It’s time to party like a rock star once again! The annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is upon us, the 72nd time bikers from across the country and beyond have converged on the Black Hills for the biggest biker bash of the year.
The spirit of “Pappy” Hoel rises in the Black Hills around this time every year. It lives in the drumbeats of a 100,000 V-Twins, it parades up and down Lazelle and Main streets and whirls in whispers around Bear Butte. It’s time once again for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the 72nd year motorcyclists have flocked to South Dakota for the mother of all biker blowouts. The party in the Black Hills and the surrounding area has already begun for some, while others are counting down the minutes when they punch the time clock for the final time before hitting the open road to make the ride to the Sturgis Rally 2012.
But none of this would have happened if it weren’t for good ol’ Clarence “Pappy” Hoel. “Pappy” got this whole thing rolling when in 1936 he opened an Indian Motorcycle franchise in Sturgis and formed the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club the same year. By the next year, the Gypsies had an official American Motorcycle Association charter and according to the history books, the first rally went down on Aug. 8, 1938, with dirt track races being held at the old half-mile horse track at the county fairgrounds. As with many rallies, the Sturgis Rally sprung up around motorcycle racing and the Jackpine Gypsies still play an integral part in the rally as they continue to host a wide cross-section of racing activities, from flat track to pro hill climbs.
Of course, the rally still might have been a bust if it weren’t for the actions of one Pearl Hoel, “Pappy’s” wife. A respected member of the community, Pearl served as a county official and active supporter of her church and her sparkling image helped sell community leaders on the idea of the rally. Working in the courthouse, Pearl reportedly claimed she “knew everyone in Meade County by name.” In the early years of the rally, she and “Pappy” would pitch a circus tent in their
We get ready to roll out of Deadwood with our buddy Rupert Boneham of Survivor fame during last year’s Legends Ride.
back yard for people to meet, hang out and sleep. The story goes Pearl made coffee and homemade donuts for riders in the evening who were returning from the Gypsy Tour. After “Pappy” died, Pearl continued to be an ambassador for the event, welcoming riders and hosting parties. She was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2004 and deserves just as much credit as “Pappy” for making the rally happen.
And it’s about to happen. Tents will fill up yards in and around town, riders will roam the countryside from Spearfish Canyon to the Badlands, and you can party like a rock star every night of the week at the Legendary Buffalo Chip! Even though you can’t camp in City Park any more, there’s still nothing like the freedom and the spirit of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. While it’s nigh impossible to list everything that’s going down over the course of the rally which officially runs from August 6 -12, we’ll take you on an express tour of some of the major happenings in and around the 2012 rally.
Motorcycle USA will kick off the week by participating in the 2012 Legends Ride. The fifth annual event is an all-day affair, beginning with a meet-and-greet with prominent custom bike builders and celebrity guests in Deadwood. This year’s ambassador is daredevil Robbie Knievel. Then it’s off for a scenic 50-mile ride to the Buffalo Chip for a catered reception, an auction, and an after party at the Chip with a concert by Journey, Saving Abel and Loverboy. Though there’s plenty of fun to be had, money raised from the event goes to causes like the Black Hills Special Olympics and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame. Attendees also get an opportunity to be among the first to see Michael Lichter’s yearly Motorcycles as Art exhibit, this year titled Come Together, The Spirit of Born-Free. Lichter pays homage to the return of custom bike building to its roots as more garage builders and small shops are looking at bikes and trends of the past for inspiration. It represents a refreshing return to pride in personal craftsmanship and pays tribute to the guys and gals who do it for the love of motorcycling more so than the love of money.
Stevie Nicks cast her spell over the audience at the Buffalo Chip last year. The musical lineup at Sturgis 2012 is star-studded, to say the least.
A similar event catering exclusively to women riders called the Biker Belles Ride follows on Wednesday, Aug. 8, this time “celebrating the passion, diversity and spirit of women in motorcycling.” Harley-Davidson has signed on as the major sponsor this year as women motorcyclists will also meet first in Deadwood before heading out to the Chip where there will be a reception, entertainment, and a biker fashion show featuring H-D MotorClothes followed by a concert by country star Eric Church. Money raised by the event will benefit two South Dakota Charities.
Over the years, Sturgis has gained a reputation for its musical lineup. This year is no exception. The acts we’ve mentioned at the Legendary Buffalo Chip is just the tip of the iceberg as the venue hosts the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sugarland, Sublime and Slash with Myles Kennedy throughout the week. Just down the road at Michael Ballard’s Full Throttle Saloon, Travis Tritt (Mon. Aug. 6) and Tanya Tucker (Aug. 8) are sure to draw crowds, but if you’re going to catch any show at the FTS, be there on Thursday night as Jackyl takes the stage for a bust-your-eardrums loud set. Jesse James Dupree not only puts on a rockin’ show but he’s also Michael’s business partner at the Full Throttle and will be hangin’ out at the saloon all week long.
Right across the street from the Full Throttle, Jay Allen’s Road Show has set up shop at the Thunderdome – Sturgis. Jay’s got a list of quality tribute bands set to jam out daily in addition to hosting the “Immersed in Ink Tattoo & Arts Festival.” Over at the Broken Spoke Campground, headliners include Night Ranger, Uncle Kracker, and the Kentucky Headhunters. The Spoke is also home to the “World’s Largest Biker Pool.” Another place that’s got a growing lineup of quality acts is the Easyriders Saloon. On the list of free concerts is Sick Puppies at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9 while Fuel is scheduled to play a free show Friday, Aug. 10 at 10 p.m. “Big Hair and Spandex” night comes earlier in the week in the form of Warrant’s Cherry Pie Tour with ‘80’s stars Warrant, Firehouse and Trixter on the docket.
On a related note, we’re guessing the venue mentioned above, the Easyriders Saloon, will bear that name by the time riders hit Sturgis. The publisher of Easyriders magazine, Paisano Publications, has been battling the establishment’s owners, KSLB&D Inc., over vendor and licensing agreements. The new owners have gone as far as covering up the Easyriders signs and replacing them with Sturgis Saloon Co. banners. KSLB&D has also bought the old Broken Spoke Saloon location on the opposite corner and has renamed it “Sickies Garage” and erected a temporary Hooters in between. A District Court judge recently issued a preliminary injunction against the owners of the saloon in favor of Paisano, so the building will fly under the Easyriders banner for this year. As far as we know, the concert lineup hasn’t changed, but this legal battle is far from over.
(L) The guys from Abnormal Cycles held a big celebration onstage after winning the Modified Harley-Davidson Class at last year’s AMD World Championships. (M) The Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show, heading into its 40th year, is one of the most prestigious bike shows around. (R) Main Street Sturgis is about to become the center of the motorcycling universe!
Other fierce battles will be waged in the custom motorcycle building scene as the best of the best will compete in the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building. All of the winners of the Ultimate Builder contests, a 12-city tour held in conjunction with the International Motorcycle Shows, automatically received an invitation to the show. Keep an eye out for Jeremy Cupp of LC Fabrications, winner of this year’s FreeStyle Class at the Ultimate Builder shows, who has a strong competitor in the form of his 1976 Harley-Davidson that now looks more like a 1932 DAH Hillclimber thanks to Jeremy’s talent. Members of the International Master Bike Builders Association (IMBBA) also have special projects which will be viewed for the very first time at the AMD World Championships. The IMBBA and the AMD have entered into a special partnership this year and I’ve also got wind that Bob and Jeff from Biker Pros will be scouting for bikes and builders to be part of “Team USA” in an upcoming international competition.
We anticipate we’ll see many of the same bikes from the AMD’s in the Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show held the very next day at the Buffalo Chip. Ted and Pam Smith, Radical Randy and the rest of the Rat’s Hole gang have 40 years of experience judging and hosting custom bike shows and a
Big Daddy Rat trophy is a coveted prize. Motorcycle USA will be on-hand at the Rat’s Hole Sturgis Show, this year held at the Chip’s new CrossRoads area, so be sure to stop by and say ‘Hi.’
American Chopper fans will be happy to know that both Orange County Choppers and Paul Jr. Designs will be doing bike unveils in Sturgis. Paul Teutul, Sr. and the OCC crew will be breaking wraps on an old school scoot at Paul Allen’s Thunderdome Wednesday, Aug. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Junior on the other hand will be at the SKIL Tools booth Monday, Aug. 6 from 1-3 p.m. for an autograph session. PJD recently designed a chopper for SKIL Tools, the 75th anniversary Skilsaw Chopper, which will also be on display at their booth.
Another Sturgis battle will be waged between American V-Twin manufacturers as both Harley-Davidson and Victory/Indian have picked 3rd and Lazelle to set up shop. Harley will have product displays and demonstrations going on at its 3rd & Lazelle location in addition to the popular Harley Ride-In bike Show on Friday, Aug. 10. It will be conducting test rides at its I-90 location off of Exit 30, albeit on 2012 models because its 2013 line doesn’t debut until Aug. 20.
Victory, meanwhile, intends no having its “strongest presence ever at Sturgis this year,” according to Polaris’ VP of Motorcycles, Steve Menneto. Both 2013 Victory and Indian Motorcycles will be on display at the location, their latest pitch man R. Lee “The Gunny” Ermey will be making guest appearances throughout the week, and Mike Wolfe of American Pickers fame, an expert on Indian Motorcycles, will also be appearing. Live music daily and appearances by Playboy Playmates will also help the party atmosphere in the Victory camp.
The Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground once again has an incredible lineup of top-notch talent. Motorcycle USA will be camping out at the Chip this year. Hope to see many of you there.
In between all that, Sturgis separates itself from most other rallies with its incredible riding opportunities. The Black Hills are raw and alive, both the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore are nearby, and the Badlands and Devil’s Tower make for excellent day trips. This part of the country is ruggedly beautiful, so be sure to explore as much of it as possible while you’re here.
Motorcycle USA hits the scene Sunday where we’ll meet our friends at Ohlins over at Black Hills Harley-Davidson to ride a special custom bike they have decked out in premium Ohlins components. Then we’re picking up a 2013 Victory bagger for the rest of the week, starting with the Legends Ride Monday. We’ll be updating the site daily with news and photos from the scene, so be sure to Climb On! with Motorcycle USA as we bring you the best the 2012 Sturgis Rally has to offer.