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Harley-Davidson wants to teach

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Harley-Davidson is placing a renewed emphasis on teaching people to ride as part of its efforts to attract more customers.

The Milwaukee-based company’s decision to expand the number of dealerships with a Harley “Riding Academy” comes as the industry grapples with years of declining sales and an aging customer base.

The program launched in 2000 with about 50 locations and now 245 dealerships in the U.S. offer the three- or four-day course.

The company says about a quarter of those launched since 2014.

Harley sold 124,777 new motorcycles through nine months in 2017, down from 135,581 during the same period the previous year, according to the company’s most recent earnings report.

The Motorcycle Industry Council says the median age of motorcycle owners increased from 32 to 47 since 1990. About 46 percent of riders are over 50; only about 10 percent are 30-34.

Samantha Kay rode on the back of her father’s motorcycle growing up, but when the 25-year-old took a class to ride for the first time she couldn’t help being anxious.

“I think motorcycles inherently do scare a lot of people,” said Kay, a Milwaukee woman who is one of 50,000 people nationwide who took a riding course at a Harley-Davidson dealership this year.

The training is one of the ways Harley is trying to attract a new generation of riders like Kay amid big demographic shifts.

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