The biggest, baddest biker rally around gets ready to rev up for the 71st time in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It’s Sturgis time once again and we’ve got the fever. Hopefully thousands of our readers will be joining us at the best party of the year.
hill and the rally will roar to life for the 71st time. Pappy Hoel would be proud.
Because there’s nothing like the party in the Black Hills. Maybe it’s the incredible rides through Spearfish Canyon or the Badlands. Maybe it’s the unpredictable weather, gale-force winds and baseball-sized hail that sweep through the area annually with apocalyptic force. Maybe it’s the tangible spirit you feel when riding below the great faces carved into the nearby mountains. Who knows? But there’s a sense of freedom you feel at Sturgis that started long ago in City Park that you just don’t feel anywhere else, a rawness that hails back to simpler times where it’s less about posturing and more about the party.
About now, motorcyclists are busy checking fluid levels, tread wear and tire pressures as they get their bikes ready for the road. Riders will start showing up by next week, but the thrust of activities will take place from August 8th to the 14th. Sturgis is one rally where the majority of motorcyclists still take pride in riding to, tramping in campgrounds and road side parks and dining off continental breakfast buffets at motels along the way. Tents will soon spring up in yards around town and spotlights will fill the sky, beacons shining the way to travelers of the night.
There are plenty of places to party at Sturgis, but “The Best Party Anywhere” title goes to the Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground. The Chip is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, which means it’s going all-in to live up to its reputation. They’ve got a star-studded concert lineup, from rock legends Alice Cooper, Edgar Winter and Stevie Nicks to heavier, edgier bands like Pop Evil, Buckcherry and Saving Abel. And this barely scratches the surface of the musical lineup. There are always bands jamming out at Bikini Beach and on smaller stages spread out around the campground. But there’s a lot more going on than just music at the Chip. Burnout king Nick Lee will be on hand entertaining crowds, the Triple Threat Roller Derby Girls will be on site bashing and crashing this year, they’ve got stunt riders who will be attempting world record jumps daily, the Miss Buffalo Chip contest will be going on all week and there’s tons more entertainment on tap as well. They’ve also strung a zip line over the Chip so we’re looking forward to throwing on a GoPro to film us zooming over the heads of the Chipsters.
Last year, Pee-Wee Herman led the Legends Ride out of Deadwood. The year before that, Aerosmith front-man Steven Tyler did the honors.
The Chip also sponsors the annual Legends Ride. Heading into its fourth year, the Legends Ride is a charitable event which raises money for local causes. Celebrity riders generally lead the procession out of Deadwood, with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler doing the honors in 2009 while Pee-Wee Herman was the special guest last year. Pee-Wee was filming a piece for Jay Leno and The Tonight Show during the ride. The event begins with a big social gathering in downtown Deadwood with the Deadwood Tobacco Company and the Silverado-Franklin Hotel & Casino hosting the party. Then it’s time to mount up for a 55-mile ride to the Legendary Buffalo Chip for a private catered dinner, drinks and a concert. This year, guests will be treated to a triple bill of Buckcherry, Def Leppard and Sweet Cyanide. The Legends Ride is growing into one of the must-do events at Sturgis. The best part is the help it provides local charities, as over $150,000 has been raised in the event’s first three years.
The Chip also hosts the annual Michael Lichter exhibit. Lichter has been capturing the evolution of the biker scene first-hand through the lenses of his cameras for the past 30 years. He got his start shooting for Easyrider magazine and his work can be found in countless books. For the past decade, Lichter’s “Motorcycles as Art” display at the Buffalo Chip has featured everything from ground-up custom motorcycles to iconic movie memorabilia to unique artwork. The theme of his 11th exhibit is “Slant Artist – An Eccentric View on Motorcycles and Art” and will showcase the work of Renaissance man Jeff Decker who is a master of the “lost wax” bronze casting process. Decker will have a wonderful collection of his bronze sculptures on hand and will be working on a new piece during the rally. Decker is also an accomplished bike builder and a walking encyclopedia of motorcycling history.
Michael Ballard, his right-hand gal Angie and the gang over at the Full Throttle Saloon know a thing or two about throwing a party at Sturgis, too. FTS is riding a wave of popularity since the truTV show shot at the joint hit national airwaves. Ballard’s got a strong musical lineup as well, kicking off with guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd Sunday, Aug. 7, and blowing up on Wednesday with Throttle Fest 2011, a day-long affair featuring Theory of a Deadman, Hinder, Black Stone Cherry, Adelitas Way, Emphatic and the Nigel DuPree Band. If that’s not enough to light a fire under you, then how about appearances by the Flaunt girls and the always popular Angieland? In between, Ballard’s got a host of acts guaranteed to make it a carnival-like atmosphere, from freak shows to midget wrestling. It’s worth a visit to the Full Throttle Saloon just to take in the ambience of its Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome décor.
Another popular place to party during Sturgis is at the Broken Spoke Saloon. The Spoke offers two locations, one on the edge of town on Lazelle run by Jay Allen and the bigger campground and saloon in the shadows of Bear Butte. The Spoke is famous for its huge pool complete with tiki bars and bikini-clad bartenders. It will host the Baker Smokedown Showdown, a drag-style, head-to-head burnout competition between 12 well-known custom bike builders. Guarantee there’s going to be plenty of smoke in the air from tires roasting, sometimes ‘till they pop. Classic rockers the Little River Band, .38 Special and Firehouse headline the musical entertainment at the Spoke, and there’s plenty of more fun scheduled like the Michael Lichter/Sugar Bear Ride and the International Master Bike Builders Association bike show.
Sturgis has become one of the premier music showcases of the summer. Last year we were lucky enough to catch ZZ Top, Buckcherry and the Scorpions live at the Legendary Buffalo Chip.
Speaking of bike shows, some of the most talented custom bike builders in the world make the annual trip to Sturgis to showcase their talents. The granddaddy of them all has to be the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building. The AMD’s is truly a world affair as competitors come from Europe, the Far East and beyond for a chance at the prestigious Freestyle title. What better way is there to sale a few more bikes than to have the title of World Champion on your resume? Freddie Krugger of Belgium won last year’s event with a radical bike which transformed at the push of a button from a low-riding cruiser with a healthy rake to a sportier ride with a shorter wheelbase and a tighter rake. The Rat’s Hole show, held at the Buffalo Chip, is another one of our favorites and annually attracts some of the best work out there. The Harley Ride-In Show is another popular draw. It’s amazing to see what level fans of the Bar & Shield can take a stock Harley and make it their own.
Bikinis and bikes have always gone hand-in-hand. (below) Another great night at the Chip draws to a close before they clean it up and do it all over again the next day.
Another reason to head to Sturgis is for the chance to be one of the first to see and ride the latest 2012 motorcycles. Victory Motorcycles will have its 2012 models available for demo rides at their location off of I-90 at Exit 30. Harley-Davidson is offering demos not far away at Hersrud’s Chevrolet Dealership, also off of Exit 30. Indian Motorcycles, recently acquired by Victory Motorcycles’ parent company Polaris, will be introducing its 2012 lineup at its rig at 4th and Lazelle. Just up the road in Spearfish, Lehman Trikes is holding an open house in addition to offering demo rides. Lehman has trike conversions for several models, from Harley touring motorcycles to Honda Goldwings.
In between going to concerts, hitting up bike shows and hopping in between bars, a trip to the vendors and manufacturers that set up along Lazelle and Main Streets is a must. Venture into the Loud American Roadhouse for some decibel-splitting fun or head into the dark, dank confines of The Dungeon with its unique wall décor. While you’re in the area, pay a visit to the classic collection of motorcycles and memorabilia at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. The downtown area is a great place to get some eats at, then find a good corner to post up and just people watch. Sturgis attracts characters of all kinds and sooner or later they all eventually make their way to Main Street.
We opened our preview talking about the epic riding the area has to offer. From Bear Butte to Spearfish Canyon, Mt. Rushmore to the Crazy Horse Memorial, it doesn’t take long to get out of the rally grind for a refreshing ride through the South Dakota countryside. The Badlands offers some of the most unique rock formations around. Strike out in the opposite direction and you’ll end up at Devils Tower in Wyoming, another popular day ride. I’ll bet you didn’t know that Devils Tower is America’s first national monument, designated by President Teddy Roosevelt in the Antiquities Act of 1906.
Motorcycle USA is meeting up with its friends at Victory Motorcycles next week in Park City, Utah, where we’ll be riding the new 2012 Victory touring motorcycles to Sturgis. After that, we’ll be on scene bringing you as much as the action as possible, including blogs, articles, photos and videos. Climb On! with Motorcycle USA for full coverage of the 2011 Sturgis Rally. Time to rev it up and dump the clutch!