If You Want Epic, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is the Way to Go
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Since the 1960’s, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has been one of the most talked about bike rallies in the Northern hemisphere. While it would certainly be great to take a motorcycle tour in Spain or the UK, Sturgis was a rally that, for many years, I longed to check out in person and this summer, I finally had my chance!
I wasn’t sure what to expect at the rally, but I knew there was going to be a wild ride to get there and days of fun once I arrived. I was not let down by anything at all at the rally. Sturgis has a reputation as being a wild place to go, and even with the rowdiness I saw, it was honestly a laid-back atmosphere with some great people from all over the world in attendance.
Now that Sturgis has ended and I’ve had some time to ride home and unwind, I thought I would share some tips for others to keep in mind for the Sturgis rally next summer.
At least 50% of the excitement of Sturgis is the long ride to the rally. I decided to ride my Harley Davidson Softail Slim and I did so because, of the few motorcycles I own, this cruiser is comfortable for long rides. Going from California to Sturgis, South Dakota was a long ride even for someone who has taken numerous cross country trips to the east coast. Perhaps it was the thrill of the destination or maybe it was simply because I stopped several times along the way, but the ride to Sturgis was gritty and long. But also, one of the best trips of my life!
Stopovers were necessary when I hit Reno, Nevada as well as Battle Mountain and Elko, Nevada and Casper, Wyoming. I took time throughout the ride to stop and check out the side of the road diners that looked abandoned, museums in various cities and even some of the great architecture in cities like Salt Lake City in Utah. If you’re riding a great distance, be sure to take frequent rest stops and bathroom breaks. This is necessary to help cut down on crashes during a long ride.
Along the way to Sturgis, you’re going to see numerous trucks with trailers hauling motorcycles to the rally. While I prefer to ride my own bike, you have the option of hauling a motorcycle to avoid the fatigue that comes from a long ride. Hiring a professional motorcycle shipper is also a good way to have the bike to ride at Sturgis, but not have to deal with several days of riding to get there.
I booked a tent camp spot at The Pappy Hoel Campground a few months before the trip. When I arrived in Sturgis, I checked in, got my campsite set up and headed over to Full Throttle Saloon to unwind the first evening I was there. After that much-needed time for relaxation, I was ready to head into the rally and check things out personally. Sturgis had begun and I was going to make the most of it!
Things to Do at Sturgis
When you get to Sturgis, there are a few things you must do to fully experience all the thrill that the rally offers. These include some of the following:
You’re going to find so many vendors that chances are you will never get to all of them even if you plan to stay all day, every day. You’re going to find jewelry, motorcycle parts, patches for your jacket, posters, food, drinks and everything else you can imagine buying at one of the vendors set up at the event. Did I mention Sturgis t-shirts? If you’re not careful, you can buy far too many while there. There isn’t much that you won’t find for sale at Sturgis, so be sure to take a bag with you to put your goodies in and make sure you have room on your bike or in your truck to carry them home.
There is an endless bar hop throughout Sturgis and whether you like a good country bar or you prefer good old rock n’ roll, you’re going to find a bar that has everything you’re looking for.
While I prefer the stars shining above my tent, you’re going to find not only campgrounds but also plenty of hotels ranging from budget, with a microwave and mini fridge, all the way to lavish with spas and silk robes. Wherever you stay, you’ll surely utilize your bed and get as much rest as possible. Sturgis is great fun, but it can also be tiring due to the hot sun shining on you all throughout the day.
There are so many great things to see in Sturgis, but for many, the roads that lead away from the rally itself are perfect outlets for a day ride to check out local landmarks. Be careful when you ride however as there are quite a few cops on the roads, but even more, there are deer. While I was at Sturgis this year, I heard there was a crash and a man was killed when his car hit a deer just outside of the rally. There were also hundreds of DUI arrests as well as other car and motorcycle crashes, so no matter where you go, be careful and don’t hop on the motorcycle after drinking.
Photo by Brett Whaley
There’s plenty to do at Sturgis and you’ll want to capture some of the best including the SD 87 tunnels on Needles Highway. These twisted tunnels are fun to ride through and won’t take a great deal of your time up. The highway itself is long and winding with some of the biggest turns you might ever see.
Badlands and Mount Rushmore is another exciting road trip and one that a good deal of Sturgis attendees insist on riding. Taking the scenic route through the area is time-consuming, but the ride is well worth it to see one of the most famous sites in the United States. Traffic was extremely busy on the way, but even with heavy traffic, the ride was nice and it was fun to check out the area.
There are several tour companies in the area that will take riders on guided tours of the area including trips to Black Hills, museums, saloons and distilleries and other spots. Something that quite a few people do is take an evening to do some bar-hopping and check out the live music and entertainment. No matter the time of day or night, there is always a good band playing at Sturgis and they have some well-known musicians including Ozzy Osbourne, Lynyrd Skynyrd and many others playing at the rally.
Sturgis is a busy time for those who attend, and even if you stay the entire span of the rally, you most likely won’t catch everything offered. For this reason, as well as the fun times to be had, riders come back year after year for the thrill of the ride and the excitement found at the rally itself. Now that I’ve been once, I plan to come back next year to continue making memories and having as much fun as possible. I love bike week at Daytona and I always enjoy heading out to Maggie Valley for the rally in the spring, but there is just something about Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that sets it apart from the others and this is the one that I simply can’t miss in the coming year.
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Is the wide open road calling you? Take a stunning motorcycle tour in the US and attend some of the most famous motorcycle rallies in the country!