In 2000, Harley‑­Davidson introduced the Rider’s Edge New Riders Course. It was a popular, effective course offered by H‑­D dealers throughout the country, and the 500cc Buell Blast was used for teaching students. With its 27.5‑­inch seat height, predictable power, and relatively low weight, the Blast made for an excellent trainer. Additionally, the Blast proved durable and able to withstand the get‑­offs that riders‑­in‑­training often experience.

Back then, I visited several classes and talked with numerous students. One thing I continually heard was how much they loved the motorcycle. This worked out great, as dealers were ready to sell Blasts to students after they completed the course. I recall one instance when a graduate insisted that she be able to purchase the one she trained on. In 2009, production of the Blast ceased. Dealers could still use their existing stable, but they could no longer offer graduates the opportunity to own one. 

Harley-Davidson X440
Harley-Davidson X440

In 2014, after training more than 325,000 new riders, Harley‑­Davidson renamed the program Riding Academy. More importantly, they replaced the aging Blast with a motorcycle they sold, the Street 500. Though the Street was about 80 lb heavier than the Blast (480 lb wet vs. 399), it had a lower seat. The Street 500 and its Street 750 sibling were pre‑­assembled at Harley’s plant in Bawal, India, and then shipped to Kansas City for final assembly.

In 2019, Harley-Davidson discontinued manufacturing the Street models due to weak sales. Riding Academy dealers continued to use the Street 500, but as with the Blast, they no longer had the motorcycle to sell to graduating riders.

In February of this year, Harley announced the Riding Academy would begin using the 353cc parallel-Twin X350RA, a bike produced in China in partnership with Qianjiang Motors. It will not be sold in North America. At 429 lb, it is less of a porker than the Street 500 but still heavier than the Blast. One concern might be its tallish seat – the X350 sold in Asian markets has a 32‑­inch seat height, although the RA version is 2 inches lower. This is not ideal for new riders with shorter inseams. Has the musical chairs of Riding Academy motorcycles now stopped with the X350RA as the chosen one? 

Related: Harley-Davidson X350RA: Coming To A Riding Academy Near You 

Harley-Davidson X350
Harley-Davidson X350

Further muddying the waters is the single-cylinder X440 recently introduced to global markets as a result of a partnership with India’s Hero MotorCorp. More than 25,000 were ordered before they were available. I’ve seen several tests of the X440, and it looks like Hero/Harley did it right. 

Will it show up on these shores? I can think of many reasons why it won’t – but not a good one. I think the X440 needs to be sold here if Harley is serious about attracting new, younger (less well‑­heeled) riders. If so, it would be logical to replace the X350RA as the Riding Academy’s go‑­to motorcycle. It wouldn’t make much sense to use the X350RA for training if the X440 is sitting on the showroom floor. 


  1. Not happening. Harley has stuck itself as the company that sells big, expensive V-Twins. Sales of Street models were low because dealers didn’t stock them and pointed new riders to 883 Sportsters instead. The attitude is that if you can’t afford a big Harley, begone.

  2. Really it just shows that Harley is not really interested in young riders and/or women. The last HD dealer I walked into offered nothing from the Mother shop but the same tired merchandise. The particular dealer also sold Vespas and Triumph for “all others”. Can you imagine any other company getting away with this?

  3. Even more telling is this. The X500 that Harley is selling in China has come to these shores as the QJ Motors SRV550. The X350 is a cousin of the Benelli 302s. Qian Jiang is the builder and not afraid of selling them here and serving the entry level market. They also sell a 700cc bike for people to move up to.

  4. I think the dealers are more the problem than the Company. They didn’t want to stock or sell the smaller “entry” bikes, probably still don’t.


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