The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is officially underway, and if you’re not there yet, then either get on your iron steed and head out now, or start preparing for next year! Known simply as “Sturgis”, this rally has become the grandaddy of motorcycle events. Nestled in the Black Hills of North Dakota, the next week is epicenter worldwide for epic riding on wide open roads and a breadth of options to party, let loose, and saturate every diehard biker fix. Unfortunately, I can’t get there this season, but I hope many of you will weigh in from there, or after returning home, and share some stories.
The sheer size of Sturgis, from geographic location to numbers of attendance, is phenomenal! What started in 1938 as the Black Hills Classic race by Pappy Hoel, is now a massive meeting of more than half a million like-minded riders. Well, not everyone rides, of course. Some are two-up, some are merely bystanders to the spectacle, but everyone shows up expecting to experience something they will likely never see again. Whether it is Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert at the Buffalo Chip, the awe of every conceivable (and a few inconceivable) way to customize a motorcycle, or standing on a corner watching all the scantily clad girls go by (to paraphrase Dean Martin), there is something in Sturgis for everyone — assuming you leave a certain moral abandon back in the suburbs. Okay, it’s not complete debauchery, and there are some families that will take a peek, but this rally makes no excuse for being stalwart adult amusement. These attendees have saved their hard-earned money, and planned carefully, but not for a leisurely Caribbean cruise. In fact, if there’s any downfall to the popularity Sturgis has garnered over the decades, it’s the cost of spending a few days in what is otherwise a small, sleepy town the other fifty-one weeks of the year.
Planning ahead is key to having an easy rally. Hotels, motels, campgrounds all book up early, and prices are understandably inflated in relation to demand. Booze prices will lighten your wallet. Souvenir merchandise is another necessary outlay, because let’s face it, what’s the point of enduring a month’s worth of hangovers in three days if you can’t rub it in your coworkers faces when you get home? Look, it’s possible to pinch pennies in Sturgis, and I’m not saying it’s a good idea to max out the Mastercard, but the honest truth is that the best way — I would argue the ONLY way — to get the most out of Sturgis is to enter with a sense of “anything goes”. The best I can relate it to is Carnivale in Rio de Janeiro. You can set a tight budget, wear a polo shirt, and watch from the sidelines as everyone dances around you; or you can tie a bandana around your forehead, pull out a pair of torn and faded Levi’s, tuck a wad of rainy-day money into your pocket, and join the reverie. This isn’t the place to hold back, and I’ll tell you why. Any rally, particularly Sturgis, is an opportunity to create memories that live long after life’s daily grind sets back in. I realize I’m preaching to the choir a bit here, but there’s a chance some of you either haven’t gone yet or on on the fence about how and when to make the trip. My advice: do it as soon as you can afford to take the time, spend the money, and allow your inner biker to fully imbibe the environment. There might be a few momentary instances of regret, but that’s half the fun!
So, a few suggestions for safe partying. Drink plenty of water to counteract the heat and alcohol. Put on sunscreen before heading out for the day. Be open and friendly, but also smart about who you trust. Please don’t over indulge — there’s fun, and then there’s dangerous. And particularly, pace yourself well and give breathing room before riding. Catch as many shows and group rides as you can, and get started early as there will be serious traffic and parking issues wherever you go. Lastly, make sure you get in some riding — there are some spectacular sights once you get out of town, and in the end it’s the camaraderie of riding that brings you all there in the first place.
Enjoy, be safe, and tell us about the adventure! – Mark