Bikers around the country can’t wait to be part of the 2020 Rolling Thunder replacement rally, join upwards of 500,000 people at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, or stick with something more lowkey.
Big and small, motorcycle rallies are a great place to commune with other bikers and load up on merch, snacks, and drinks. For bikers who have never been to a motorcycle rally, it can seem a little intimidating.
There’s nothing worse than missing out on a good time because of unpreparedness, confusion, and stress.
Read on for 10 tips on what to expect at motorcycle rallies that will help even the newest of bikers gear up for a safe, smooth experience.
1. A Motorcycle Rally Can Get Crowded
This may seem intuitive, but some people might find themselves unpleasantly surprised by the huge masses of people that come from all over the country to attend the top motorcycle rallies.
Not everybody loves riding shoulder-to-shoulder or the deafening sound of hundreds of thousands of motorcycles. For bikers with crowd anxiety or who prefer more space to ride, smaller motorcycle rallies may be a better place to start.
This also goes for families who want to bring their youngsters along. Protective gear like sound-blocking earmuffs can do a world of good for kids attending big motorcycle rallies.
2. Hotels Book Up Fast
Because people come from out of town and even out of state to attend motorcycle rallies, finding a hotel room can be a little tricky. Even smaller rallies can attract enough attention that hotels end up fully booked for the week, especially if those rallies are held in small towns.
For bikers who want to squeeze in a rally or two before the year is over, it’s important to arrange plans now. Not only will it be harder to find a place to stay the closer it is to the rally’s starting date but hotels may start to drive up their prices as available rooms become more scarce.
In the event that hotels are fully booked or way over budget, it may be worthwhile to look into nearby campgrounds. For example, there are tons of campgrounds located near Sturgis, South Dakota, that may be a more affordable option for out-of-towners. A night under the stars could be the perfect way to end a long, loud day.
3. Not Every Vendor Will Take Credit Cards
There are always tons of cool vendors and great pop-up shops selling motorcycle gear and merchandise. However, it’s not surprising to find some cash-only spots.
There may be some conveniently located ATMs around, but they may also come with not-so-convenient cash withdrawal fees. That $100 vest may not seem so appealing when a $50 withdrawal fee is tacked onto the expenses. Getting cash out from a bank or normally priced ATM at home can actually cut down on the amount spent at a motorcycle rally.
That being said, it’s not a bad idea to use a debit or credit card where they are accepted. Even for bikers on a budget, it’s best to save the cash for cash-only vendors. That way, they don’t end up splurging on high ATM fees when all their cash is gone but there’s one last cash-only vendor on their bucket list.
4. Some Rally Races Have Entry Fees
While many rallies have expanded their programs to include speakers, musicians, and more, the races are still a major attraction. Plenty of first-time rally goers may just want to watch, but some may be itching to ride. It’s good to know which races are free for everyone and which ones have entry fees so those fees can be built into the budget.
On that same note, bikers who have paid to enter a race don’t want to get caught up in all the traffic and end up missing the race. Getting an early start towards the racing grounds and camping out for a few hours may seem like a waste of precious rally time, but it’s better than watching from the sidelines because there’s no way to make it to the starting line on time.
And, of course, safety is key when it comes to racing. Bikers who want to participate in rally races should always make sure their bikes are in full working condition. They should also hold off on the booze until after the race is over.
5. There Might Be Some Big Musical Guests
Bikers who have never been to a motorcycle rally before may not be expecting to see a full-blown concert during their visit. However, as motorcycle rallies grow over the years, they can attract some pretty big names in music!
In the months leading up to the rally dates, most rallies will begin to release their lineup of scheduled events, including stage times for different musicians. Keeping up with this schedule will help attendants form a plan in advance so they know where to be and when.
If a rally happens to announce a musician a biker loves, they know to show up at the right stage early and get a good seat. If it’s someone they could do without seeing, they might use that time to hit up the spots that are usually crowded. While everyone else is watching the concert, they can enjoy a little peace and quiet in other areas of the rally.
6. The Keynote Speakers Shouldn’t Be Underestimated
The term “keynote speaker” might bring to mind boring lectures and work conferences. However, keynote speakers at motorcycle rallies tend to bring a lot of energy and have interesting and inspiring things to say.
Keynote speakers might share invaluable riding or travel tips. They also might delve into the rich history of motorcycle culture or share their own personal stories of how they came to be part of motorcycle culture. Listening to a speech may seem like a lowkey way to spend time at a motorcycle rally, but those speakers can be life-changing and memorable.
Plus, having that focused downtime can be a great way to network with other bikers and even entrepreneurs. And what are rallies for if not expanding the biker community?
7. Almost Everything is Outdoors
Bikers are used to being out on the open road in all elements, so this one may seem like a no-brainer. However, motorcycle rallies can last anywhere from two days to nearly two weeks, and that’s a lot of time sun time.
Chances are, vendors will be set up throughout the rally grounds with sunscreen and bottled water. However, they’ll probably be charging exorbitant prices for those kinds of necessities.
Bikers should wear (and reapply) sunscreen every day of the rally and carry bottled water in their backpacks or saddlebags. Dehydration and sunburn can put a huge damper on rally spirits.
8. Vendors Will Start Lowering Prices Towards the End of the Rally
A lot of the vendors that post up at motorcycle rallies want to sell out of everything they bring. For that reason, a lot of them will start reducing their prices as the rally nears its end.
It can be risky for a biker to wait until the end of a rally to start buying the things they’ve had their eye on. If there’s something they really want, it may be best to go ahead and splurge. However, if there is merchandise they’re interested in but wouldn’t pay full price for, they should wait and see if the prices drop later on.
9. Safe Parking is a Must
For the most part, motorcycle rally attendants are there to celebrate their communal love of motorcycles. However, there’s always the chance that less savory characters will show up looking for opportunities to steal motorcycles.
Bikers should always park in designated rally parking lots. Ideally, these lots will have security that can keep an eye on things while bikers are on foot. Parking away from the rally grounds may be cheaper, but not cheap enough to make up for the costs of replacing a stolen motorcycle.
10. Maps and Itineraries Are a Rally-Goers Best Friend
Even for smaller rallies, it is advisable to carry a map and have at least a mental itinerary of the events and vendors that are a high priority for a biker. It is possible for phone signals to go out for periods of time during a motorcycle rally because so many people are trying to connect to the same local phone towers. Having a map and knowing where to go and when will save bikers the frustration of having to look things up and not being able to.
Motor Cycle Rallies Are a Great Time
It may seem like there are a lot of things to plan for and expect from a motorcycle rally, but ultimately, they are a great time for motorcycle riders and enthusiasts.
Probably one of the most useful and informative blog posts Ive come across in a while!