Sarah Schneider attempts to life a 474-pound Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 at the New Port Richey dealership's Garage Party, designed to get people out of the passenger seat and onto their own bikes. DAYLINA MILLER/STAFF
NEW PORT RICHEY — Sarah Schneider squatted to lift the 475-pound bike. As she pushed back against the glittering dark blue Harley-Davidson Sportster 883, she joked. “My pants are too tight to do this,” she told the small group of women crowded around her. “OK then, take your pants off then lift up the bike,” said riding instructor Kellie Russel. The group laughed.
The bike-lifting activity was one of many at the New Port Richey Harley-Davidson’s most recent Garage Party, an event for thoaw who are hesitant to make the move from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat. The twice-a-year event mainly draws women. With the sound of bikes revving up in the background, marketing director Meri Beth Dudich started the night’s festivities at 6:30 p.m. last Tuesday evening by thanking the 20 or so women, some clad in Harley gear, for coming out. “We are so glad you are here,” Dudich said. “How many of you are riders?” In the middle of the room, one woman timidly rose her hand. Another called out. “Define riders,” she said to laughs. “Oh, no,” Dudich said. “Not passengers. Tonight, we are going to teach you to be riders.” Five stations were set up to teach the women various aspects about motorcycle ownership and riding. Station one introduced the participants to a wide range of Harley bike models. Station two taught them how any model can be fitted specifically to them by lowering or raising the bike, and changing the seat and handlebars. They also learned what accessories and gear are available to bling out their bikes. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, or what your age, height and weight is,” Dudich said. “We can fit a bike to you.” The participants moved on to station three, where they learned that leverage is the key to picking up bikes that can weigh more than 500 pounds. If you’re going to ride, you’re eventually going to drop a bike, Russel said. Station four showed off the type of clothing riders can purchase, from everyday wear like branded T-shirts to riding gear designed for safety and comfort. After the 15-minute interval allotted at each station, the groups were ushered to the next until they hit the grand daddy of the event, the Jumpstart simulator. “With the Jumpstart, we take away the things people are afraid of when getting on a bike- falling off and steering,” Dudich said. The simulator can connect to any model of Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It holds the bike upright and steady so that riders can swing their legs over and learn how to switch gears, accelerate, brake and read gauges without the fear of falling off. Cheryl Dotson climbed into the seat of the bright orange bike and slid her sunglasses onto her head. Riding instructor James Russel gave her two thumbs up. “Are you ready?” he said. With a twist of a key, push of a button and grip on the throttle, the bike roared to life. This was the second time that Dotson, a Zephyrhills resident, has attended the dealership’s garage party. She used to ride several years ago, she said, and wants to get back into it. Her goal is to get her riding endorsement and own a bike by the end of the year. The next step is riding lessons and her test. “It’s really relaxing to be out on the open road,” Dotson said. I love riding and I love the sound of a Harley.” Scott Pilman, the dealership’s general manager, stresses that if you can ride a bicycle, you can learn to ride a motorcycle. “You just control your speed with a throttle instead of by how fast you pedal your legs,” he said. Dudich hopes the event inspires a new group of riders to join the “Harley-Davidson family,” she said. “New Port Richey is a big riding community,” Dudich added. For more information on future garage parties, riding lessons and dealership hours, call (727) 842-4547. The dealership is at 5817 State Road 54, New Port Richey.