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Best-In-Class – Riding Academy: San Jacinto Harley-Davidson

“Our number one goal is to get more safe riders out there,” said Joel Morris, riding academy manager at San Jacinto Harley-Davidson, “to make them riders for life. And it’s a great opportunity to create customers for life.”

The dealership has grown its training program from four coaches and about 435 enrollments a year to 15 coaches and 1,200 students. Of the students coached in 2021, 997 of them passed and were able to get their motorcycle endorsement.

“It doesn’t take a lot of money,” said Morris, “but it does take a lot of time. I’ve got a lot of time invested in this deal.” He’s always on the lookout for qualified coaches and says that the lack of good coaches is a nationwide problem. Morris has to keep up with the changing laws, keep coaches informed and engaged, manage updates with the Motorcycle Safety Federation (MSF) as well as Harley-Davidson, and the state government.

“A problem we have here in Houston,” said Morris, “is we’re the fourth largest city in the country and the biggest city in Texas. Yet we have the lowest number of training centers in Texas.” People have had difficulty opening more training centers in Houston because there aren’t enough coaches, according to Morris. He said states need to focus on getting more riders to become coaches. It’s not unique to Texas.

The dealership’s primary goal is to increase the number of safe riders on the road. And the owner of the dealership gave Morris a goal to nearly triple the number of students. He started by hiring two or three new coaches a year, about as many as he could find.

When Morris saw statistics showing motorcycle accidents and fatalities, he noticed how many people were riding with no training.

“I saw how big of a need there was for these programs,” he said. “I’ve gotten pretty heavily involved, raising hell with the state of Texas, trying to put on more coach classes, trying to attract coaches into it so every training facility in Texas can start training more riders.”

“Nobody’s really in it for the money,” said Morris. “Everybody involved wants to produce as many safe new riders on the road as we can. I’m really proud of my guys. They do the hard work on the range and in the classroom.”

Morris stresses that all Harley-Davidson dealers should consider building a riding academy if they’re not doing it already. “You create customers for life and maybe save some lives in the process,” said Morris. “It’s great that we’re selling product, but it’s better that we’re saving lives.”

“We can take our students from a classroom to the showroom and hopefully they’ll want to buy a motorcycle,” he said. “They’ll also see leather jackets, gloves, boots, helmets, and they can come back for parts and service.”

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