Bucket List Sturgis

January 28, 2015

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The city of Sturgis, South Dakota is desperately trying to convince a million motorcycle enthusiasts to attend this year’s Black Hills Rally. The rally dates this year are August 3 through 9 and it is officially the 75th rally.

An Indian dealer named Clarence “Pappy” Hoel started the rally 77 years ago in 1938. But the rally was cancelled in 1942 and 1943 on account of a war and gas rationing so that makes this one number 75. About 416,000 people attended last year. That’s 30 percent less than the estimated 604,000 riders who attended in the most crowded rally in 2000.

Million Bikers To Sturgis

This year there is an endless chant that a million bikers, including their personal entourages will attend. It is a theoretically possible attendance goal. There are eight million registered motorcycles in the United States. About half of them are Harleys or other V-Twins. Maybe half of them are ridden more than 3,500 miles a year. That amounts to two million riders who might actually make the trip. If only a quarter of them go to Sturgis this year carrying a passenger the little town in the Black Hills will host a million guests.

That assumes everybody who can ride to Sturgis has the money to pay for it. The Rapid City Ramada still has rooms available for $339 a night. The Rapid City La Quinta still has rooms for $494 a night, plus tax and all that. On the way there, a night at the Motel 6 in Grand Junction will cost you $75. Ahh, but the ambiance!

We Grow Old

There is also the fact the pool of bikers who would be inclined to ride to Sturgis is growing older and smaller. Harley-Davidson has been jumping through hoops the last couple of years to find a younger and “less traditional” customer base. “Exactly,” Sturgis Police Chief Jim Bush told Rapid City television station KOTA Sunday. Bush calculates the average age of bikers to be “around 50-years-old.”

“Anniversaries tend to draw more people usually,” Chief Bush managed to say with a straight face. “And, if that’s the case, the average biker is 50, this is probably the anniversary they’re going to attend if they’re going to attend one. I think that fact alone may drive a lot of people.”

His logic seems to be that if you only go to Sturgis every quarter century or so you might lose interest by the time you are 75. After all, shouldn’t every real American try the Legendary Steak Tip Dinner at the Loud American Roadhouse (no colors policy strictly enforced) at least once?

Who Knows

The million biker attendance number has been thrown around a lot lately. A couple of weeks ago Christina Steele who does public information and planning for Sturgis said, “The 50th was a huge year. So was the 60th. You hear a lot of estimates, anything from 850 to 1.3 million. Who knows?”

Steele doesn’t know where all the visitors will be sleeping. “We’ve heard a lot of businesses reporting that they’re already booked.” Even in the down years, like last year, virtually every motel room and campground within 150 miles of Sturgis is booked. Not every biker wants to commute to Main Street every day from Cheyenne. Or Fort Collins.

But Steele remains upbeat. “The price of gasoline is awesome right now,” she said. “So if that continues to hold throughout the summer a lot of people who maybe wouldn’t come otherwise still may just hook onto that RV and come on out.”

And then they, whoever they are, can say they finally did Sturgis and mark it off their lists.

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28 Responses to “Bucket List Sturgis”

  1. Road Whore Says:

    Crossed Sturgis off of my bucket list a long time ago…and that’s without having gone.

    Ride Free

  2. Paladin Says:

    “His (Chief Bush) logic seems to be that if you only go to Sturgis every quarter century or so you might lose interest by the time you are 75.”

    It’s hard to lose interest in something you’ve never had any interest in.

    Long May You Ride (to those that deserve to),


  3. Grumbler Says:

    NFW would I ride out to Sturgis for that corporate sponsored rally which is all about depleting your wallet for a bunch of greedy fucks and out-of-town cops. More into the wide open west without the crowds. Rather be alone at some rural South Dakota bar devoid of motorhomes, SUVs with trailers and garage queen poseurs with ‘tudes.

    Hitting the Needles Highway, Badlands and Spearfish Canyon without having to share it with 1,000,000 lifestyle bikers onna bunch of roads designed for a small population is best experienced well before or after that so-called bucket list rally.

    Don’t need all that aggravation. That’s how *I* feel about it. Not to say that everyone else oughta agree with my comments … different strokes for different folks.

  4. phonebooth Says:

    I talked to a fellow who is going to Sturgis this year. He and his brother will trailer to Chicago from here in the south, then ride to Sturgis.

    I asked “Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of going to a rally?”

    The dude looked at me like I am a Martian.

    I guess I just don’t get it.

  5. popeye Says:

    The only thing good about sturgis is the scenery and great roads and they are there year round.

  6. Rashomon Says:

    Bucket list? More like fuck-it list. It’s a beautiful part of the country but fill it with greedy bastards and assholes, and it’s just another place full of greedy bastards and assholes.

  7. Oldskewl Says:

    I’ve been sturgis more than a dozen times in my life but each time was because I was drag racing during the rally.
    Sturgis used to be about the races but sadly it’s turned into a bunch of guys that trailer their bikes and sleep in motorhomes.

  8. Dasein Says:

    Anybody seen the Crazy Horse monument up close?

  9. Phuquehed Says:

    I have a hard enough time being able to walk around the tiny Freedom Rally I go to yearly without falling out from the heat and pain it gives my back…and it’s only on a 10 acre lot! Thing is, no one has to worry about their tent or bike getting fucked with or stolen, good eats without lines long enough to make you stand in them for breakefast only to order lunch by the time you get to it, and plain good people up all the time having a good time whether it’s just sittin’ on one of the many park-typ benches under the big pavilion and shootin’ the shit or wandering around meeting everyone or someone you were waiting on who finally arrived and you go help them set up their tent and shit.

    Can’t beat those nice, small rallies with a big stick. What the fuck would someone in my gimpy condition do at something like Sturgis? I’d be able to walk one block one way and turn around and walk the other side the other way and I’d have to take a pain pill and sit – and stand…gotta rotate constantly – and watch/hear the bullshit of people who wouldn’t stop to give you the time if you happen to look like me. Hell, went to the dealership last Saturday as the owner was having a drawing for a free bike (I can always use a backup especially if it’s free!). All the fucking posers in there wouldn’t even hardly look at me except to stare like I might start to rape and pillage the place. Fuck those kinda assholes.

  10. Paladin Says:



    Long May You Ride,


  11. CN Says:

    Long suffering Wife taking me to see Delbert McClinton for my 58th Birthday on 2/6. I take McClinton over whoever’s playing at the rally hands down. Local Clubs have great support events around here so probably won’t ever be going there. Ya’ll ride safe if you are……oh yeah, what’s in your wallet?

  12. WheresMyBoots Says:

    Let’s see: well, passed up that 50 mark just a tad too long ago. On the wrong continent with a marriage going tits up. So, sell my wheel, get back home, then find some kinda way to (borrowing Rebel phrases again) sell my labor (I hear myself saying: “What’ll ya have” in my future) and get, or get some help building a new ride (a buddy’s grey beard old man – had his club’s name tattooed on his forehead removed not all that long ago -used to build bikes. He’d be perfect).
    I would not go to Sturgis for free, with guaranteed otherwise unobtainable leg waiting for me. No fucking way.
    My Bucket List? No shit, one of the items is on a barstool, park bench, tree stump, pick one…having a cold one with any one of the following: Rebel, Phuquehed, Seig, Road Whore…I’ll skip the whole list – you know who you are.
    Sturgis, and the like? As my dear old mother would have said: “Oh BALLS!”
    Respects, and Ride Free.

  13. Duck Says:

    “Harley-Davidson has been jumping through hoops the last couple of years to find a younger and “less traditional” customer base”.

    Yeah that’s me. Younger (Early 30’s), Non-traditional and hey, Guess what- I still can’t wait to NOT go this, or any other year.

  14. Al Says:

    Screw that corporate place, If you want the real deal, Hit up Little Sturgis. Back to the basics camping, chicks running wild with little to nothing on. No issues what so ever. It is in Sturgis Kentucky, the best part is there are no Fucking cops…

  15. Wood Says:

    Been one time to the Rally back in the mid 90’s sucked pretty hard even then. Took the OL couple years ago to ride the Black Hills 3 weeks before the rally. Took all back roads all the way up and back. Rode Needles hwy, Deadwood, Rushmore, even rode in to Sturgis. Way different environment. Friendly folks, reasonable prices and very little traffic. Even hit a couple bars in Sturgis that are “No Patches” during the rally that were more than happy to have us there. It’s a bucket list destination but not an event.

  16. puterindabasketchief Says:

    I, for one, plan on going to Sturgis. In July. On my way back East and just long enough to gas up, drink a beer, and get back on the road long before all the fucktards show up with their convoy of trailers.

  17. bcnasty Says:

    Sturgis is what you make of it. Some folks like crowds. I am not one of them but never minded hooking up with some of the folks I have only spoken with online on the ride out. I have had a fucking ball on the ride out. My ole ass can handle two days of late nights sleeping on the ground and then it is time to go. The rides in that area are awesome so my two days there are spent riding in the daytime away and then party till I sleep at night. Ride home generally sucks as it starts balls to the wall then you generally start picking up straglers that you do not know headed in your general direction. Worth a do once or twice in my opinion.

  18. Base Says:

    Perhaps HD should start giving a free trailer with all new purchases, this may increase the attendance at the bigger rallies.

  19. Big C Says:

    yeah, I hear you all. I’m not as keen on the huge rallies myself as I’m the kind of guy who would rather sit back in a mountain hot springs and sip some beers with close friends than waste my time and cash at huge, over-hyped rally where everyone’s trying to get me to buy their cheap crap.

    That said a lot of people have to go. If you’re affiliated with a club that goes then you go as well.

  20. Ipsick Says:

    I’m going, taking the old lady to see that part of the country from the back of the bike. I was last there in 1976 but I want her to see the zoo, antler arches in Jackson, ride the Beartooth etc. We arrive the Saturday before it starts and leave Wednesday, 4 days is enough and well take a week and a half to get back to Southern California.

  21. bcnasty Says:

    Beartooth is still a must ride. Your time frame it should be fine.

  22. puterindabasketchief Says:

    Second on Beartooth as a must. Have done it twice each way. Must admit I’m unnerved by heights, so it’s always intense. Mind-boggling scenery. Enjoy.

  23. KneesintheBreeze Says:

    A Ramada for only $339/night or La Quinta for only $494 (plus tax,tag,title,etc.)?!?!?! Well shit, count me in!
    I’m loading the bagger on the trailer as we speak!

  24. Kiwi Says:

    Im coming from NZ to go to sturgis…..Im sure lots of kiwis are….
    Riding from Chicago and cant wait…..10 million people in Chicago and 4 million in NZ….and if they get 1 million in Sturgis thats gunna blow us away…..no trailers for us defeats the purpose

  25. Ol'LadyRider Says:

    Those steak tips ARE legendary. Truly. And they are just as good when it’s NOT rally week.

  26. Aliasetc Says:

    The Bay Area with Frisco as its center and LeviStruss stadium 42 miles south of downtown Frisco is having trouble projecting the care and feeding and policing of the expected one million fans, hookers, hang ons comming for the 50th StupidBowl next year.
    With all their hotels, jails, public transportation they are in a dilemma.
    I sugest that they contact the fools running Sturgis who are planning on hosting a event for a million attendees, most on motorcycles for their expertise and council.
    Seems if a jerk water decrepit South Dakota farm town can handle the million it should be a walk in the park for the Bay Area.

  27. mosten Says:

    I go every year and have a fucking great time. It’s motorcycle mecca.

  28. Thumper Says:

    You should check out the Black Hills Rally at least once. I had a great time, met lots of great people – some of who I still keep in contact with. Lots of great bike. Just a great energy that can be uplifting to your spirit if you’re a social person. It’s much better than Laconia.

    I still prefer my smaller rallies, but I’ll go to Sturgis again in the not-too-distant future. Just not this year!!

    Ride safe all.

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