Last week we experienced one of our biggest unknowns yet, Sturgis. The world's largest motorcycle rally, it attracts around 500,000 people. Filled with every type of bike imagined, giant parties and too many live concerts to count, it's quite the experience. Also, it's the first time we've ever seen an entire town overrun with motorcycles. Like, the whole dang town. Unreal. Attending Sturgis was a life long dream to experience it and nothing like we expected.
The rally is all over (I hope you didn't forget anything), but people are already preparing for next year's dates, August 1-9, 2015. Since this was our first time in attendance, we took the crash course in Sturgis.
Sturgis started as a group of guys, Jackpine Gypsies motorcycle club, who held a series of motorcycles races in 1938. Somehow the rally has evolved into this extravaganza of motorcycles that takes over the whole sleepy little town and those that surround it. Also, most the bars and shops are only open once a year just for Sturgis.
We did our research, watched a ton of videos and read every travel guide we could, but nothing was able to capture what it's really like being there for yourself. Here's 6 things you need to know in order to survive Sturgis.
Watch for Deer and Cops
Both come out around sunset. The police force in town seem to make their bonuses during this week. Often camped between the bars on the outskirts of town, like Full Throttle and Buffalo Chip, where it’s a 35 mph speed limit. They’re in heavy force looking for drunk riders and speeders. Don't even so much as roll through a stop sign or run 5 mph over the speed limit.
The rally is nestled in the country, so you’ll often find yourself surrounded by woods, where deer can jump out in front. We encountered at least two that were spooked by the cars in front of us.
Watch Your Money
Everything in Sturgis costs money. If they don’t normally charged admission during the rest of the year, they charge admission during the rally. Every state park or monument was around $10 to enter/park. We traveled to Mount Rushmore, Sylvan Lake (at the end of Needles Hwy) and Crazy Horse Memorial, which all charged admission. The bars on the outside of town charge admission due to the acts playing.
It doesn't matter what you ride, just as long as you ride and have fun. Yes, it's mostly old guys on baggers, but there were other guys with pieced together CB750s and Kawasaki sport bikes. It seemed as though no one cared what you road or how you road it, just so long as you were there for the experience. Leave the brand-loyalty attitude at home.
Stick With One Thing
There’s so much going on at Sturgis, yet very little. Stick with a plan. If you’re up for the rowdy party life and lack of sleep, than stay somewhere like the Buffalo Chip. Wrist bands are expensive, $250-$300 for the week, but you’ll see races (truck and bike), swimming, concerts, games, motorcycle shows and vendors.
Unlike other rallies, It's difficult to pop in and out of different stops. It becomes expensive and dangerous if you’re dropping into different stops and drinking. Few bars list daily schedules online or anywhere else for that matter, if you jump around it’s easy to miss out on some of the fun.
Camp, Don’t Stay in a Hotel
Grabbing a night in a run-of-the-mill hotel, like a Best Western or Holiday Inn will cost you more than your motorcycle is worth. The week can range around $1,500 to $3,000 depending on the location. It’s not worth it. Places like the Broken Spoke have great campsites and limited cabins. A lot of the real riders don’t stay in the town of Sturgis but surrounding towns like Rapid City, SD, or Deadwood, SD.
Don’t Go During Sturgis
The Black Hills are filled with tight twisties, 45-55mph speed limits and quaint little gas stations and convenience stores. This place is a large reason why Sturgis has evolved into such a big rally. The Black Hills National Forest is gigantic and spreads through the South Western part of the state. One of our favorite rides was heading from the national monuments, like Mount Rushmore, to Deadwood, SD, via Hwy 385.
The majority of the fun is riding, that's another thing that makes Sturgis unique from other rallies. There are tons of people, but luckily there are plenty of miles of empty roads to explore.
So, if you’re on a motorcycle because it’s a solo experience, than attend Sturgis, just not during Sturgis. Go ride the Black Hills, grab a hotel when they’re a lot cheaper and easier to ride around by yourself. The good and bad things about the hills are you loose cell phone service. Could make for a bad day, or it could end in a great day.