Off Duty

Harley rolls out free rider training for troops, vets

If you happen to pass Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Eric McKoy on his way to work astride his 2013 Harley-Davidson Road Glide, you'd probably never guess that just two years ago, he was nervous about even getting on a bike.

The 5th Special Forces Group maintenance officer at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, had always wanted to ride, but he also knew the dangers.

"I won't lie — I was scared," he says matter-of-factly. But all that changed in just three days after McKoy took a $250 class at a local Harley-Davidson dealership.

"There was a lot of good knowledge in that class. By the time we finished, I was completely confident and ready to ride on my own," he says.

Army CWO-4 Eric McKoy, with 5th Special Forces Group, says the motorcycle driver training at his local Harley-Davidson dealership in Clarksville, Tennessee gave him the confidence and knowledge he needed to get on the road. (Photo courtesy Appleton Harley-Davidson)
Army CWO-4 Eric McKoy, with 5th Special Forces Group, says the motorcycle driver training at his local Harley-Davidson dealership in Clarksville, Tennessee gave him the confidence and knowledge he needed to get on the road. (Photo courtesy Appleton Harley-Davidson)

Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Eric McKoy says the motorcycle driver training at his local Harley-Davidson dealership in Clarksville, Tennessee, gave him the confidence and knowledge he needed to get on the road.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Appleton Harley-Davidson

Now Harley-Davidson is offering that confidence-boosting knowledge for free to all current and former service members.

The Learn to Ride program, running through Sept. 13, is open to all active-duty troops, reservists, retired service members and veterans.

"For us at Harley-Davidson, this is our way to thank the millions of people who have courageously defended our country and everyone's personal freedom to ride," said Christian Walters, the company's managing director of U.S. sales and marketing and a former Army major.

The classes usually run three to four days — two full days of training over the weekend plus a few hours after work during the week.

To find a class near you, visit a Harley-Davidson dealer or go online to h-d.com/militarylearntoride.

If you can't find a class within 60 miles of where you live, the company will give you a Harley-Davidson gift card totaling the cost of the certified motorcycle safety program. Typically, the classes cost between $200 and $400, and sometimes more, depending on location.

Troops deployed or stationed outside the U.S. also can submit a "Learn to Ride" form online by Sept. 13 to get a voucher for free motorcycle safety training that's good through 2016.

"It's an outstanding deal," says McKoy, who now commutes to work year-round on his bike.

He says even experienced riders should consider taking the class.

At his local dealership in Clarksville, Tennessee, graduates can even get free refresher training anytime.

It's a perfect way to recalibrate after a deployment, he says.

"There's no excuse for getting on a motorcycle without the proper training," he says. "Now it doesn't cost you anything to do the right thing."

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