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Dealership event draws potential new riders

By Kate Swanson

H-D dealer offers bike boot camp at hotel

When Battley Harley-Davidson was approached by a local Best Western to host an event at the hotel, it was an opportunity to not only promote motorcycle riding, but also reach a wider audience of young enthusiasts.

John Hardison, Battley H-D’s marketing manager, said the event was a great way to kill two birds with one stone. “Best Western approached us and said that they would like to have an event at their hotel where guests and people on their mailing list could see what it’s like to own a motorcycle,” he said. “We could advertise it from the dealer standpoint, and then Best Western would also advertise it to their customers and the local neighborhood to come learn about motorcycles.”

The dealership’s motorcycle boot camp took place at the Best Western of Rockville, Md., in October. “These boot camps are trying to reach out to young adults that are interested in riding,” said Hardison. “It’s really designed for people that don’t have a license, or know anything about riding, but who have an interest in riding.”

The boot camp event exists as a way for potential riders to ask questions and gain first-time experience. He said some of the popular topics cover finding the right fit of bike for each rider, how much each bike costs, how that can fit into a young adult’s budget and obtaining a motorcycle license.

In the past, the dealership has hosted previous ride day events at its own Gaithersburg, Md., location, but never in a hotel parking lot.

Members of Battley Harley-Davidson’s local HOG chapter show a potential rider how to shift gears on the Jumpstart simulator.

Members of Battley Harley-Davidson’s local HOG chapter show a potential rider how to shift gears on the Jumpstart simulator.

“We’ve had ride days at the dealership for the past two years. We had a motorcycle boot camp where we invited the local instructors from Montgomery College to come and talk to people. We’ve also had demo rides for people who do have a license and bikes to sit on [for those who don’t.]” Hardison said Montgomery College, a community college in Rockville, teaches a DMV-sanctioned and approved course to get a motorcycle license.

The showstopper of the Best Western boot camp event was the Jumpstart simulator, which gave users a chance to take a ride on a real motorcycle without actually moving. The Jumpstart simulator is a large metal device that locks in a motorcycle, giving newbies an opportunity to go through turning the bike, switching gears and, since the back tire spins on a metal roller, reach up to 55 miles per hour. Hardison said this machine allows riders to get a sense of what it’s like to truly ride a bike, minus the ability to lean.

John Hardison, marketing manager for Battley Harley-Davidson, beside the Jumpstart simulator. The event gave 50 people the opportunity to test out how it felt to ride a real motorcycle.

John Hardison, marketing manager for Battley Harley-Davidson, beside the Jumpstart simulator. The event gave 50 people the opportunity to test out how it felt to ride a real motorcycle.

“A lot of the riders are squeamish about riding a motorcycle. They’re not too sure what it’s like, so getting them on the Jumpstart really helps them; it gets rid of a lot of that tension and that stress of what it’s like to ride,” said Hardison. “You don’t get the feeling of what it’s like to lean the motorcycle through a turn, which of course, is one of the most exhilarating things about riding a motorcycle. You don’t get that experience, but it gives you a taste.”

Hardison said that the turnout was really good and consistent through out the six-hour event. “We had a constant turnover — people were coming and going all day. We probably put 50 people through the Jumpstart simulator, and we had around 200-250 people that came to ask questions or just enjoy what was happening,” he said.

Besides the Jumpstart, Battley set up shop in the Best Western parking lot with a tent, units on display and a cone course. The dealership also invited some members of the local HOG chapter to come, and the group’s best riders did a skills demonstration on the course.

Also, Montgomery College advertised its five-day certification program. Those who sign up for the class have two sessions in a classroom setting, followed by three days of riding experience, ending with a skills test on Sunday afternoon. In less than a week, these potential riders can be certified to receive their motorcycle license.

“A lot of people think they have to go through a company to get taught how to ride. … It’s so easy to go to a community college, take this class and be able to get your license with the snap of a finger,” he said. “It’s usually cheaper than going to a private place, and the instruction is a well-thought-out course that is uniform across the state. They know exactly what to teach and how to teach you to build up your skills throughout the weekend.”

The most common feedback that Hardison hears is that, while they’ve always wanted a motorcycle, people hesitate because of the price associated with owning a motorcycle.

“We enjoy hearing that because Harley-Davidson has launched a lot of initiatives in the last few years to provide more economical motorcycles for first-time riders. They have two motorcycles that are priced less than $8,000, which is competitive with the foreign market.” The Street 500 and the Street 750 are both priced to make them more accessible for younger generations and first-time buyers.

Hardison says if the Best Western is interested, the dealership would team up again for this event in the future. “If they’ll have us! The Best Western has a really good property; it’s right next to the highway, so it’s very visible, and I would like to continue to partner with them,” he said. “They had a great space, and a lot of people showed up — It was a definite win-win.”

 

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