99 reasons why vets should invest in Harley-Davidson’s ‘Learn to Ride’ program

hd4 99 reasons why vets should invest in Harley Davidsons Learn to Ride program

Seen here in improper riding gear, Eric poses with his 2011 Harley-Davidson Fatboy Lo.

By Eric Dehm

I’m going to tell you a story.

A story about how a program from Harley-Davidson may very well save your life for less than $100. A program that could have saved me a lot of money a few years back.

At around the midway point during my deployment to Regional Command North, I decided I wanted to get some sort of “welcome home” gift. I had spent the better part of a year spending very little money, making me a single guy with disposable income.

But what to buy? It had to be something special, something that I’d be able to use and/or appreciate for years to come.

After a bit of thought, and a few seasons of Sons Of Anarchy purchased at the Mazar-i-Sharif base bazaar, I decided I wanted a motorcycle. And if you’re getting a motorcycle, you want the best.

And so, I decided to begin the process of purchasing a brand new 2011 Fatboy Lo.

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If Eric’s son ever takes up motorcycle riding, you’d better believe he’l be gong through a safety course like the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy. (Photo courtesy Eric Dehm)

Now, before I bought that beautiful bike, I’d ridden motorcycles before, but (and let’s keep this between us, please) I wasn’t licensed to. I’m not the law-breaking type typically. Sure, I go a little bit over the speed limit occasionally, but when I do, it’s in a fully insured vehicle that I’m licensed to drive.

Since I didn’t own a bike until 2011, I never felt the need to get the motorcycle endorsement on my Connecticut license. But now that I’d be riding a 1584cc beast in an area that includes the busiest parts of I-95, you’d better believe I was going to get everything on the straight-and-narrow.

And I had to do it quickly.

My particular set of circumstances (a long story about the ridiculous military bureaucracy that I’ll save for another day) had me departing Afghanistan to end my time in service with a brief stop in Guam, where I had been stationed prior to my OEF deployment before ending up in my home state of Connecticut.

Problem was, my POV was being shipped from Guam, by the military, which meant I wouldn’t have a vehicle after I returned home for a few months… except for my new Harley that was waiting for me at the Harley-Davidson dealership in Danbury.

Connecticut is an odd place. There’s no helmet law so you are free to test out how your head does when slammed into asphalt at 65 mph (Hint: buy and wear a good helmet, always) but there is a requirement that you take a motorcycle safety course. And so I looked into it.

The course was held at numerous locations around the state, and the cost was $220. Non-refundable. Not cheap, by any means, but worth it if you NEED your endorsement immediately, so I went to the part of the website where you sign up.

Things were moving smoothly right up until I searched for the first available class. This was June of 2011 and the next available class anywhere near where I lived was in September. Not good. I needed to be on that bike and I really didn’t want to do it in any less than the 100% right way.

I know, I know. I’m not a rebel. Never claimed to be one. I do claim to like being alive and I believed that the course could help keep me in that status. So I looked for more options.

I found one. It was a private class, and if the group class was not cheap, the private one was realllllyyyy not cheap. Luckily, I still had some of that disposable income (Thanks, OEF!) and used it to do what I had to do.

And let me tell you, I might not be alive, or in one piece today if it weren’t for that course.

I learned things that I hadn’t picked up, or even thought about, when riding previously. The different ways to stop and the different reasons to use them. Navigating a tight course. What to do if a dog starts chasing you or, more pressingly, starts coming at you… head-on. We went over all of that and more over the three day, all-day course.

And in the six years since, I’ve used every single thing I learned in the class.

How to lay down on your bike when a crash seems all but unavoidable? Yup. On Strawberry Hill Avenue in Stamford, Ct.

How to take that extra tight turn without laying the bike down? Yup. That one too, more times than I can count.

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The course does not teach the “over the shoulder” modelling pose. That was a different course. (Photo courtesy Eric Dehm)

The dog thing? Good lord man, why is it that every dog in the world seems to have a radar that perks up when I’m closing in on the Fatboy?

I spent a LOT of money on that class, but it was worth every penny. It is seriously some of the best money I’ve ever spent because, and again I am not exaggerating, I would have been severely injured at a minimum had I not taken it.

Whether your state requires it or not, I highly recommend you take a motorcycle safety course. It will greatly improve your chances for survival on the roads where the conditions, the oblivious drivers and those damned dogs are all a danger to you. And if you’re worried about the cost… Well, I’ve got good news for all veterans, military, mil/vet spouses and first responders: You don’t need to.

Harley-Davidson offers the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy to all people who fit those criteria for just $99 under their “American Heroes Learn To Ride” program.

Whether you’ve never sat in the saddle of an iron horse or you’ve been doing it since bluetooth was a medical condition, this class will benefit you. And it might save your life.

Be smart and click here.

Connect: @EricDehm | Eric@ConnectingVets.com

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