Hoping to attract new riders, Harley-Davidson offered to teach everyone in Ryder, North Dakota, how to ride.

Back in June, Harley-Davidson concocted a plan wherein the company would teach all 80 or so people in Ryder, North Dakota, how to ride. In four months since the program started, about 70 percent of the residents took them up on the offer and became licensed riders.

“We had people who had never sat on a motorcycle, and when they got done with the class they were comfortable riding,” Mayor Jody Reinisch told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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Potential motorcyclists or not, the people of the appropriately-named town were pleased with the attention, and not averse to having their fire hydrants and water tower painted in Milwaukee’s familiar orange and black livery. The overall success of Harley’s promotional campaign to attract new riders will be determined by statistics somewhere down the road, but the Ryder results do offer a hint.

“About 15 to 20 percent of the population of my town bought new Harley-Davidsons because of this,” Mayor Reinisch said.

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So, just doing the rough math here, that means 12 to 15 people in a small town bought new Harleys after receiving riding instructions, and maybe a subtle sales pitch. By just about any measure of promotion and marketing methods, that has to qualify as a major success.

There is general consensus in the industry that motorcycle sales have yet to rebound from the recent recession, and that aging baby boomers make up a dwindling percentage of the potential market. Harley-Davidson’s rider training program is obviously one way to address the issue. The declining consumer base does pose a significant challenge for Milwaukee, according to investment research analyst David Beckel in the Journal Sentinel.

“I have a projection of total motorcycle ridership for the country declining for at least the next five years,” Beckel said.

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The town of Ryder, on the other hand, is enjoying the unexpected swell of popularity and tourism. The water tower alone, which replicates the Harley-Davidson factory container in Milwaukee, is now a tourist attraction.

“A couple of weeks ago we had two bikers from the Milwaukee area, driving 863 miles each way, to take a picture of our water tower and see our community,” mayor Reinisch said.

The mayor had taken an active role in promoting the program among the townsfolk, going door-to-door to sign up trainees. Reinisch, a farmer by trade, reported that some residents expressed reservations about the project, not wanting the town to attract party animals and loud motorcycles. One of the strongest objectors was a 75-year-old man, who ultimately became a convert.

“I think he was the oldest one in the classes,” Reinisch said.

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