So you’re heading out to the Sturgis Rally 2011. This is the 71st edition of this famous and venerable gathering of bikers, riders and machines from all around the world, but if it’s your first visit to Sturgis, you need to know what to expect, so here goes…
First, plan for some wild swings in weather. Conditions can vary from nearly 100-degree heat at the height of the day and fall to a 35 chilly degrees at night. You can encounter rain, a half an hour of golf-ball-sized hail and mudslides. You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy, so plan accordingly.
Watch out for the local law enforcement, they’re watching out for you, and there are a ton of them taking on the challenge of preventing another Hollister. There generally at least a quartet of police officers stationed at every intersection along Main St. The officers are, for the most part, laid back in their treatment of bikers, but one major divergence from that rule involves nudity. If your fine lady, regardless of her age or the relative attractiveness of her equipment, decides to flash some pulchritude in sight of the law, you’ll be posting a cash bond to get her out of the police station. Expect to sit through a court appearance the next morning as well.
Now the boilerplate stuff.
This year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota happens August 8-14, 2011.
Begun in 1938 by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club, the members were hoping they could lure some tourists into this tiny town. Mostly to relieve own boredom, and to help the tourists leave a little of their money behind, J. C. “Pappy” Hoel founded the event which he called the Black Hills Motor Classic.
It wasn’t until 1992 that the name of the event was changed to the Sturgis Rally and Races. By that point, it didn’t matter much what the organizers wanted to call it, the gathering was known throughout the world as Sturgis. The current official name is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Whatever the name, back in 1938 the event was pretty much made up of a few hard-core riders watching local races and putting back a few beers among friends. But by 1940, 5000 spectators showed up to take in the races.
After a two-year hiatus during World War II, Sturgis stared it’s exponential growth curve. By 1981 some 25,000 riders made the pilgrimage and in 1987, that number was up to 63,000. By 1997, crowds jumped to 250,000 and the following year jumped again to nearly 360,000.
Though the town of Sturgis is small at some 6000 year-round residents, the event itself is actually spread out through the Black Hills. There’s not a chance you can find a motel room without booking a year or two in advance, so expect to take a long ride to find one or plan to stay in a local camp ground. The most famous of them, The Buffalo Chip Campground. Expect to travel 100 miles or more to find a vacant room and you’ll note you’re still in the company of lots of riders even at that distance.
As the popularity of the event has exploded, the prices have skyrocketed. A motel room which might have set you back $85-90 in the mid-1990’s is now going for upwards of $300 a night and even more. A small slice of the entertainment is still free, but given the fact that nearly a half a million people are in attendance, lots of the things you’ll want to see require blowing some cash.
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Links:
The City of Sturgis
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Official Site
Webcams to view the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 2011
The Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club Official Site
Buffalo Chip Campground
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Message Board
Sturgis 2011 Rally Events
Where to Stay
Map of Sturgis, SD
Sturgis Police Police Department