Inside Harley-Davidson

Why I Ride

Riding Academy graduate is ready to ride


Kari selfie

Kari Atkinson successfully completed her Riding Academy course this spring and can’t wait to get out on the open road to discover more about what riding means to her and the freedom that comes with it.

When Harley-Davidson Communication Manager Kari Atkinson talks about riding motorcycles, there’s an excitement that pours out strong enough to make anyone excited to ride. Although she only started riding recently, her love for the sport and her confidence in her training make it seem like she’s ready for a ride around the globe. And, she probably is.


Atkinson recently completed the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy new rider training course and is eager to put miles on the odometer of a new bike. She grew up with parents who rode and always encouraged her to learn. Now, she’s doing her part to help grow the sport of motorcycling – starting with herself.


When she started at Harley-Davidson more than two years ago, she knew she wanted to learn. Paving the way, Atkinson’s mom, Carol, started riding when Atkinson was in high school.


“My parents love everything about the Harley-Davidson brand,” Atkinson said. “They gave me a Harley-Davidson jacket when I was in high school, so when I decided to take the course, I dug it out and wore it to class.”


On her first day, she got even more of a riding “experience” than expected. During the first few riding exercises on the Harley-Davidson Street® 500, she rode in wind, rain and snow, putting Atkinson’s new riding skills to the test. But, the 43-degree weather didn’t deter her. “That’s just taking a class in early May in Wisconsin,” Atkinson said. “By the end of the first day, I told my husband I was buying a bike. Going into the class, I didn’t know what to expect. I loved riding.”


Atkinson said the way the instructors lead the course made it easy to learn. “They start at the very beginning and get you familiar with things like where the clutch is and how to shift. You don’t have to know anything going into it,” Atkinson said. “I now know how to ride, and how to ride safely.”


To her, the Riding Academy was intense but had a big payoff. “Finishing was empowering. I kept catching myself with a full grin on my face. I felt more pride finishing the course than when I got my college degrees,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson and her Riding Academy class

Atkinson and her Riding Academy class. (Kari is pictured second from the left.)





Atkinson taking a ride with her dad, Roy

Atkinson taking a ride with her dad, Roy.

If Atkinson ever had a doubt, her parents were a phone call away to encourage her and share the experience. “I think my parents were more excited about it than I was,” she said.


With her newfound passion for riding, she’s ready to purchase her first Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a Forty-Eight®. She’s planning rides to work, around town with friends, to motorcycle rallies and to events like Bike Night at the Harley-Davidson Museum.


“What’s cool is that riding is my own thing,” Atkinson said. “I don’t do gardening. I don’t do things like that. Riding is my thing. I’m ready to go.”