Our Team

Dave Bellizzi

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Dave took over The Riding Academy of NJ in March of 2017. He was the SIte Administrator for the Academy since 2011. Dave has an extensive background in training and transportation safety. He was a Navy SEAL, insurance salesman, financial planner, sales trainer, marketing consultant, seminar leader (for Dale Carnegie, The Silva Mind Control Method, Tony Robbins), Safety & Training Director for a school bus company, defensive driving instructor for the National Safety Council, auxiliary police officer and an accident investigator. He's also been an expert witness in court cases involving motorcycle accidents. Dave has been teaching the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) courses since 1995. He attends all the MSF conferences and works closely with the MSF Staff to maintain quality assurance for the Academy. He has also read all the motorcycle safety researches published to date and reads all the current ones that are done. AKA "Super Dave", Dave has personally trained over 5,000 people to ride a motorcycle and has taught for all the major motorcycle schools in NJ. He is frequently interviewed by The Record newspaper's Road Warrior when John Cichowski writes articles about motorcycles.

Mike Dobias

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Mike has been an MSF instructor since 2000. He was the Program Coordinator for FDU's motorcycle program for several years until he became dissatisfied with the program. Mike started riding dirt bikes in grade school. He has been a ballroom dance instructor, had his own landscaping business and currently manages the Bottle King Liquor Store in Dumont with his wife. If you go to our Facebook page, you'll recognize Mike as the one who is sitting on the ground in the lotus position in all the class photos. "Mikey" rides all year long because he doesn't want to own a car. He enjoys the Zen of two-wheels (and three-wheels).

Don Daves

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Don has been an MSF instructor since 2007. He was a scuba instructor for several years. He is currently an insurance broker who handles all the insurance for the Academy and not only can Don help you with your motorcycle insurance questions, he can help you with all of your insurance needs. "Mr. Don" is also a Road Captain for the Bergen County HOG Chapter and enjoys riding all over the country with the group.

Sal Ferraro, Ph.D

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Sal has been an MSF instructor since 2008. Besides loving to ride and teaching people how to ride, he is also an avid skier and a ski instructor, and a driving instructor. Sal has an extensive corporate background and is well-versed in computers. He fixes all of the Academy's computer problems. "Doc" is currently a professor at Montclair State University and several other NJ colleges, and he enjoys helping people as a Life Coach.

John Gurrieri

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John has been an MSF instructor since 2009. "Probie" is an an avid rider with well over 20 years of riding experience. When he's not riding, he's either shooting at the firing range with his son or spending time with his daughter shopping. (He's gotten pretty good at finding bargains and deep discounted sales). John truly loves to teach people how to ride and looks forward to each and every class he teaches.

Blaise Diana

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Blaise has been an MSF instructor since 2004. He has a strong background in teaching which he got from watching his parents run a dance studio. His father handled the business side and his mother, who was a Rockette, did all the teaching. "The Blaze" currently works for a major telecommunications company as a technical field trainer. He has the knack for making complicated concepts easy to understand. 

John Ferrarella

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John has been an MSF instructor since 1998. "The Captain" is a Marine veteran and a retired fire captain for the city of Paterson. He is also a certified EMT and a certified EMT trainer. John had his own home security business for many years. Now he moonlights as an EMT at the Meadowlands Sports Complex.

Samantha Nikovits

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Samantha is a Board Member and our social media adviser. She is currently a senior at Wayne Valley HS (Class of 2020) and a captain of the Wayne Valley HS's girl's lacrosse team. (She is also Super Dave's niece).


Nelson Gonzalez

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Nelson has been an MSF instructor since 2018. He is a lawyer by trade and has a passion for motorcycle riding. When he's not in court defending his clients, the "Counselor" is out riding his motorcycle or taking a motorcycle course to keep his skills sharp. And he wants to share his passion and safety-conscious mindset with those who want to learn how to ride. His ability to speak Spanish is also a great asset to The Academy. Nelson is also the legal counsel for The Academy.

Paul Huelsenbeck

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Paul has been an MSF instructor since 2018. Coming from a motorcycling family, his first experience on 2 wheels was on his uncle's motorcycle at age 3. He has been a member of ABATE of NJ which is an organization that represents the rights of motorcyclists in NJ. A plumber by trade, the "Wolverine" has great people skills. He helps his clients make good decisions and he wants to help new riders make good, safety minded decisions as well. 

Mark Miller

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Mark has been an MSF instructor since 2018. He is currently a professor at Ramapo College.  The “Professor” is, for the most part, a “recreational rider” and loves to tool around the highways and byways of NJ and surrounding areas. Mark is the Entrepreneur-In-Residence at the Ramapo College of NJ, fostering the entrepreneurial ecosystem at the school and the community. He also teaches economics and entrepreneurship. So, unless you’re ready for a three hour lecture, don’t get him started on the economy and business. Mark is also the founder and managing director of Alliant Ventures, a business consulting and investing company. Mark gave up riding when life got in the way. He jumped back in, taking BRC1 at the Riding Academy, when his son bought a motorcycle in Poland. Mark is passionate about motorcycle safety and is hoping to share that passion with the next generation of riders. 

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Steve Purdy

Steve has been an MSF instructor since 2018. Steve got into motorcycling later in life. He took the MSF BRC1 12 years ago at the young age of 50 and fell in love with motorcycles from the first twist of the throttle. Since then, he has logged many miles riding all year round throughout the country. Steve recently retired after 37 years in sales and sales management in the food industry. He combines his previous experience as a Dale Carnegie Sales Instructor with his love for motorcycling when he teaches students who attend a course conducted by The Riding Academy of NJ.  Steve, along with the MSF, believes that riding a motorcycle is "serious fun" and is excited to help students new to riding learn the proper and safe way to ride. Steve is a former Army paratrooper and is a member of both the Indian Motorcycle Rider Group of NJ and the Central Jersey Motorcycle Rider's Group.  

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Dave Stark

Dave has been an MSF instructor since 2018. He is a Certified Project Management Professional with 30 years experience in the media and entertainment industry. He has ridden motorcycles since college and enjoys leisurely weekend rides through the beautiful vistas that NJ, NY and PA have to offer. He became a RiderCoach to encourage the next generation of motorcycle riders to have a commitment to safety as they embark on their own journey of “Serious Fun.” 

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Michael Vinogradov

Michael has been an MSF instructor since 2018. His passion with two-wheeled transportation began at a young age in Russia and it was reignited a few years ago, resulting in, much to his wife’s protest, the purchase of his first big boy motorcycle. Michael did the smart thing by taking the BRC1 at The Riding Academy of NJ to get his NJ motorcycle endorsement, followed by completion the BRC2 on his first big boy motorcycle to get used to it. Apparently, he loved everything about The Academy that he decided to become an instructor for us. Michael is a financial software developer by trade with a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology. (If you want to see him blush, just call him "Doctor Mike”). Michael became a motorcycle safety instructor because he wants to lend his teaching and personal experience to educate future riders on how to safely enter the motorcycling world. 

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Lori O'Rourke

Lori has been an MSF instructor since 2005. She has a strong background in retail sales and customer service. She started out working for a women's clothing store in college and has managed several department stores. She switched to the motorcycle industry by becoming the Apparel Manager for a local motorcycle dealership. Her Dad got her interested in motorcycles. He was a mechanic who loved cars and motorcycles. Her older brother is a motorcycle police officer for the Lyndhurst Police Dept. She became an instructor to help get more women into the sport. (That's Lori's niece and dog in the photo).

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Mark Battito

Mark has been a MSF instructor since 2008. He started riding in 1970 when he was in the Navy (Seabees). Before he retired, Mark was an Electrical Contractor and owned a small construction company. He has done many cross country rides over the years.  Mark is a long-time member of the Bergen County HOG Chapter and also serves as a road captain and an officer for the Chapter. Teaching people how to ride is very important to Mark. He enjoys helping them learn how to do it properly and safely so they can have fun experiences. 

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Joann Rivera

Joann has been an MSF instructor since 2009. "Jo Jo" is an architect by trade and moonlights as a photographer. She is the owner of Green Mojo Eco (a green environmental consulting company) and Scorpion Photography. Joann has been riding since 2006. Joann speaks Spanish fluently and she can ride.

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Tina Johnson

Tina is our Office Manager/Administrative Assistant. She handles all phone calls, Facebook posts, online inquiries and class paperwork. Tina is the voice of The Academy. She is also a massage therapist and is versed in other forms of alternative healing methods.

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Our team of instructors must attend workshops at least once a year on MSF Instructor Development, Adult Learning and Coaching to further develop their knowledge of the MSF curriculums they teach and how to present the material in ways that will help our students learn how to ride a motorcycle, ride it safely and retain the information for years to come. We maintain high standards for our instructors. If an instructor used to teach for us and now teaches for another motorcycle school in NJ, it's because we cut them loose. They didn't measure up to our high standards.