St. Louis, MO
Posted - 02/05/2011 : 11:37 AM
Go to: www.ridersedge.com. Do this now in a separate browser window I guarantee you will want to follow along.
Once there, Click on New Rider on the main tool bar or below.
THE EASE OF LEARNING
The first thing the reader is told, in big bold text on the corporate RE site is, "The hardest part is showing up."
The hardest part is showing up??? No dealer site I visited made that claim.
This claim, then, sets the stage for all that follows: learning to ride is easy. However, mostall?rider educators would tend to disagree with that implication. And I doubt any would agree that learning to ride is as easy as driving to the site. I doubt even RE instructors would make this claim. And if they did, that would say more about those instructors than the ease of learning to ride.
The advertisement's headline, then, makes a claim that rider educators overwhelmingly could not support as factual. But perhaps this is so outrageous a claim that the consumer would not take it seriously.
Click on the link to the range. "...an asphalt course built to increase your confidence with every turn." Note that H-D claims that RE ranges are specifically built to "increase your confidence". But we know that some, at least, have sloped walls, drop offs, dirt banks, concrete walls? Nor are all ranges "specifically built" to be ranges but are parking lots already in existence.
Note where it claims: "...the range; a controlled environment designed to deliver a real road experience." In no way does the range deliver a real road experience. As a friend said, rider training provides "a real parking lot experience".
The site is riddled with other non-truthful disclosures and strategic misrepresentations:
For example, click on Basics. It's typical advertising hyperbole, but the headline is "This is all you need to know." Which is clearly untrue or else there wouldn't be all those other pages on the site. But that's Madison Ave types for you. However, the headline once again, the ease of rider training.
Here we find the suggestion that prospective consumers will get their DLW as well a partial truth that H-D acknowledges: the prospective consumer is told to contact the dealer for exemption information. However, at this point, the consumer may not even know who their local dealer is, are then told to. However, advertising and marketing research shows that consumers ignore such statements particularly if there is more to read, which there is on the site.
Under "The Cost": "The cost of the New Rider Course is determined by each participating dealership, and ranges anywhere from $195 to $350. Remember, the price includes the use of a Buell Blast motorcycle for class riding sessions. So check with the dealership of your choice."
H-D corporate makes it sound as if it's something unique that a training motorcycle is included in the course and therefore justifies the cost. However, training bikes are included in the low cost or free courses offered through SMSPs. What appears to be an added value isn't but the consumer doesn't know that unless they know what the SMSP offers (or, if there's private providers, what they offer).
So let's go to the Motorcycle page: "In the Rider's Edge New Rider Course, you'll learn on the Buell Blast, a light weight, easy to handle sportbike with a rider friendly design that'll have you confidently carving up backroad curves or slicing through around town traffic." And below, the testimonial reads, "The Buell Blast was really responsive but it always felt like it was something I could control."
And, if you click on Your Ride, you're brought to a page that describes the Blast as: "Special Features
Dry weight of just 360 pounds, low mounted muffler and centralized mass for effortless balance, automatic choke, cast aluminum wheels, quiet and clean Kevlar® final drive belt, Showa® gas charged rear shock, 37mm Showa® forks, 320mm front brake rotor, low effort, reduced reach controls."
The light weight, easy to handle, rider friendly terms are also found on the dealers pages. However, no state administrator I know of would use those adjectives nor "always...control" or "effortless balance" or "low effort...controls" to describe the Blast. Nor do any state administrators I know of recommend the Blast as a training bike or would consider the motorcycle to be student friendly. In fact, the Buell Blast is associated with more deaths, near fatal accidents and broken bones than any other motorcycle model used in rider education.
Further down on the initial motorcycle page it says: "Already looking for a graduation present? Here are some ideas when it's time for your first purchase." I have to say I was confused on first reading by "graduation present" especially since the head shot next to the testimonial below pictured a fellow young enough to be graduating from high school or college and so my first impression was that kind of graduation. However, it probably means from the beginners training course. Btw, the Buell Blast is not the first bike they suggest nor is the Sporty 883 (which is the second bike). Rather, it's the Firebolt XB9R.
Now go to the Instructors page: This, I have to say, is the pice de rsistance: On the page about Instructors: "It's not just on their minds. It's in their blood. Combine a passion for riding with certification earned from both the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and Harley-Davidson®, and you get instructors that seem genetically engineered to teach motorcycling. They are expertly trained. They are committed to the sport. They are interesting and engaging. And most of all, they are at your service."
I kid you not. I'm just not...imaginative...enough to make stuff like this up. See yourself: http://www.ridersedge.com/1_new/1_new4_inst.htm
P.S. The instructors are the good guys in the white hats and white shirts.
Genetically engineered...wow. I don't even know what to say about that.
And I have no idea what they mean by "hand's-on classroom instruction"? I presume they mean the time spent trying on H-D gear, sitting on bikes and talking to the salesmen or the marketing portion of the course. But that's not what's pictured.
It is important to remember what H-D claims is the H-D RE instructor: Passion for riding. Expertly trained. Committed to the sport, interesting and engaging. At your service. And it doesn't say some of them therefore implying all of them. At your service. Huh. Say Jim Z and Tim McGraw, we are talking about instructors and not sales clerks, aren't we?
Now click on the Skilled Rider link above and see at how H-D describes the instructors for their version of the ERC: "THE INSTRUCTORS: Rider's Edge Skilled Rider Course instructors are dedicated enthusiasts who have received certification from the MSF, as well as additional training from Harley-Davidson." Comparing the two makes them sound like the second rate, junior varsity team.
I doubt that there's two sets of instructors employed at a dealership. So one must wonder why H-D would describe the same instructors in such very different ways with a much more...vivid...description for the beginner course?
Note, btw, that the Skilled Rider page headline reads: "Ride like you were born on a bike". That is quite a claim for any course to offer.
Look farther down on the Skilled Rider page to the requirements. Note there are no links to the gear pages in the New Rider section (or to H-D motorclothes at all). Once again, one wonders about the difference between the advertising to beginners and intermediates.
Speaking of which, go back to New Riders and check out the riding gear page.
Before we start, as you read I expect you will be wondering if what follows just means H-D has a higher standard. Yet, as we've seen, dealers' sites overwhelming use the same H-D copy and graphics as the corporate site does. But, with only two exceptions, do dealers' RE pages require the kind of gear H-D claims the beginning student needs to take the course. If these reflected a higher H-D standard, they would appear on the dealer pages.
The first thing the prospective consumer is told is: "Before you leave for the range you'll need a few things." Note the word "need". The reasonable reader would then assume what is pictured is what they need to participate.
It then says, "With the Rider's Edge Program, learning to ride right also means learning to dress right for the road. Proper riding gear keeps you comfortable in a variety of conditions so you can keep your mind on the road. And it can also protect you from injury. That's why you'll need the right gear to participate in the New Rider Course." This conflates the road with the range as if one is identical with the other and makes an implicit claim that what is needed on one is needed on the other.
Far from the lowly M$F standard list that appear on the dealer pages, the H-D corporate site has pictures and links to each item. Click on each item and you're brought to a separate page.
Helmets: The graphics show a full face, an open face and a half shell helmet. It reads, to the side: "You must wear a helmet that meets DOT requirements, preferably with a face shield. A full face model offers the most protection. If your helmet doesn't have a face shield, you'll also have to wear eye protection. Some dealers may have helmets available, so make sure to call your dealer for details. You can find these helmets and other Motorclothes® Merchandise at Harley-Davidson.com."
This is the most accurate of all the RE gear pages (of course, depending on what one believes about helmets). However, look at the photos throughout the rest of the site and you'll find a great many half shell and open face helmets pictured. Once again, a mixed message is conveyed.
And the section on helmets does not make it clear the student does not have to buy one before attending the course if the dealer does have helmets available. Which, btw, is very unclear in how the text is written: "Some dealers may have helmets available". Does this mean for sale? For use? What is the consumer to think? Good question.
They are told to "make sure you call your dealer for details". Once again, H-D suggests the consumer call a dealer, and the same point applies: research shows it's unlikely that consumers stop and do it at that point but, if they don't do it immediately, that they will forget to do it once they find the dealer through Dealer Locator. However, a link to purchase a helmet immediately follows. To buy, then, is easier than to seek out the dealer information and then call and, if the dealer doesn't offer helmets, to then return to purchase or go to the dealership to purchase.
Gloves and Boots: "The New Rider Course is a hands-on experience. So you'll need to wear full finger motorcycling gloves to protect your hands..." In the section on boots: "You'll need to wear over-the-ankle boots with a sturdy heel and non-slip soles."
However, the CA SMSP site (http://www.ca msp.org/faq.asp), only says, "You should come to the riding portion with eye protection, a long sleeved shirt or jacket, full fingered gloves, long pants and sturdy over-the-ankle footwear (not canvas).. And do remember M$F administrates not only the program but the site is on M$F servers so it should be accurate. It does not require motorcycling gloves, which the H-D RE site says are necessary or motorcycling boots, that the H-D RE site pictures.
Jackets: "You will need a jacket to protect your upper body and arms. There are many kinds available, from heavyweight leather racing styles to synthetic all weather models. And most offer special features for rider comfort and protection. So pick the one that's right for you. You can find these jackets and other Motorclothes® Merchandise at Harley-Davidson.com."
However, every dealer site I visited that listed requirements did not require a jacket. Like the M$F standards, it was a long sleeved shirt or jacket. So, in fact, a student does not "need" a jacket for the course. On the RE corporate Basics page, it's different yet again: "A heavy long sleeved shirt or leather jacket" which also does not match up to the dealers' sites. M$F, otoh, requires only a "long sleeved shirt or jacket".
Pants: "On the range, you'll need to wear long pants made from an abrasion resistant material like leather or denim. Avoid loose fitting pants that could flap in the wind or become entangled, and stay away from tight styles that can restrict movement. For an added layer of protection over jeans, leather chaps are a perfect fit. You can find these pants and other Motorclothes® Merchandise at Harley-Davidson.com."
As noted before, M$F doesn't require or suggest leather anything, nor do the dealer sites I visited. Iow, this does not indicate a higher standard on H-D's part because, if it was, dealers would require it as well. And none of them do. This then is clearly a marketing ploy that entices, at the least, the untutored consumer to purchase goods that are not, in fact, required.
There is another issue that's just as important in terms of safety: The corporate site through both visuals and text implies such heavy gear is appropriate for the course. They do this even though, as any rider educator knows, wearing leathers would increase the risk of heat exhaustion during summer training in many parts of the USA. It would be also be heavy and uncomfortable if it became wet and, as any rider knows, unless it's broken in, might be distracting as well.
H-D makes several explicit claims on these pages: "You will need a jacket"; and the order of leather then jeans for pants; motorcycling gloves; over-the-ankle boots. None of which are automatically supported by the dealer sites nor are standard practice in courses certified by the M$F, and, in terms of jackets and pants even the fabric FXRG gear may be too heavy for safety, comfort and concentration.
However, leather costs more than a long sleeve shirt or denim jacket and jeans. If one looks up the items pictured on the site, the H-D denim jacket costs $80-90 (which is far more than a non branded denim jacket), but the leather and nylon jacket depicted on the site are over $100 more than the stock versions H-D offers (if you look hard enough to find them), and the helmets are the more expensive ones H-D sells. In fact, if the unwitting prospective student bought exactly what H-D is visually recommending on the RE site, they could spend $1,029 before taxes and before taking the course.
Sophisticated and knowledgeable riders and rider educators know what is appropriate gear for the range portion and know as well that far less expensive alternatives are available. The prospective RE consumer, though, who accesses the H-D site should be presumed to be nave and uninformed hence the need for extensive descriptions rather than a simple list as are on the dealer sites (and on M$Fs own CMSP site). If the prospective consumer was assumed to be knowledgeable, such descriptions and visuals would not be necessary.
The failure to offer alternatives (such as the exact M$F list) implies that what is depicted and described is there to not only make sales but up them prior to taking the course.
COST OF RE COMPARED TO SMSP
This is the complete departure from what M$F and the state run programs have held for years. Traditionally, the course has been offered and still is in SMSPs as a way of lowering the entrance costs. The bedrock, historical philosophy has been that students can decide whether or not they want to ride at all without having to make a major financial investment.
To fulfill M$F standards, then and now, a student would not necessarily require a student to purchase any special clothing to take the course that is, as long as they had over-the-ankle footwear. In a state run program, then, If the student decides riding isn't for him, there's little to no financial investment.
And, when the cost of an SMSP course vs. a H-D RE course is factored in, the student/consumer who knows about and is directed to an SMSP course can invest as little as $0 in gear and course costs to discover if today's motorcycling is for him.
Otoh, a H-D RE student must invest from $195 up to $1,379 or more and before taxes.
That then concludes the examination of how H-D corporate pages advertise RE.
WAS "HARDEST PART", THEN REALLY JUST HYPERBOLE?
As we have seen, the corporate RE pages then, present a comprehensive picture of RE as:
* Something exceedingly attractive, easy, fun and relaxed.
* They are specifically told that the "hardest part will be showing up.
* That instructors are paragons as teachers and fun people to be around as well and at their service.
* That the ranges were specifically built and designed to "increase your confidence with every turn" and the range is "a controlled environment designed to deliver a real road experience."
* This embeds an implicit claim that the training duplicates "real road experience"
* That the Buell Blast is easy to use for a consumer who has never been on a motorcycle before.
* The implicit claim, therefore, is that it's safe.
* That the consumer needs specific kind of gear that is more expensive and not required by the actual courses held at the dealerships.
Iow, the comprehensive picture that H-D's corporate RE site paints is that the hardest part really is showing up. And we see many of these claims appearing on the dealer sites advertising RE as well.
However, as we have seen, H-D has depicted rider training and what the student would expect, receive and need in a...more favorable light than the reality of rider education even on RE courses would indicate.
To sum up, the corporate site:
* practiced selective disclosure regarding the ease of learning to ride
* presents motorcycle training (and, by extension, motorcycling) as a safe activity as long as you're wearing the right gear.
* enriches the truth of what H-D RE dealer sites require for gear
* embroiders the truth when it comes to instructors
* makes a non-full-disclosure when it comes to what happens on the range as a "real road experience"
* exaggerates the truth when it comes to the design, creation and safety of the ranges
* states stragetic misrepresentations when it comes to the motorcycles provided
* and is lenient with honesty about whether the student will get a DLW.
Consistently throughout the site and by extension the dealers' sites the copywriters apparently found the truth temporarily unavailable. Or, to use Winston Churchill's phrase, the site is riddled with "terminological inexactitudes".
But H-D makes it clear they are not responsible for such things. The legal notice at the bottom of the page brings you to that statement we have discussed in the past. It includes: "Reasonable efforts are taken to ensure the accuracy and integrity of information and related materials provided by Harley-Davidson on this Web Site, but Harley-Davidson is not responsible for misprints, out of date information, technical or pricing inaccuracies, typographical or other errors appearing on this Web Site, the Web Sites of any Harley-Davidson dealer on any other Web Site."
So I guess it's all okay then.
Besides, everyone knows the site is just a very long advertisement. It's just marketing. No one will take anything on the RE site seriously.
Funny thing about that. Bob Eskowski and his son and daughter showed up at the course in H-D full riding gear half shell helmeted head to H-D booted foot. He ran into a concrete wall and died a week later.
"The hardest part is showing up."
I wonder if Bob and his family and all the other RE consumers who have died, almost died or broke or dislocated bones during an RE and their families would agree?