2011 Sturgis Rally First Impressions

August 7, 2011
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

Alice Cooper put on an incredible show at the Buffalo Chip Saturday night.
Alice Cooper put on an incredible show at the Buffalo Chip Saturday night.

After three states and almost 1000 miles, Motorcycle USA landed in Sturgis yesterday evening, just in time to get some initial impressions from the scene. Rolling into town on the 14, we noticed the rigs of a healthy cross section of OEMs at the second Sturgis exit. People anxious to see and ride the latest models can get their fix at one stop as Can Am, Star, Kawasaki, Victory and Harley-Davidson are all set up there. We’ve been flogging the 2012 Victory Cross Country Tour for the last three days ourselves, with a full review coming when we get back. We don’t want to tip our hat too much, but we’ve been enjoying our time in the bike’s cushy saddle, sheltered from the wind thanks to its taller windscreen and new fairing lowers. We’ve been cranking up the tunes while shuffling through our iPod playlist and can attest to the fact Victory’s new Comfort Control System works.

Riding down Lazelle, it doesn’t feel like there are as many vendors as in the past. We’ve been hearing reports that SMRi’s acquisition of the Sturgis mark and fear of lawsuits over the use of Sturgis in marketing has scared some of the smaller players away. We noticed Bert Baker has a prime location at 9th and Lazelle, so if you’re looking for the best American-made powertrain out there, Baker Drivetrains are the way to go. We also noticed the city of Sturgis has opened up a third lane through town heading in the direction of the campgrounds and bars east of town. The move is helping a little, but the traffic lights are dreadfully long and there was still plenty of congestion. Idiot pedestrians are abundant, too, as we witnessed close calls on more than one occasion.

We weren’t in town for more than a couple of hours before we headed out to our favorite place to party, the Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground. Entering the Chip at the West Box Office, we were welcomed by the massive American flag waving proudly above Freedom Field. A blast of hot air illuminated the giant yellow hot air balloon at the entrance to the main gate. We picked up our press passes and noticed that no cars are allowed in through the West Gate entrance after 7:30 p.m. as Main Street is reserved for motorcycle traffic only. The area around the West Box Office was jam-packed with people parking their toy haulers and unloading bikes.

Alice Coopers shows are always full of theatrics. Here  a 15-foot Frankenstein towers above the guitarist during Feed My Frankenstein.
Alice Cooper’s shows are always full of theatrics. Here, a 15-foot Frankenstein towers above the guitarist during ‘Feed My Frankenstein.’

Heading into the campground from the east, the Chip has a few extra levels of security this year. Our bands were checked no less than three times before we got in. They’ve gone high-tech this year as the final inspection included an electronic scan of the new WebMedia chip embedded in the wristband. Think of a bar code on grocery products and you’ll get the picture.

Even though it’s the first weekend of the rally, the Chip was already packed. Screams above our heads immediately brought our attention to one of the new attractions. Revelers were soaring above the amphitheater on Flightlinez ziplines, traveling 835 feet above the crowd at speeds reaching 35 mph. All this while Pop Evil was prepping the crowd for the headliner Alice Cooper with their own brand of in-your-face music. The band broke out Ozzy and White Zombie riffs in between playing their originals.

It was a great precursor to the theatrics of Cooper. Fans waited anxiously as it took time to get his elaborate stage production ready to go. When the curtain dropped, Cooper towered above the stage in his ominous “Black Widow” costume, leering at the crowd as he broke out in song. Within a few notes, he had the crowd hypnotized by his energetic set. For the next couple of hours, fans were treated to a long list of favorites, hightlighted by a 15-foot tall Frankenstein monster lumbering around the stage during “Feed My Frankenstein.” Cooper’s voice is still strong and his bass player and trio of guitarists sent sonic waves over the amphitheater. Seems like the Chip’s sound system is even louder and clearer than ever before. My ears are still ringing from last night’s show, in a good way. Cooper has set the bar high for the rest of the shows to follow. We’ll do our best to see if Def Leppard can match ‘em on Monday night after the Legends Ride.