General

This is why America loves Harley-Davidson

Free rider training for all members of the US military, past and present

HARLEY-DAVIDSON might be a divisive firm for bike lovers – inspiring irrational hatred from some quarters and undying passion from others – but its new decision to offer free rider training to all members of the US military throughout 2016 is a masterstroke when it comes to reinforcing the link between the Stars and Stripes and H-D.

The firm will offer its own Riding Academy training to all current and former members of the American military from January 1 to December 31 next year. Those who apply during the year but then get posted abroad can postpone their training until 2017. Better still, the firm says that if its own Riding Academy isn’t available in a particular area, it will reimburse the cost of attending a certified motorcycle safety program. That, surely, is above and beyond the call of duty.

In recent years there’s been a noticeable upturn in motorcycle crashes and injuries among American military personnel; many buy bikes on their return from active duty abroad and, with little mandatory motorcycle training needed in America and no limits to size or performance once a licence is obtained, accidents aren’t uncommon. In 2013, an investigation into the previous 13 years by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Centre showed that motorcycle crashes had taken the lives of 1,134 members of the US Armed Forces between 1999 and 2012, more than 25% of the entire road-related death toll for the same group and the largest single factor in military deaths outside combat. It also noted that the numbers were rising dramatically after 2010, and that in 2012 bike-related fatalities accounted for nearly half of all motor vehicle deaths for active members of the US military.

Since 2009, the American Department of Defense has made motorcycle training mandatory for all active military personnel intending to ride a bike, but the numbers have continued to rise. Harley’s training scheme seems likely to help cement its position as the nation’s number one bike brand.

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