on a white Yamaha Bolt motorcycle

Luckily, Justin- the 11-year-old from down the street- was there to offer some neighborly advice. "It's that button there," he pointed toward a switch near the right hand-grip. I pushed it and was instantly filled with adrenaline as I sat above the roaring engine. Confident in my Youtube education (and after overcoming that one minor obstacle) I pulled in the clutch lever and began to go through the motions just as I had rehearsed. Not but five seconds later, I found myself climbing out of the hedges beside the driveway.

Determined to get it right, I picked up the bike and kept working at it until I was able to ride with more proficiency. Eventually, my bike became a daily commuter to me- but it didn't happen without a few scares and a little bit of damage.

What I didn't realize until just recently is that most (if not all) of those scares could have just as easily been avoided if I had just taken a rider safety course- specifically, the Harley-Davidson® Riding Academy New Rider Course.

Okay, full disclosure, I am an employee here at Southside Harley-Davidson, but this is far from a promotional testimony. Although I started riding a few years back, I had never actually received my motorcycle endorsement (oops- I'm sure some of you may be able to relate), and being one of just a few employees at a Harley-Davidson dealership who can't legally operate a motorcycle is a somewhat isolating position to be in. So, I signed up for the Riding Academy, with the (cocky) expectation of flying through the course and graduating with honors (FYI, there's no such thing).

In the beginning, I started this journey in pursuit of my motorcycle endorsement, but what I got from the Riding Academy was far more valuable than just a stamp on my license.

Going in to the course, I was pretty confident in myself; having ridden for one entire summer, I was sure that I knew how to operate a motorcycle just as well as anyone else in our group. As we took turns introducing ourselves and detailing our riding experience and what each of us hoped to take away from the course, I was quite surprised by the diverse mix of new and experienced riders. I was actually a bit confused at first, wondering what someone who had ridden for 10 years could possibly acquire from a basic riding course.

As it turns out, we all had something to gain- but some of us didn't realize that yet. 

It wasn't until we began diving in to the classroom exercises that I realized how little I knew about motorcycle safety. Yes, I knew how to operate my bike, but riding (for those who'd like to live, anyway) is more than physical motions; it's a complete, unbroken awareness of the world that moves around you; it's anticipating how your environment may change in the blink of an eye, and mentally formulating how you'll respond to it; it's the responsibility of maintaining the mindset that you are always at a disadvantage and that one wrong move could have a rather unfavorable outcome.

If that makes you a bit nervous about riding, that's good- because that means you'll likely take motorcycle safety seriously. This is something that the coaches really tried to drive home in each of us. Not to scare us, but to open our eyes to the smallest factors that could impact us for the rest of our lives. What I found so captivating about the classroom portion of the Riding Academy is that our coaches didn't simply teach the lessons from the book like a robot; they preached it like it was the Gospel; they spoke passionately from decades of riding experience and genuinely believed every word they spoke to us. They made believers out of us.

By the time we hit the range and got on our bikes for the first time, each of us- including the more seasoned riders- had become better equipped and prepared for the challenges ahead. But some of us (yes, me) had a few bad habits left to break.

In 2015, I took a pretty nasty spill going into a left turn. In fact, I was riding home from work- probably for the hundredth time- along a very familiar route. I stopped completely, checked left and right at least twice, triple checked for oncoming traffic, and proceeded to turn on to my own neighborhood street. About half-way through the turn I caught a peripheral glimpse of a car coming toward me in the oncoming traffic lane. I turned my head toward the car, became fixated on it, and went down on my left side.

A group of Harley Davidson Riding Academy students.

Not long after, I sold my bike and tried to forget the whole thing. But I spent the next three years replaying that dump in my head, trying to figure out where the hell that car came from. Truth is, it doesn't really matter. I became fixated on that car and, on a motorcycle, your body takes your bike wherever your eyes are looking. That's a lesson that I wish I had learned long before the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy. In fact, if finally being able to understand the reason I went down that day was the only thing I learned from the course, it would have still been worth it.

Now, most of us were fortunate enough not to have a fall and embarrass ourselves out on the range, but we had our fair share of screw ups. You wouldn't think that- with only two days on the bikes- each of us could get any one-on-one time to address our shortcomings- but, even with 12 individual riders revving for attention, it felt as if we had our own personal coach. They were patient, understanding, compassionate and genuinely caring. They wanted us to succeed as badly as we did.

The whole atmosphere was invigorating; not only did our coaches cheer for our victories but, through their passionate energy, they inspired the entire group to celebrate as a team. I couldn't imagine a more supportive and motivating environment to learn how to ride.

By the time we took our skills test, there wasn't a single nervous tremble in my bones. In fact, I've never felt more comfortable taking a test (let alone a motorcycle skills test) than on that final day of the Riding Academy. Even in front of my peers and coaches, I couldn't have been more calm and collected. It was like being in the presence of family, knowing that literally everyone around you is rooting for you to succeed. Seriously, when was the last time you took a test at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the customers and staff cheered for you when you passed? Yeah- doesn't happen.

A group of Harley Davidson Riding Academy students posing for a photo after graduating the class.

There's an incredible satisfaction when you graduate from the Riding Academy and earn your motorcycle endorsement. It's so much more than just another letter added to your driver's license. It's symbolic of hard work, perseverance, and dedication to safety. It's something to be proud of, and something you can carry along with you wherever the road leads. 

From the bonds that we formed with our fellow riders, to the valuable lessons that we learned from our coaches, the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy was well worth the cost. Sure, you can learn to ride from Youtube or the 11-year-old down the street, but neither will prepare you for the real-world dangers of the open road like the H-D Riding Academy.

While the entire experience was incredibly humbling, I now have more confidence in my own skills, abilities, and awareness as a rider than I had ever (realistically) had in the past. In fact, I can now sit more peacefully behind the wheel of my car, with greater awareness for the environment around me. Heck, I truly believe that anyone who comes within 10 feet of a motorcycle- rider, passenger, 4-wheeled motorist, etc.- should go through this course, even if only to understand the unique perspective of a motorcycle rider.

I'm excited to put my new skills to the test and to be a safer motorist, overall. Although, before I take to the streets on two wheels, there's still one last obstacle I'll need to overcome: persuading my wife to welcome a Harley into our family.


You've put this off long enough.

Learn To Ride With Southside Harley

Already a Southside Harley Riding Academy Graduate? Now you can stay connected to the friends and fellow riders you met throughout your journey- join the Southside Harley Riding Academy Grads Facebook group and continue to learn, grow and ride together!

You learned as one; graduated as one; and now, you can RIDE as one!  




Topics: Rider Safety Training

8 Frequently Asked Questions About Your Infotainment System

Posted by Dan Novit

Jun 27, 2018 5:54:45 PM

There's nothing nearly as refreshing as cruising down a long stretch of country road on your Road Glide®- or any HarleyDavidson® touring bike- while blaring your favorite tunes and breathing in the scenic landscape. While the wind-splitting adrenaline and natural wonder alone can be enough to satisfyyour craving for freedom, Harley-Davidson leaves riders no room for hunger with the factory-standard Infotainment System on select touring models.

Harley Davidson InfotainmentIn typical H-D® fashion, the Boom!™ Box Infotainment System was designed to enhance the riding experience by bringing together modern bluetooth capabilities and a sophisticated navigation system into one convenient package. But with so much to offer, riders can sometimes be overwhelmed with the vast assortment of features and options.

When you purchase a Harley-Davidson touring bike, you’re making an exciting investment, and the last thing we- here at Southside Harley-Davidson- would want is for you to miss out on some of the Infotainment system’s most beneficial features hidden right under your nose. That’s why we’re going to take some time to address some of your most frequently asked questions about the system in the following how-to guide.

First, keep in mind that there are two Boom! Box Infotainment models available. You’ll notice that the 6.5 model comes equipped with navigation, which we will be discussing below. The 4.3 model isn’t equipped with navigation, but we’ll also be digging in to some of the coolest bluetooth features of the Infotainment System, which will apply to both models.

1. How do I enter an address into my navigation system?

We’ve received quite a few questions regarding this particular topic here at ISSHD. That’s because entering the address of your destination is a bit different on the Infotainment System. Many GPS systems are designed for users to key the desired address in the format of street number > street > city > state. But the Infotainment navigation system was designed for address entry in the reverse format, state > city > street > street number.

You may be wondering why the system was designed this way. Well, the Infotainment navigation system will auto-populate your state first, recognizing your current GPS location. This makes it easier for the system to auto-populate your most probable intended destination.

2. How do I find nearby points of interest?

If you’re on the road and you’re ready to fill up your tank
(or your stomach), Infotainment makes it easy for you to find nearby locations by choosing from more than 65 point of interest categories. You simply select
POI from the main navigation menu, and then select category. You can even select Spell Name to manually enter a POI category, such as “gas,” “food,” or “hotel.”

If your system is already navigating to a specific destination, you can search a POI around that area, or you can select Near Your Location from the POI menu to find what you’re looking for nearby or along your current route.

Another cool POI feature is the Dealerships category, which is easily accessible on the main navigation menu. This tool utilizes your current GPS location to populate a list of Harley-Davidson dealerships nearest to you with just one touch. Let’s see your Garmin do that.

The POI menu is full of handy little features to help you find and navigate to any place you’d like to go. Don’t be afraid to take some time to play around and get acquainted with the system.

3. Is there a cost to use the Infotainment navigation features?

No- there is absolutely no charge for using your Boom! Box navigation system. However, maps are updated annually and these updates are available for an additional charge. We recommend purchasing updates so your map data is up to date (there’s nothing worse than navigating to a nearby pub only to find out that they shut down a year prior). Talk to one of our Harley-Davidson Service Advisors for more information.                                          

4. How do I pair my Bluetooth compatible phone?

First, you’ll want to make sure that the Bluetooth option on your phone is turned on and that it is “discoverable.” Then, you’ll need to get to the Add New Device screen on your Infotainment system. You can get to this screen a few different ways, but the quickest will be to start from your home screen and select Com > Phone > List Paired Device > Add New Device.

At this point, the system will search for and populate a list of devices to connect with. Simply select the device you’d like to pair, and follow the prompts on the screen. Now, the system will likely ask you to confirm that both your phone and Infotainment system both display a matching PIN code.

Once you confirm this, you’ll be prompted to enter an emergency contact (you can opt out, if you wish), and- vaula!- you’re paired up and ready to go.

5. How do I stream music from my device through the Infotainment system?

Of course, you need some tunes to rock while you roll. Once you’ve paired your device, as described in the previous step, simply select Media from the home screen and select your device from the list. Now, just launch the app you wish to stream from your phone (Pandora, Spotify, etc.) and your music will stream through your Boom! Box audio system.

6. Why can’t I hear the music I’m streaming through my Infotainment system?

If you’ve followed each step properly, but you can’t hear your music through your Infotainment system, make sure the volume on your device is turned up to the loudest level. If not, music may not stream properly through your system.

7. Why can’t the person on the other end of my call hear me speaking to them?

In order to make and receive phone calls properly through your Infotainment system, you’ll need a compatible headset. Without one, you’ll be able to hear your contact through your Infotainment system, but they won’t be able to hear you. For the best quality and seamless compatibility, we recommend the Boom! Audio 20S Evo Bluetooth® Helmet Headset. Learn more about Bluetooth Headset Connectivity by watching the videos below, and don't forget to stop in or fill out the form below for more information regarding the best options for you!


Request Information About  Infotainment Compatible Headsets


8. Can my passenger also pair their Bluetooth device to the infotainment system?

Yes! Not only can you pair both the rider and passenger devices, but you can also designate each of the devices intended purpose through your Infotainment display. In other words, one device can be streaming music while the other can be used for phone calls.

Setting this up is as simple as pairing the second device (as described earlier). You can then assign the purpose for each of the devices on the List Paired Devices screen. On each of the paired devices, an icon will display whether that device is assigned to music or phone.

So, there you have it. If your specific question wasn’t addressed, we would love to hear from you and get you the answer you’re looking for!

Contact Us        

Topics: Navigation, Bluetooth, harley davidson, GPS, Audio & Communication

Freedom 101: Anatomy Of The 2018 Softail Family

Posted by Dan Novit

Jun 7, 2018 9:51:12 AM


Well folks, we’re pretty much sitting smack-dab in the middle of 2018 and, by now, hopefully you've had the chance to experience the reinvented Harley-Davidson's Softail® lineup. As you may have noticed, the most recent generation of Softails bring a wealth of visual and performance changes that simply can't be ignored. So it's only natural that you may have some questions regarding the recent changes, or perhaps you're wondering why the Dyna® family was left out of the 2018 new model year launch.



We'll take some time in this post to ease those concerns and address some of those lingering quandaries regarding the redesigned 2018 H-D® Softails.

Now some of you may be protestors of change, but if there’s one thing to know about Harley-Davidson®, it’s that change isn’t a process of throwing out the old, rather optimizing the classics to modernize- yet preserve and respect- their legendary roots.

With that being said, if you’ve taken a gander at the 2018 lineup, you may be under the impression that the infamous H-D Dyna family simply didn’t make the cut this year- but the truth is quite the contrary. When you step back and take a look at the new Softails, you’ll realize that the flesh and bones of the beloved Dyna are still very much alive within the Softail family.

What Happened To Dyna?

Die-Hard Dyna lovers can find solace in the completely reimagined Street Bob®, Fat Bob®, and Low rider®, with everything you love about these fan-favorites, sitting even prettier within a brand-spankin’ new body, optimized for style and performance. 


                       2015 Dyna Fat Bob                                                     2018 Fat Bob


You’ll notice that these classics share the same, improved frame design as other members of the Softail family; the Fat Boy®, HeritageBreakout®, Deluxe, and Softail Slim® are now the brothers and sisters of the former Dyna kids- without the sibling rivalry. But let’s not forget the mid-model birth of the newest addition to the Softail family: the Sport Glide®, which comes equipped with detachable, locking saddlebags and a mini-fairing.                       








                          2018 Sport Glide

But enough about change- let’s talk about what this new Softail lineup has in common.

What's New About The 2018 Softail?

We’re talking a re-engineered frame, improved suspension, and newer light-weight components that shave more than 30 pounds of meat off the bones. In essence, each new Softail- including the redeveloped Dynas- have been revamped for better
handling, lighter weight, and improved rider/passenger comfort.                                                                                                                                Redesigned Softail Frame

                                             How The Milwaukee-Eight® Completes The Package                                                                                                        

In 2017, Harley-Davidson redefined riders’ freedom experience with the introduction of the all-new Milwaukee-Eight® engine, the 9th- and most breathtaking- addition to the H-D V-Twin family. While the Milwaukee-Eight’s debut entrance was exclusive to the touring line, many Harley-lovers quickly realized that it’s massive power couldn’t possibly be restricted to a single Harley® family.

So it came with little surprise (though much excitement) when the reintroduction of the new-and-improved Softail family revealed it’s most prominent feature, nestled comfortably within it’s newly designed frame: the roaring presence and unmatched glory of the Milwaukee-Eight 107 & 114 engines.

If you’ve already taken a new Softail for a spin, the experience speaks confidently for itself, especially when paired with the immense torque of the M-8. But, for those who haven’t swung-a-leg over one of these for a test-ride yet, we’ll do our very best to describe the Milwaukee-Eight experience with words. 

milwaukee8-107                                                                     Milwaukee-Eight 107

She’s got power - The M-8 comes equipped with 4-valve heads, a higher compression ratio, and even larger displacement. That’s more torque behind your throttle-roll, and the adrenalin to match.

She’ll give you good vibes -  With a dual internally counter-balanced system, 75% of your primary vibrations are cancelled out while at idle, and both rider and passenger will experience a more refined feel and increased comfort. This comes with no sacrifice to the iconic- and satisfyingly intimidating- V-Twin design.

She’s still loud- and even more proud - While the Milwaukee-Eight makes no apology for it’s thunderous roar, the less-desirable mechanical thuds and powertrain noise have been eliminated, thanks to lighter valves, optimized cover designs and driveline improvements. It meets global noise and emissions standards, yet retains it’s classic and boisterously authentic Harley tone.

She’ll keep you cool - With the rider in mind, Harley has improved thermal comfort by reducing heat absorption, increasing heat rejection and redesigning the exhaust system, which directs hot airflow away from the passenger.


The Harley-Davidson Milwaukee-Eight engine not only pays homage to it’s ancestors through a well-preserved historical design, but implies a modern, mechanical dominance through innovations in comfort and efficiency. Harley-Davidson continues to hold a dominant position in the motorcycle community, and the M-8’s presence in the market certainly makes a bold statement.

So who knows what changes we’ll see this coming August with the release of the 2019 models? The most important thing to remember- for the moment, anyway- is that everything you've ever loved about the Softails continue to live and breathe, reincarnated as a powerful new breed amidst the rumbling H-D family. But don’t take our word for it- there’s no reason you should wait to experience the full-potential of a new Harley-Davidson Softail and it’s most sophisticated V-Twin yet. The only way to feel the difference is to head on over to ISSHD for a test ride. Freedom awaits.

Schedule a   Test Ride Today 

Topics: Dyna, Softail, Test Riding, New Bike, Service & Maintenance