Sturgis Motorcycle Rally® - The Sturgis® Rally is a Mecca for Motorcycles
By Walter F. Kern
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally® attracts hundreds of thousands of motorcycle riders to Sturgis®, SD each August to be part of one of the biggest motorcycle rallies on the planet.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists head toward, what many feel, is the motorcycling mecca of the world, Sturgis®, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally® in South Dakota. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally® takes place this year August 4-13. The links, below, should enable you to check out the various items mentioned in this article about the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally®. Several Web sites seem to want to be the "official" Sturgis Motorcycle Rally® site and some of these sites are often incomplete or have bad links.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally® began in 1938 by a small group of Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club members to bring a few tourists into town. J. C. "Pappy" Hoel was one of the founders of this event which began as the Black Hills Motor Classic. The name was changed to Sturgis Rally and Races in 1992 to reflect the fact that the event was known world-wide as Sturgis and that racing was always a part of the rally since its inception.
Currently, the event is known as the Sturgis® Rally or Sturgis Motorcycle Rally®. What's in a name?
The Sturgis® Rally has grown over the years. In 1938 only a few people watched the local races. By 1940, 5000 spectators watched the races. During World War II, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally® was cancelled for two years. In 1981 there were 25,000 riders coming to Sturgis® ; in 1987, 63,000; 1997 saw 220,000; and in 1998 over 360,000 people attended the Sturgis® rally. The size of the crowd sometimes depends on any special significance that might be placed on the event. You may notice me waving in the center of the picture at the top of this article. It was taken at the 1993 Sturgis rally.
This event is not confined to the town of Sturgis® that has a population of 6,000 during the rest of the year. It's spread all over the area. Most people cannot find a motel room unless they book a year in advance so many go to the numerous camp grounds. The Buffalo Chip Campground is the most famous. You can even check out the message boards for the Buffalo Chip. People take rooms and camp out up to 100 miles away from the Sturgis® rally. In fact, you cannot ride anywhere within a 100 mile radius of Sturgis® and not be literally surrounded by motorcycles. Especially be sure to check out the town of Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok was killed in a local saloon. Deadwood is now mostly known for its gambling casinos and slot machines in every store. You can also visit Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, Devil's Tower, and of course, don't miss Wall Drug Store -- the signs won't let you.
So let's assume you decide you want to ride to the Sturgis® rally this year. The schedule for the event outlines all the activities. You can see what still exists in the way of rooms, etc by checking with the accommodations link. Get the layout of the town from the Sturgis® map.
Things have gotten progressively more expensive over the years at Sturgis®. A motel room that cost us $85 in 1993 now goes for $250 or more. There is still some free entertainment scattered around but many enterprises are waking up to the fact that upwards of 500,000 people are here and want to spend money. So, bring lots of cash and a credit card. There are things to buy.
A consideration at the Sturgis® rally is the police presence. Normally, you can mill around completely unaware of any police but when there is a hint of trouble, they seem to be there instantly. They do have some motorcycle police units. They have a Web site that posts their point-of-view on the Sturgis® Rally. Finally, there are a number of local and state ordinances that you should be aware of since they are the most commonly broken by both towns-people and rally goers.
If you can't make it this year, don't despair. The Sturgis® rally often has Web CAMs trained on Main Street. Sometimes audio feeds and streamed video are provided either free or by subscription. One never can tell what will be offered until shortly before the rally.
If I've whet your appetite for more but you can't make it this year, perhaps you'll start thinking about the next Sturgis® rally. Sooner or later, every motorcyclist must attend this great rally.
Here are some links to help you plan your next trip to the Sturgis® rally:
There's a story in my new book, 50 Wild Motorcycle Tales, that relates a woman rider's solo trip cross-country to Sturgis and back. You will see much of what this rider saw, especially if you plan to camp. This book is available in Kindle, paperback, and Audible audiobook versions from Amazon. The audiobook version is also available from Audible or iTunes. I am one of the three narrators of the audiobook.
You may also want to read my new story, First Tour, that relates the adventures of my wife, Jane, and I on our first trip out West including the Sturgis Rally. This story is also in my book, Motorcycle Kick-Starts.