A Celebration Of Motorcycling
During the first full weekend of every August, hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists descend upon the small town of Sturgis, South Dakota; a working-class town with barely 6,000 full-time residents. Some might wonder why so many people flock here every year. In a nutshell, it's the riding, actually amazing riding. This is THE rally to attend if you like to ride more than sitting in traffic or being corralled into some designated vendor zone.
Sure, all the big-time players in the motorcycle industry show up with their new wares and bikes. But, the beautiful Black Hills and the Badlands call out to riders to start their engines and explore. Situated in western SD, Sturgis is in close proximity to Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse memorial, Spearfish Canyon, Deadwood, and Devil's Tower in Wyoming. Once out of Sturgis proper, the roads often open up, meandering through breathtaking canyons and rolling green hills.
The history of the Rally goes back to 1938 and the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club. The club's simple mantra was "promote motorcycle racing and touring." A local resident brought the first AMA-sanctioned races to Sturgis, focusing mainly on dirt track racing and stunt riding. If you're good at math, you might have noticed the '08 Rally was the 68th and not the 70th; the races were cancelled for two years during World War II. Although Sturgis has become so much more than racing, the week was still filled with races of all sorts.
While attendance fell about 18 percent compared to 2007, from 507,234 to 414,917, that didn't put a damper on the festivities. In fact, it made getting around that much easier. It was easier to belly up to the bar or get some food, but best of all, it meant more room to roam on your bike.
Combined with more bang-for-your-time was the amazing weather for most of the week. Temps were pretty bearable, and it only rained (and hailed, flashed, and swirled) one night during the whole event. This helped out venues like the Buffalo Chip and Glencoe serve up some serious music from the likes of KISS, Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Staind, and Kenny Chesney, to name a few of the big-time acts that performed. Even Senator McCain made an appearance at the Chip.
The event was a touring rider's fantasy come true. New worlds revealed themselves with every new turn in the road or direction. Much of the Black Hills are also connected by seldom-used dirt roads that added to the experience of two-wheeled exploration. Many times these shortcuts through the mountains add time to a trip but what you see, feel, and smell deep within the forest is hard to capture anywhere else. Due to the numerous dirt and gravel roads I knew I'd be traversing all week on a bike loaded down with camera equipment, I opted out of a full-on dresser for my transport. I had a Victory Vision Tour at my disposal but decided it might have been a handful for me when the tarmac ended. Instead, I rode a Victory Hammer S all week, with gear and bags rigged on the front and rear of the bike. Even with the more nimble, svelte machine, I can tell you it's not always easy to navigate through sandy, rocky, and rutted-up fire roads with a fat rear tire. The bike ran flawlessly and I managed to hold on a few times when the going got really tough. Wow, what an experience; I was a combustion cowboy with freedom and life all around me.
You all have time to make your plans for 2009. Save your cash, get your bike ready, and just do it. If there is only one motorcycle trip you're going to make Sturgis is a must. For those that have made the pilgrimage, it's no mystery why Sturgis evokes such great feelings and memories. See you in August.