Are you curious about or planning to attend the Sturgis Bike Rally? You’re far from being alone on this matter, but there are probably a few misconceptions that have been developed with recent TV shows and movies.
We’re going to give you the details of what you can expect to see and experience during this bike rally, as well as a few tips on how to get the most from the event! Keep reading to find out more.
A Little History
A man by the name of Clarence “Pappy” Hoel bought an Indian Motorcycle franchise in Sturgis, South Dakota in 1936 and formed the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club.
Two years later, the Black Hills Classic was held with nine racers and a small audience. Later, this became known as the Sturgis Bike Rally. Over the course of 30+ years, the event grows into a three-day-long affair, with an entire block of Main Street being closed for parking.
By 1975, the rally becomes a full week-long event, and in 1976, the City of Sturgis begins temporarily licensing vendors.
In 2000, the Sturgis Bike Rally saw over 600,000 participants which allowed for the city to form an entire department in 2002 to handle the contract labor needed for the event.
“Pappy” paved the way for one of the biggest, most-loved, well-attended bike rallies in the world, attracting people from all areas of the world and from all walks of life!
Where to Stay
Because of the size of the event, you’ll need to book your accommodation several months in advance. There are several things to keep in mind when booking, but their importance will be up to you:
Price — the closer you stay to the rally, the more expensive your room or campsite will be. Consider looking into outlying areas if you are trying to keep costs low. Deadwood, Spearfish, and Rapid City are all excellent choices.
Experience — if the cost of your accommodation is not a problem, consider staying in the city of Sturgis. You’ll definitely have to book months prior to the event, but you will be in the midst of everything
Hotel versus campsite — depending on your personal style and preferences, you may wish to stay in an air-conditioned room. However, don’t forget that the campgrounds offer an unforgettable experience — just don’t plan on much sleep!
Utilizing Your Time at the Sturgis Bike Rally
Sure, there is more than enough booze to go around during the event — and we can’t judge if you decide to imbibe. Do keep in mind that there’s a ton to do that doesn’t involve partying.
If you’re going to make the long ride to South Dakota, first and foremost, you need a patch or pin to signify that you were there. As a motorcycle enthusiast, it’s a great conversation starter and a great piece of memorabilia.
Once you’ve found a patch or pin you like, take a minute to walk through the vendor booths. You will find the latest and greatest motorcycle gadgets and gear.
South Dakota is a beautiful area with fun roads to drive on. There are all sorts of hairpin turns that can test your riding ability and possibly make you a better rider. Also, there are other attractions right outside of Sturgis that are worth seeing.
These other attractions will be busy as the rally has brought in an influx of people, but don’t let that stop you from checking out Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Badlands National Park. Each of these will offer stunning views and a nice break from (some) of the crowds.
Concerts are another popular choice for Sturgis-goers. Mostly country and rock genres are represented but the lineup is top-notch. For the 2019 rally, you can expect to see Keith Urban, Disturbed, Toby Keith, Godsmack, Collective Soul, and a few other well-known names!
Where to Eat
If food is one of your favorite parts of a trip, don’t worry; there is NO shortage of it during Sturgis Bike Week!
Of course, there is quick and easy fair-style food. This will include burgers, pizza, and sandwiches. There will also be vendors offering pasta dishes, locally sourced buffalo, and dishes that are prepared using Native American methods.
Although you have numerous food choices, consider bringing some groceries with you to prepare either at your campsite or in your hotel room. The vendors offer delicious treats, but they can get expensive. Plus, when you have your own groceries, you’ll have snacks after a long day of sun, riding, and partying.
Booze mixed with the high temperatures will leave little or nothing to the imagination. In certain less family-friendly areas of the rally, you will see scantily clad women (some men too).
Though fighting is not condoned during the Sturgis Bike Week, you should be wary of it happening. As mentioned, there are many walks of life congregating in one small city, drinking copious amounts of alcohol — there are bound to be disagreements, some yelling, and possible blows.
Do not attempt to involve yourself in any of these incidents.
Of course, this is a motorcycle rally, so you will see plenty of bikes. You’ll see American brands and foreign-made motorcycles. If you have a preference, it is usually best to keep it to yourself (don’t trash talk other bikes!)
With plenty of bikes, comes plenty of bikers. Some of them will be independent, while others are affiliated with various motorcycle clubs. There is no harm in associating with one or another club, but do be aware that there can be some friction between organizations.
In addition to the bikers, motorcycles, food, and good times, you should know that there is a strong presence of law enforcement officers and deer.
Laws still apply, even during the Sturgis Bike Week. It’s unlikely you’ll get in trouble for public intoxication if you are minding your own business, but it can happen.
Additionally, marijuana is still illegal in South Dakota. This means if you must smoke it, do so discreetly. However, there’s no guarantee that you won’t get caught or arrested for possession.
If you choose to stay outside of the city of Sturgis, don’t drink and ride. In fact, don’t speed either. Officers are looking for impaired riders and have been known to stop people for doing five miles over the 35-mph speed limit.
The deer in the area is another pesky issue. These animals live there year-round and are used to crossing the street as they please. Watch out for deer that may jump in front of you whenever you leave the rally area.
Races, Rides, and Runs
Sturgis Bike Week was started as a racing event, so of course, there are still multiple races that take place. Although it isn’t mandatory to check any of them out, you should consider doing so.
In addition to being able to watch the motorcycle races, there are also organized rides. These will allow you to join with other bikers to enjoy the scenery and experience the roads of South Dakota with many of the proceeds going to charity.
Finally, if neither of these types of events captures your interest, there are a couple of poker runs that take place during the Sturgis Bike Week. If you’re not familiar with a poker run, it can be a fun treat.
You simply sign up and meet at the designated location before the run begins. From there, you stop at five to seven bars, restaurants, or shops to collect a playing card from each. At the end of the event, the person who holds the best poker hand wins.
What to Remember
The Sturgis Bike Rally is held in the late months of summer. This means that the sun is blazing and you will sweat. Hydration and sunblock are two things you do not want to skip.
Many vendors only take cash, therefore, consider bringing enough money for at least a few days. There are ATMs available, but there are surcharges.
Be patient; the city of Sturgis is a small, sleepy area that attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year for this event. There will be times that you have to wait in line for bathrooms, food, drinks, or to get into a venue. Getting aggravated or angry does not speed the process along.
Again, don’t drink and ride. The chances of being caught are HIGH and it isn’t worth it. Check into the shuttles that transport people to and from the event.
Finally, have fun responsibly and respect others. Following these two rules can save you a world of trouble with other riders as well as the law.
If you are interested in attending other motorcycle rallies, check out this list of the biggest motorcycle events across the nation!